Have suds, will battle

I survived the Great Laundry Wars — so far — with only a few streaks of bleach on my shirt and a pocket full of quarters. And a splash of fabric softener gurgling in my left ear.

I never knew washing clothes could be dangerous.

I didn’t know I’d have to swing elbows and spar with Tide pods just to keep my hold on the last washing machine at the Laundromat. I thought we were civilized at least in the matters of communal wash days.

Maybe things got a little rough around the grease splatters and grass stains back in ye olden days when everyone hauled their fabrics to the river and pounded them with rocks:

“Verily, Myrtle, thou as taken my washing spot.”

“I didest not see thy name on the emblazoned upon the reeds, Hagitha.”

“But ’tis mine, all the same. Thou knowest I always use the washing spot. Ask any of the turtles and bullfrogs. I already fed quarters of snails and worms to them for this very laundry rock.”

“This day, thou can moveth thy rags down to the next rock. My clothes already are in the poundething cycle.”

“Moveth or I’ll pound thee with my washing stone.”

“Not if I flingeth thee into the rinse cycle first, like THIS!”


Back then, wash day was also known as fight night.

Since my recent downsizing into an apartment, I no longer have a washer and dryer. I am back to lugging baskets full of clothes to the coin-operated laundry. And let me tell you, that can be brutal.

I don’t remember it being so bad when I was among the throng of college students at the laundry. The worst that would happen is if you weren’t constantly monitoring the machines, someone else would dump your clothes on the floor as soon as the dryer stopped so he or she could use it.

(I only went to the Laundromat if I hadn’t spent all my quarters on Ms. Pac-Man at the convenience store between my room and the laundry. If that was the case, I’d “dry clean” my clothes by draping them inside out over the furniture. My roommate could get a little testy finding my boxers airing out over his typewriter, but I guess laundry always has been a dangerous game.)

College is decades behind me. Now I’m dealing with adults. Full-grown adults are the worst kind of people when it comes to reason and rationality.

I was already filling a washer when a lady barged up. “Are you using this machine?”

“Uh, yeah. That’s my money on the clock. Those are my clothes in the washer. And those are the rest of my clothes in the next machine over.”

She huffed, stopped flinging my clothes onto the floor, and stomped to the other side of the aisle where EIGHT washers stood empty. But I had the supersize load machine, which she wanted, not the puny regular machines.

She stuffed a few of the little washers, which finished fast.

At that point, she proceeded to use up every available dryer. I think she tossed like three items — like two socks and a shirt — in every dryer.

Sorry, I’m exaggerating. She left a few of the floor-level dryers open, the ones that you have to lie on your belly to load. Do you know how hard it is to get up from a laundry floor once you’re on your belly? It ain’t easy.

So I mostly dried my clothes with the heat radiating off my death-ray glare.

The thought crossed my mind to sneak down the line of dryers and change all the settings, like turning delicate to sturdy. Or toss a wad of super fragrant dryer sheets into the mess so that simply getting dressed in the morning would cause much coughing and gagging and wishing that a skunk would attack to neutralize the perfume.

But I didn’t do either of those things. Honest I didn’t want to escalate the battle of wits and suds.

Since she divided her clothes out among so many dryers, her stuff finished quickly. She was done before the overloaded floor-level dryer to gasp another protest and beg for more quarters.

As the lady left, she smiled the sweetest, kindest smile I ever saw and said, “Have a nice day.”

I waved back. “Same time next week?”

“If you’re fast enough, chump.”

I hate laundry day.

Send stain-removal tips to Cole at burton.w.cole@gmail.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook. He’ll be on his belly on the laundry floor.


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