Instead of driving home after taking a breakfast picnic to the shores of Alligator Point, I dropped MS at her house and then drove to the laundromat. The good one, the newish one.
The good laundromat is a one-trick-pony steampunk revival neo-casino-factory at your command. Rows and rows of heavy-duty machines churn to life on the swipe of a prepaid card, because this is the future and the future doesn’t run on metal slugs. The future is plastic.
On a Sunday afternoon the good laundromat is like an off-brand baptism carnival.Vuvuzelas buzz from big screen TVs, Mexican and Guatemalan men pray before them. Women snap sheets in the air. An impossibly tiny boy plays a Dollar Store flute like a kazoo, a half-eaten apply in his other hand, little apple shards flying with his music.
Dirty as you and your robes are, enter this room, submit, and in one 22 minute cycle you will be washed clean? You’ve got a deal. Swipe!
Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, I’m essentially an optimist, because when I open a washing machine door I always wonder if I’ll find money. It’s happened many times before. This also has happened: once when I lived in the woods, I opened a machine after the cycle only to find a very angry snake rearing up at me. You never know.
Neither money nor snake greeted me, though. The beach blanket had tripled its weight in sand and was beginning to protest with a seaweed funk, so in it went. It was time. I bought a $20 laundry card with my debit card–oh my God it’s nearly impossible to get away from the plastic, and I’m trying. I bought the little boxes of soap from the automat machine, the ones you have to buy if you forget your own stuff. What happened to all the old cigarette box vending machines? I used to want one to sell little packs of 3 tarot cards for reading your own future. Lay down the cards, 1,2,3. Past, now, tomorrow.
The little boxes of soap remind me of the little boxes of cereal my brother and I coveted, covetedon the top shelf of the cereal aisle where my mother bought the off-label Krispies. When she told us little boxes were a waste she meant of money, not of resources. Once I had Lucky Charms from one at a friend’s house, whose mom even cut through the box on the dotted lines and split open wax paper to make a tiny bowl out of it, and those were the best tasting three spoonfuls of cereal in the history of cereal.
Our breakfast at Alligator Point was simple. Boiled eggs. Apple. Cheese. A thermos of coffee to top off the cups we drank on the ride. It was an impulsive morning idea, to check on the Gulf, have a picnic. Is there a different word for breakfast picnic. All picnics are not the same.
The part that was the same was the sand. It’s hard to eat at the beach. The sand gets everywhere. Even if you think your hands are clean when you peel your egg, there will be sand from your hands or the wind. You will bite down on it, thinking for a second can I eat this? What is this, is it salt, is it a little bit of eggshell?
I guess that’s what sand actually is, right, little bits of broken down shell?
The dryer counted down the minutes for me and several others waiting for a turn. My blanket had an audience. I played with the prepaid card in my pocket. It probably still held $15-$16 dollars of value. If I cashed it in, that card would inevitably be thrown out. More oil down the drain. I could save the card, wash more blankets, reload it, make it earn its keep over time. But I already have one of these cards at home in a drawer, maybe two, and now this one picking up sand from my pocket.
Sand gets everywhere. Everything gets everywhere.
I pulled the picnic from the dryer, nodding nodded to a young mother with a cart full of blue clothes that she could take control of the machine. She moved quickly, the machine was still hot. As I turned to leave I passed my card to her like a laundry baton. She reached up for it, looking absolutely baffled, and I took my blanket to the car, where it lives.