I remember my first year in college when I started having to do my laundry in the dorms, feeding quarters into the machines. It wasn't much of a big deal and I could easily bring my laundry down in one laundry basket. I only had to gather a handful of quarters, which was a simple act.
That's changed a lot. Today, quarters are a minor obsession of mine, but unlike the others I've listed in the A to Z Challenge, one forced upon me, like it our not.
Q is for Quarters.
Unlike my college days of doing laundry for one person, today laundry can be a major undertaking. Because we do not have a washer and dryer in the bus, I only manage to do it once a week at best, and by then I am carrying one hanging bag of kitchen and cleaning towels and two giant hampers of family laundry.
I have been known to dig through the cushions and the kids' bunks in a frantic hunt for quarters, when I find myself three short with a wet load in one of the washers.
Although some of the nicer laundromats have dryers that allow you to add a quarter towards the end of the cycle if you need more time, many of the campground ones do not and if your laundry doesn't dry, you have to pay for a whole additional load. This can cause another frantic search for 5-8 additional quarters beyond the $12-15 I'd already dumped into the machines.
Then there is the laundromat etiquette at busy campgrounds and woe to the poor person who doesn't know about these! Just a few weeks ago I had a woman on her first winter at a Florida RV park, and her first time using a campground coin laundry, talk to me about the angry confrontation she had on her previous visit with a woman when she accidentally set her small, unimposing basket on the table instead of on the floor. The lady was very angry with her as though she had broken one of the seven deadly laundry sins. "Though Shalt Not Put Thy Basket on the Changing Table". This poor lady was obviously still shook up over it and seemed afraid to make friendly conversation with anyone entering the laundry room. I promised her I was not a laundry room etiquette Nazi and we had a very pleasant conversation.
Another friend was screamed at once by a lady for not immediately removing her clothing from a washer when it finished. There were no dryers available so she stalled on it a bit, hoping to move them directly into a dryer. It would seem a polite, "I know you're waiting for a dryer, but I am in a hurry and would like to get my laundry started," was not an option. Had to scream. Yes, laundry can bring out the mean in some people.
Did you know it is the rule of most parks to allow and even encourage people waiting for your machines to simply remove the laundry and dump it on the table, or even floor? That's what you get for not staying with your laundry. The rule does make sense, however. If you've ever sat for an hour waiting after a machine has stopped for someone to remove the laundry so you can have your turn, you begin to understand the reason for the rule. However, if you choose to use your rights in this area on the wrong person and touch their laundry, prepare to be screamed at. It's not worth the risk to me. I'll just return later. What's one more day in dirty clothes to avoid a confrontation? Unless it's a dryer I'm waiting for. Then I just sit with my wet clothes and seethe... Then when the laundry law breaker arrives I go about my business because life is too short for laundry room drama.
However, on the flip side, some of the most intriguing people I've met on the road I've spoken to only because we happened to be doing laundry at the same time. This includes the professional-musician-turned-professional-bowler. You can bowl professionally? How cool! Sounds like he makes a good living at it, too. He told me about a trick his wife found out on scoring a strike every single time on Wii bowling too. Who knew?
The most interesting person I think I met was a lady who, along with her husband, up and decided to hit the road as a missionary when they became empty-nesters. They were not really sponsored by anyone, nor do they have a firm plan, they just have a place online to accept donations when they can get them, enough to get gas and food, then go feed hearty meals to anyone who needs one. They like to hang out at rest stops on their travels because it seems rest stops are where you find a lot of homeless mothers in their car with their children. They feed them, show them some love, and make sure they get a chance to hear of the love of Jesus. Occasionally they go by a Ronald McDonald House to provide food for families who are there with their sick children. Anywhere they find themselves, they find someone who needs a hot meal and an encouraging word.
Yes, wonderful do their laundry in camp laundromats too.
I still dream of the day when I can do laundry without crawling around on the floor of the van with the hope of finding one more quarter. Meanwhile, this is one more stitch in the fabric of our traveling life. I doubt I'll miss this particular part of travel, but overall, it's not too bad I suppose. I just make sure to remove my clothes immediately from the machines, don't touch anyone else's laundry, and keep my baskets on the floor, not on the folding tables!