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A Laundry Tale



One of my least favorite things about camper life is trudging over to the laundry shed, fishing out quarters to fill the machines, and making the several trips back and forth to move and then retrieve the laundry. While that complaint may be dripping in privilege, it is a ritual I have managed to avoid since my college days.


The biggest issue with laundry day lately is that our RV park is filling up. More residents means that, more often than not, the machines are whirring or tumbling with someone else’s clothes. We have a clear enough view of the laundry shed (and I say shed because it is legitimately a small, corrugated tin building) that I used to be able to look out our window and see if the washer lids were open. A few weeks ago, however, they pushed the washers further back and out of my line of sight. Several evenings, my husband has loaded up like a pack mule with the laundry bag and detergent, quarters jangling in his pockets, only to return two minutes later, downtrodden. It’s a case of supply and demand, and two washers and two dryers just aren’t cutting it anymore in a park with thirty-plus couples.


My husband and I have been patient through all of this, accepting the fact that the machines are often in use, me spying out the window, ready to pounce after seeing someone retrieve their clothes. Regardless of how well we’ve moved through this new staccato rhythm in our lives, the laundry saga came to a head this week.


I took a chance on washer availability Tuesday morning before I ran to the grocery store. It was incredibly windy, so I loaded the hamper in the back of my Subaru and drove the short distance to the shed. The open lids on the two washers was a glorious sight to behold. I quickly clamored up the stairs, laundry in tow, and proceeded to sort everything into the two washers: light clothes in one, dark clothes in another, with reds now being combined with darks because, well, who can tell if black leggings are tinged a little pink? I took off for the store, knowing the forty-minute-mark of the wash cycle would time right with my return.


I was only mildly stressed when I finished my shopping and climbed back into the car. The shopping had taken the full forty minutes. The ten minute drive home would mean the laundry had been sitting idly in the washers and the people-pleaser in me shuddered at the thought of making someone wait, even though it’s a lesson my husband and I have learned ten times over.


It didn’t matter.


The unwritten laundry rules (well, the clearly stated rule on the machine to remove clothes “promptly”) had been broken. When I returned from the store and pulled up to the shed to move my clothes, they were already sitting in the dryers, wet, the washing machines sloshing with someone else’s garments, their detergent jugs sitting on top as if staking claim to these metal boxes.


Anger boiled up inside me. How dare someone touch my personal belongings! The washers would have barely finished their spin dry by the time arrived. Why couldn’t this person just wait like the rest of us do? Even through my blind rage, I realized I didn’t have dryer sheets, or quarters for that matter, to start the dryers. Leaving my car parked, I walked the short distance to our camper and grabbed the necessary supplies. I also took the time to jot a short note on a post-it: “next time, please be patient. I’m not keen on someone touching my underwear.” I marched back to the shed, placed the note on top of the washer, and popped in the quarters to start drying my clothes.


Thirty minutes later, I walked back to retrieve my dry clothes and put this whole situation behind me. The half hour had been torture, spent glancing at the shed every five minutes, worried the recipient of the note would come out clutching it in their angry hands, waving at the sky and shouting “who dares to offend me?”


Fortunately, there was no confrontation with the presumptuous launderers. I drove back to the shed to grab my dry clothes in peace and let my passive-aggressive note do the talking, putting this whole nuisance behind me. I reached into the first dryer to grab warm, dry clothes. I shuddered when my hand touched something akin to a cold, wet dog nose. I moved to the second dryer. My clothes were still sopping wet.


Apparently, in the aforementioned blind rage, I neglected to hit “start” on the dryers. They fired right up when I pressed the green buttons, so I tucked my tail and headed back home to watch the clock, and the shed, for another half hour.


The timer I set on the microwave couldn’t have chimed soon enough. I drove back again, ready to simply toss my clothes in the hamper and high tail it back to the camper before the laundrymates could return and see my note as I stood there, trapped in thirty square feet of awkwardness. I thrust my hand into the dryer to retrieve the clothes. They were like touching a sick person’s forehead—warm and clammy, as if the dryer had barely run over those thirty minutes.


I wondered what level of karmic retribution this was. Woefully, I still loaded up the clothes, mentally sorting out how I would hang them all up to dry. Fortunately it was a sunny, seventy degree day. I wasn’t about to inconvenience the impatient launderers and increase my risk of a confrontation. My shift at the shed was over.


As it turned out, I actually enjoyed hanging each garment and tucking it in the slats of our wooden fence. It gave me an excuse to soak up some sunshine before the cold front would arrive later in the week. Lighter garments dried almost instantly, and only one stubborn pair of pants wouldn’t stay folded over the fence in the wind gusts. And while I wished things had gone differently, I was reminded of a short prayer learned in recovery: “bless them, change me.” Just that morning, I had jotted down in my journal that this week, I wanted to cultivate patience. This was my chance to change.

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