It’s been a while since I’ve used a laundry mat and a long time since I used one regularly.
In fact the last time I used a laundry mat regularly was back before I was married, living with my first roommate, Patrick. Roommates, good roommates at least, are pretty cool. Kinda like living alone, yet with half the bills, and some one talk with besides Alexa. Ha, no Alexa back then, but anyways.. sometimes we’d go and do our laundry together to help pass the time chatting.
Certainly, the most memorable time, he and I had gone to the twenty four hour place on Wisner, by the Wendy’s. Just a normal night, doing laundry, separately, just there together. Clothes washed, we had moved everything to the dryers, two or three between us. Loaded with quarters, I as a cigarette smoker back then, had to go out to smoke. He followed.
No seats or benches there, we sat on the concrete right outside the doors, our legs almost straight out on the asphalt in front of us. I wish I wrote more back then, so I could tell you what that conversation might have been about. Both single then, him working at the prison, me managing at Ponderosa. It could have been about plans for the weekend, who either of us were dating, or seeing, or whatever with at the time. Maybe about cars or the latest price for a sixty four megabit stick of RAM.
After a minute, he got on me about my cigarettes again, he’s a non-smoker.
“That shit stinks man.”
Whatever, move farther away.
“Really though, why do you smoke.”
It is good to have a friend like Patrick. For the record, I don’t call him that. I just know he likes to be called one thing and typed another.
Kinda gagging myself for a second, I told him I’d quit one day and flicked my butt into the parking lot.
We keep chatting, cool night air, twenty minutes to go on the tumblers.
“Seriously, that shit stinks.”
As I was no longer smoking, I took a big whiff. Something stunk.
Ahh, it’s not me dude.
We both bolted up, turned around, and realized through the front glass of the building, it was completely full of smoke.
I can’t remember if we tried to go in for our laundry or not and we most certainly called nine one one. Jackson Fire Department to the rescue. They came, they entered to investigate, and they ventilated. They found the fire in the dryers we were using. One of the belts had snapped and caused the dryer to stop tumbling and have all its heat applied in one place. The contents of that dryer were nothing but smoldering embers. Which the Fire Department took care of – they took care of all of our clothes for us in fact.
They emptied the contents into roller baskets, rolled them into the parking lot and turned them into liquid dust with a solid saturation of water from their hoses. The no longer smoldered. They were no longer clothes.
Patrick has always been a bit more responsible than I. He was there doing half his laundry. I needed clean clothes for my shift the next day. And at this point, the only clothes I still had were the ones I was wearing. One of the laundry mat workers had been called in, as it was unattended at night. And we asked her about our clothes, and the damage caused by their machine. She had no idea, gave us the number of the owner and wished us luck.
He got call from me at eight am the next day. He was super cool, sorry sorry, what will it cost, add up the value, I need a list, and I’ll turn it in to my insurance. You’ll have a check in four to six weeks. Patrick was cool with that, yet that didn’t work out well for me. Brian- I seem to think the guys name was Brian, not sure, oh well. I told him my plight, I need clothes for work in three hours and had not much more than the quarters I was using in his machines until my next pay day.
Some people would just apologize again and say “That’s insurance!”, not him though. He apologized, insisted he needed the list and value total for the insurance company an invited me over to collect a check immediately from him and he would wait for the insurance check. Nice guy. He even insisted I value the replacement cost of my clothes, not just their just previous to loss value.
I still have some of the clothes I bought with that check. A set of button up shirts, slacks, and some new ties. The slacks are gone, yet I still have some of the shirts and ties – well, back in Michigan.
Okay, that was a fun story, but nothing to do with today.
Today, was also laundry day for the mummy bag; I’m supplied with a months worth of clothes here. Four pairs of jeans, twenty eight sets of socks, shorts, and plain white t-shirts. One campy cover shirt, two nice button-ups, a hoody, a pair of pajama pants, my skydive undersuit, and a towel. And just one jacket. I left everything else in Michigan. Other than the mummy bag, I didn’t need to do laundry for some time.
I was going to try to hand wash my towel this weekend. Soap, bucket, water, rinse, hang to dry.. next time I guess. I brought all my dirties with me, so I’ll be ready for another month on the road, if need be. Google maps found two laundry mats in Mathis, I picked the one with a catchy name that I can’t remember now- Pirates something I think.
