Recently, I had to wash my king-sized comforter. The internet told me that the local laundromat had two oversized machines in the front, as well as a few larger machines on the back wall. When I walked in, the ones in the front – were taken. Of course.
I size up the regular machines that fill the majority of the space and quickly deduce that they are too small. Back wall. I head in that direction and there’s a woman sorting laundry. A lot of laundries. She’s almost blocking the back row.
I ask her, “are these machines larger?” She answers “I have these three,” very possessively. Ok. There’s a fourth one on the far side just before the dryers. I move towards that one and look at her to be sure it’s available. She nods and answers my original question, “yes, these are larger.”
Great. I scoot past her with my bundle and stuff my comforter into the machine. It fits. I hear myself sigh with relief. I came prepared with pockets full of quarters. I feed $7.50 worth into the machine, add my detergent and press start. The digital readout says 29. I bug my neighbor again, “is that the length of the cycle?” “Yes” she says, barely looking up.
Great. Mental note: be back in 29 minutes.
I time it well and return as the cycle ends. Success. My comforter is wonderfully clean. I start looking for dryers. There are four of them to my right, the opposite direction of my neighbor, who is still sorting her multiple bags of laundry and filling machines with clothes.
As I watch her, I feel gratitude. I’m blessed to not only have a working washer and dryer in my home, but I can come here and find oversized machines. My laundromat neighbor can come and use three machines at once, spending only a morning instead of a whole day. She looks up and I smile at her.
I see one dryer to my right that doesn’t have an ‘out of order’ sign on it and fill it with my wet comforter. Then I add a pair of sandals. What? Yep, a pair of sandals, clean sandals. Mom taught me that to dry something that’s real down (feathers) I needed to add a shoe to make sure it’s ‘fluffed’ as it dries and the feathers don’t clump. So in went my sandals.
I set the dryer on low heat and guessed at how long it would take to dry – 70 minutes. I put in 20 quarters, pressed start and watched it for a few minutes. It looked good. I check the time, make a mental note of when I need to be back and head out.
65 minutes later, I’m back. As I approach the washer, I see my sandal on the floor and the dryer door open. My stomach sinks. Oh no. My brain goes in two directions:
1. someone took the comforter. Shit.
2. the shoe kicked the door open and the comforter is still wet after an hour. Sigh.
Oh well. It was good while it lasted.
I approach and the comforter is there! Yes! Ok so now I have to deal with a wet comforter. I think about my plans for the afternoon and start mentally rearranging things.
I reach in to feel it. It’s dry. That’s amazing. It must have miraculously done its thing before the door opened. Maybe someone opened it not realizing it was full???
Whatever. I’ve got my clean, dry comforter and both my sandals. I notice that there’s still 25 minutes left on my dryer. As I gather my comforter, I see the woman that shared her laundromat wisdom and row of larger washers. She is talking to someone else.
I stop with my arms full of comforter and tell her that the dryer I used still has 25 minutes of time left on it, if she wants it.
She thanked me, and then tells me that my shoe kicked that dryer open 4 times. Each time, she saw it, tossed the shoe back in and restarted it. 4 times.
My heart broke open. She could have left that shoe where it was and ignored my dryer. She had enough of her own on her plate. But she didn’t. She took care of a total stranger.
I thanked her. It turns out that my laundromat neighbor was really my laundromat guardian angel. I reminded her that she now has 25 minutes of free dryer time and I headed home.
As I walked out, my heart was so full. I was leaving a laundromat a better person than I had entered. I was given several gifts in this ‘mundane’ 2 hour window of my life. Connection. Beauty. Joy. The simple acts of kindness bestowed on me. I got to experience the best of humanity.
A feeling of blessed connection stayed with me for the rest of the day. Every time I think of her, I still feel the kindness. As I drove away, I started experiencing another emotion. A bit of regret. I wish that I had taken the time to celebrate her a bit more. I wish I had given her a hug.
And maybe I wasn’t meant to take those extra moments then, maybe I was meant to share her with you.
What are some of the little moments that feed your soul throughout the day? What could you do today to brighten someone’s day. Even if it’s just tossing an annoying shoe back into a dryer. Four times.