Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Arlington Laundry

So here's a story from last summer when I was traveling that I never posted on the blog. It probably belongs just after the Roll With It post, and is the "story for another time" that I mentioned at the bottom.

The day after the earthquake in D.C. was a lazy one for me. I'd stayed up pretty late drinking and smoking the pipe with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time and a few of her friends, so I slept in. I had been planning on traveling to Philadelphia that day, but that got tossed out the window based on what time I woke up. I called my friend there and asked if she'd mind me showing up a day later, and she said that was fine. With a day of no plans ahead of me, I decided to get some things done.

First, I headed over to an REI I'd seen nearby to pick up a few supplies. The main thing I needed was more of the Dr. Bronner's soap I'd been using as bodywash, shampoo (now that I had hair again), dishsoap, and laundry detergent all-in-one. While I was in there, I picked up a few other things as well, and then I went back out to the motorcycle. Without much storage space, pretty much every shopping trip is immediately followed by removing everything from the packaging in the parking lot and a trip to a garbage can.

As I refilled a brand new gotoob with soap (I'd left the old one in someone's shower somewhere in the country), I marveled at the design. With the lid popped shut, it was, as far as I could tell, impossible to pop it back open by squeezing the tube. Though the entire lid did move a bit weird on this particular one, which I hadn't noticed before...


The entire lid popped off, and just about every last bit of soap came out of the gotoob... and right onto my pants and shirt. Mostly my pants. Mostly right on my crotch. Awesome.

I pulled out my towel - not that absorbent to begin with, as it's a packtowel - and tried to wipe it off, but it had mostly soaked in on contact. Trying to wipe it off with the towel mainly served to lather it. On my crotch.  Dr. Bronner's is "highly concentrated" soap, so even using some water from my waterbottle to try to rinse it off led to more and more lather.

After trying a little longer, I gave up on the towel idea and decided it was time to do laundry. My friend whom I was staying with was at work, so I had no place to go - so I looked up laundromats on my phone. I found one not too far away, and it seemed like a good choice as the area looked to be a shopping center of sorts. There weren't many other options close by either.

So, I strapped everything on to the motorcycle - soapy towel hooked on to dry in the wind, soapy crotch straddling the seat and trying to keep the soapy part of my leg away from the hot engine parts. When I got to the laundromat, I got my first surprise - the name of the place was in Spanish first, English second. Well, I'm committed now, I might as well go for it.

After going in the door to the laundromat, there was a long hallway next to the payday loan place that neighbored it - or rather, was in front of it. The laundromat was tucked in the back of the strip mall. When I got down the hallway, I got the second surprise - though after the first one, it really shouldn't have been. I was the only white person in there, and none of the people who were talking were speaking English. I got a number of strange stares as I walked to the back.

I then realized I had a problem. The clothes I needed to wash were on me, and I didn't really have a place to change. I looked around for some privacy, but there wasn't any to be had in the laundromat. So I went back out to the parking lot next to the motorcycle, hid behind an SUV, and stripped off my pants to change into the only other thing I could wear - my mesh shorts. I changed shirts as well, and grabbed my towel and a few other things to toss in the laundry. When you've only got a backpack's worth of clothes, you might as well wash them all at once.

I tossed the clothes in a washing machine, and then went looking for change. Of course I had none, and my wallet had nothing but $20 bills in it. So I went over to the change machine, and got $20 worth of quarters. That's two full rolls of quarters. Of course, I'm wearing my (stretchy) mesh shorts, which, though they have pockets, aren't great for holding things. I'm now carrying around 74 quarters, my cell phone, keys, and wallet, all in these tiny, stretchy shorts pockets.

I couldn't exactly go anywhere on the motorcycle in mesh shorts (especially not with $18.50 in change dragging the shorts down towards the exhaust pipe) so I hopped up on a table (*jingle jangle*) and pulled out my phone (*jingle jangle*) to pass the time.

Over the next hour and a half or so, I kept myself entertained by watching the kids who came in and out of the laundromat. First there was the little fort girl. The laundromat had these laundry carts that you could use to move your laundry from washer to dryer and dryer to folding table. She made it her goal to build herself a fort with them. The only problem was, she built it right around my dryer. So I'd go to check if my clothes were dry and maybe pop another quarter in for 6 more minutes of drying time, and she'd glare at me as I slid the carts out of the way and squeezed through to my dryer. As soon as I was back sitting on the table, she'd slide the carts right back into place, shifting them around to make sure there were no gaps.

And then there was... well, I don't even have a clever name for this kid. He came in with his friends, and it was immediately obvious that this kid was hamming it up for his friends - they were all probably between the ages of 10-12. He saw the fort that the little girl had built, and pretended to faint. Then, after some talking between him and his friends in Spanish, he came and sat up on the table next to me - sitting up very straight, hands folded nicely in his lap, feet kicking back and forth.

I tried unsuccessfully to keep the smirk off my face as he did a little scoot over closer to me. A second scoot put him even closer, causing his friends to giggle - though he did an admirable job of keeping a straight face. He slid over again, and this time I played along and slid over towards him at the same time, which put us right up against each other. His friends burst out laughing, doubled over in the aisle. While still pretending to look at my phone with the best straight face I could muster, I put an arm up on his shoulders. He responded in kind, but after a second or two he dropped his arm and tried to slide further over towards me, pushing me to the edge of the table. We had a little pushing battle back and forth, ending in him falling unceremoniously on the floor and rejoining his friends.

Not too much more exciting happened there. I got my dry clothes and then changed into them in the bathroom I'd seen someone use while I was waiting for my laundry. Then I went over to the gas station and got $6 of gas, paid for in quarters, and then went over to Panera and started my order off with "I'm really sorry, but I'm going to be paying for this whole thing in quarters." A $9 meal there plus the gas just about cleaned out the quarters from my pocket, and I went on my way to meet up with my friend for dinner.

It wasn't exactly the day I had planned, but it was certainly a story-worthy day.

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