Pulling up to the place early this morning (after a stop at Hoff’s, more on that later,) I thought it was closed. Parking lot empty, neither open sign illuminated and with the glare on the glass, I couldn’t see anything inside. I got out of my car somewhat disappointed, to check the doors before I even grabbed my laundry. It was open, awesome. Grabbed my laundry and walked in. Seeing the attendant, a Mexican woman, I asked for the big machines and she pointed me in the right direction.
Washed, dried, and done. Laundry is boring, stories are amazing.
Maggie has lived in Mathis for forty one years. She was raised not far away, and hour or so, and would come with her family to visit her grandmother in Mathis every couple years. On a visit when she was fifteen, she met her husband, was married and stayed.
I love stories, yet they cannot be taken, only shared. She was at work and although conversation is polite, it must be timed. I moved my laundry around, sat and played on my phone, used the restroom. She worked, other customers came and left, even her brother stopped by to visit with her.
At some point our conversation started again. It started the first time with her noticing my limp and me telling a story or two about that. I’m getting better at this. I’ve told my stories here, so I don’t need to share them anymore everywhere, every time, yet you have to give to get.
She is religious, through my story, the “Oh God have mercy” and “Praise Jesus” as I told of my recovery made that clear. Such a sweet woman. She has four children, mostly daughters, all married with just one at home still. And seven grandchildren! Three of them at home. A full, multi-generational home. I asked their ages, and she began to tell me about the oldest, seventeen.
Stubborn and hardheaded, and big and tall, as she mocked a weightlifters bicep show off move and tried to thicken her throat. Just a few weeks ago, he had climbed atop the grain tower just outside of town (I think I mentioned this before, part of the perfect Texas scenery of Mathis.) And from there he took a photo which he then posted on Facebook. I can’t remember who she said saw it first, yet word got around town quickly and that boy got asked some questions from his mom and grandma – what was he thinking?
Ha, I couldn’t help but tell her of my brother and I climbing atop the old factory where the new power plant is now in Jackson, just south of Tyson Street. Just to shimmy across the catwalk to the other building to watch the fireworks across town. She just shook her head. Kids.
I asked about him at school and her face lit up. Such a good student, dedicated and involved in his classes. A special interest in welding and part of a group project to build a BBQ smoker which, if I recall correctly, will later be auctioned off after touring a number of FFA events.
Laundry kept getting done, I’d gone outside to vape and walk for while, people in people out. I checked my clothes and went for a few extra quarters on the mummy bag as I was using medium heat and wanted to make sure it was completely dry through it’s thickness.
As I finally gathered and folded my laundry I carried it out in two trips. On the last trip out the door, I waved goodby and thanked her for the conversation. She followed me out holding the door for me, and blessed me with many specific words. With her hand reached out towards me she said “I pray for God’s continued healing for you.”
I smiled so big with an outpouring of called down prayer and let the grace envelope me.
May the God of Gods and the Lord of Lords bless you Maggie and your children and their children. And may your grandson never fall from a great height. That is my prayer for you. To her, I said thank and may God bless you as well.
Then it was time for some healthcare and lunch – this is staple removal day!
Erica. I finally asked her name this morning when I stopped at Hoff’s to buy another vape. Chatting a bit more each time, I told her how I had scored a blunt in her parking lot just after seeing her yesterday – she just laughed and shook her head. I didn’t even have to ask for two more of the fake ones after the vape, she was already reaching for the stack of small paper sacks she puts them in and I smiled.
You already know what I was going to ask for, I said.
A smile and a roll of the eyes I think I saw as she walked to the side to get them. Somehow I mentioned weed again, as she had mentioned she does smoke a bit sometimes after my blunt story, then immediately apologized and said that I don’t want to pressure her into anything, then jokingly I said (but not joking,) maybe I should take you out to dinner and we might smoke afterwards. She smiled, barely, as she said something about “oh yeah..” and mumbled off.
Then quickly she started talking about herself. An only daughter with two brothers, one older, one younger. Raised by her father to be a tomboy, and quickly added she knows how to be a woman too. Somehow, my response was like “I can see that you are a woman”, and I’m not sure if that was the right thing to say, yet she seemed to smile at it, and kept talking.
Something to the order of not liking people that don’t treat people well. As I’d already mentioned the amazing politeness of everyone here- even the young man yesterday with a free blunt. She’d said not everyone is like that and Mathis has all types.. It had been more than a few minutes at this point, and I wanted to go before I said something stupid – it always happens eventually.
I said goodbye and see you tomorrow with a smile – returned with another smile.
I don’t need another vape, the one this morning is a spare. Yet, I’m pretty sure I’m going to go buy another one tomorrow morning.
Okay, where am I.. Hoffs, laundry, CVS, Napa, back to site, removed staples, smoked some fake weed and relaxed.
Didn’t take long, and I saw a nice couple riding their bike around my corner lot. I always smile and wave – and this time, I saw a puppy in the woman’s basket – I thought I saw a strapped harness, reminding so much of a tandem passenger, I had to call out and ask – Is that a seatbelt? No answer, they went around the corner silently, then just rode right up my drive to meet me at my chair.
Dick and Laurie (not Laurie Carl, an amazing teacher previously at Northwest, yet that is how I’m remembering her name, even though they have drastically different hair styles) are super nice. We talked about their pup, Kipper. He’s new to them as they recently, in August, if I recall correctly, had to put down there two previous dogs, the one closest to them, Skipper.
Laurie is really attached to her animals – Dick conceded wholehearted to my word that he acquiesced to her to desire for the new puppy. She told me of having to put down the previous animals, and how sad and hard it was to know the right time. I shared my stories about my cats, and mentioned a truth about pain. Animals have no purpose to their pain, and it’s cruel to let them suffer too much for that reason. She agreed and I’d say we bonded with that. In preamble to that, I had mentioned that I had experience with pain, and left it at that.
She asked, kind of nodding to my leg, what might have happened.
I tried to give small answers, I’m working on this. I can talk my heart out here, yet no one really has the patience for my stories, I understand, it’s me, not everyone else.
Yes each time I tried to put an end, and not go through another layer of details of my story, mostly last year now (So glad this all is moving into the past,) she would ask more questions. The conversation jumped around too a bit, as always. They have a son that has problems with pain, severe pain currently managed with drugs. Laurie took a lot of hope in my stories, almost keeping me talking for too long! They were off their bikes, Laurie siting on the concrete pad under my table, Dick eventually sat behind her.
I wish I could tell you more about them, where they were from, where they are going; next time I see them, I will focus more on them. Yet, Laurie had a lot of questions. And a super cute dog I got to play with. After two hours, during the concluding goodbyes, I was on the ground petting Kipper. I went to my knees and stretched out my arms, asking him if we wanted to play. He jumped at me, licked me, backed up and stretched out his front legs.
Game time. It’s been a long time since I got to play with a dog – last I can remember was the first time I met Cooper in two thousand and twenty. Not pet a dog, not see a dog. Get on the ground and play with a dog. Be a dog, hands and knees. Dick and Laurie were equally entertained with my joy, I suppose. Yeah, you don’t like dogs at all do you, Dick said with a smile and chuckle. Laurie just watched, smiling and glowing.
She thanked me profusely for our time, endearing me completely as a speaker, motivational and uplifting in the stories I shared. She told me they gave her hope. That touched me, I think it has to do with their son. She didn’t say that though, just a feeling. I hope I see them again, and Kipper. I gave her one of my new business cards.
The first one I’ve handed out on my journey. My new ones, my last ones, are simple: www.jeromyalexander.com, centered left to right and top to bottom on the front, blank backside. I think Laurie will read more of my stories and perhaps take more value from them than I know.
That was the day.. oh, text from Patrick, my mail in Jackson has been checked. Text from my mom, let’s talk soon. Okay, tentatively scheduled for tomorrow. Then dinner, a steak and salad. These vegetables are growing on me. I’m not trying too. I’m just eating what I want, yet being out here, maybe this level of activity or something is making me want some greens I guess. Probably a good thing.
Oh, and yesterday Patrick had asked me a question, what is a digipeater, that I tried to answer concisely within his patience (my new skill I’m working on.) Yet, I left so much out, it was stuck on my mind all of what I didn’t say, hence this newfound compulsion to empty my mind. So I emptied it with a simple post. This is working. Each day my mind and my soul with it are feeling better and more clear.
Today was a good day, not to full, not to rushed, not to long, just a good day.
Time to rest.
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