For a while now, I’ve wanted to introduce you to my grandmother, Kate. She was probably one of the strangest characters in my life. My grandmother was, well, crazy. Sometimes, it was in a ha-ha-crazy kind of way, and sometimes it was in a just-plain-crazy kind of way. Bless her heart. (That’s a southern thing. It’s okay to say what you want about someone as long as you say, “Bless her heart,” after it. Maybe you didn’t know that. Bless your heart.)

I called my grandmother, “Granny Meatloaf.” This wasn’t the normal name I called her. Normally, she was Grandmother. However, when I was feeling particularly frisky or brave, I called her “Granny Meatloaf.” I have no idea why. She didn’t make meatloaf. My older cousins called her “Granny,” so maybe I got that part from them.

Grandmother lived a hard life. Like everyone from her generation, she endured hard work and times of poverty. By the time I knew her, I don’t think she was poor. She lived like she was broke, but she had plenty. We would arrive at Grandmother’s house after dark, and at first, we would wonder if she was already asleep. Then, though, we would see her 10 watt light bulb burning in the window, and we would know she was awake. Wouldn’t want to waste electricity, you know.

My grandmother was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. When I was 7 years old, we left our beach house in paradise (okay, really, Isle of Palms, SC) and moved back to the town where my grandmother lived. My mother wanted to be nearby to take care of her mother. I vaguely remember moving back, and I think, at that point, we thought grandmother was dying. (I could be making that up, but hey, it’s my story…) My grandmother lived until I was 19 years old. I’m pretty sure, for a few years there, my father was convinced his mother-in-law would never leave. We joked she was going to outlive us all.

My grandmother was 69 years old when she died. I remember people at the funeral saying how young she was. I disagreed. To me, she was ancient. She had been old forever. Now, as my age increases, I realize how young she really was. In my defense, though, she had acted like an old lady for as long as I had known her, so she was old to me.

Grandmother worked at a factory. I think they made plastic bags. I’m pretty sure that’s where the rare leukemia came from. Back then, they figured “what didn’t kill you made you stronger” even applied to industrial chemicals. (You’ve got that song playing in your head now, don’t you? Sorry about that.) No need for respirators or protective gear.

Grandmother would come home from work with rubber bands on her wrist. I don’t know what the rubber bands were for, but she always had them. She would hang them from the gear shifter on the steering column of her car.

Speaking of column, my grandmother had some pretty funny words she used. Column would be one of them. She said, “Colyum.” I still can’t say column correctly because of her. Thanks, Grandmother.

Some other fun words a la Kate were candlelobster, tarco and therpy. If you wanted to set the table for a fancy dinner, you would put a candlelobster on it. You would not want to get Tarco Bell for the fancy meal. The therpy would come in handy if you had an injury to your knee. That physical therpy can be difficult, though.

Grandmother used to grow a garden. She always had strawberries growing. They were never sweet, but there was just something about picking strawberries fresh from the vine and eating them. (Now that I live near the Strawberry Capital of the World, that doesn’t sound nearly as special.) Once, my sister and I got fussed at by my mother for eating all of Grandmother’s strawberries. Grandmother had probably worked for months to get her vines to grow those berries, and then my sister and I wiped them out in one afternoon. I also got in trouble for picking grandmother’s flowers in the front yard. I thought they were weeds, but they ended up being some kind of special plant that Grandmother had gone to a lot of trouble to grow. Oops. My bad.

Grandmother would dry apple slices outside. She would put them out on the trunk of her car or on the driveway and would put a window screen over them to keep the bugs off. I’m not sure how effective that was, but they were still good, bugs and all. She would use the apples to make fried apple pies. Those little pies were amazing, as long as she remembered to add sugar. Since then, I have never found anyone who can make fried apple pies like my grandmother.

Grandmother was sometimes forgetful when she cooked. In fact, as she aged, her cooking got worse and worse. For one thing, she only used the cheapest of ingredients. Cheap store-brand margarine just doesn’t create the same baked goods as real butter, no matter how good a cook you are (and she really wasn’t all that good). Grandmother made peanut butter ice cream once that would have been really good if she had just remembered to sweeten it. She made black walnut cakes that were delicious. However, they were major dental work waiting to happen. She was not good at taking the nuts from the shells. I’d be going along, enjoying my piece of cake and then, AAUGH! Shell.

I still prefer my grits lumpy. That’s because that was how Grandmother made them – with HUGE lumps. The scrambled eggs had brown spots from being burned. I’m not so crazy about that now. One thing she made pretty well was popcorn. When I would spend the night at her house, she would pop real popcorn on the stove and put melted margarine on top. (Or, futter, as my kids call it. Fake butter.)

Grandmother was cheap. With a capital C. I’m pretty sure I have some of her genes in me. There was a local pizza shop, called the Pizza Factory. One summer when I was little, they sold glass Coca Cola pitchers and offered free refills. I’m pretty sure they meant free refills for the summer, but they did not specify that. For years, any time I would spend the night at Grandmother’s house, we would go pick up a pizza and get that pitcher filled. She would take a (used!) piece of aluminum foil to cover the pitcher with so we could get it home without spilling Coke everywhere. Then, when we would get to the car with it, she would take a rubber band from her steering colyum and put it around the rim of the pitcher. That pitcher got a crack in it after years of use. Luckily, the crack was in the top 1/3 of the pitcher. At that point, Grandmother would just have them fill it to the line. She got her money’s worth out of that $5 pitcher. Bless her heart.

We were never allowed to throw away anything in the trash can in Grandmother’s bathroom. That’s because it wasn’t really for trash. That was where she stored the partial rolls of toilet paper she had collected from various and sundry places. We weren’t allowed to talk about it, although my sister and I thought it was pretty stinkin’ funny that she stole toilet paper.

Grandmother was a crafter. I know I got some of those genes. She could do any handiwork, I’m pretty sure. She crocheted. She tatted. If you don’t know what tatting is, Google it. It’s sort of like lace made with thread. She tried to teach me that once, but all I managed to do was tie knots. Grandmother made yo-yo bedspreads. (Google!) Most of all, she quilted. She had a quilting room that had a huge quilting rack that filled it. That room was always cold because she had the air vent shut off in there. and she kept the door closed to save electricity. In the winter, when Grandmother would have her wood stove cranked up to “flames of hell” temperature, my sister and I would escape to that cold quilting room and bask in the cool air while playing under Grandmother’s current work in progress.

Speaking of the wood stove, Grandmother used to be able to look at a fire and tell if it was “packin’ snow.” I have no idea what that means, but if Grandmother said the fire was packin’ snow, it was going to snow. She was almost always right about that.

Okay, you’re probably bored with my stories of my grandmother, but I could go on all day long. I won’t, but I could. I keep remembering things as I’m writing. She just gave me so much material! I could tell you about how she and I would play Kismet (Google!) or how she would come to our house on Christmas morning or how she would say, “Dan. Stop it,” when my father joked around with her. (You have to read that in a southern accent. Dan has two syllables.) I really could go on all day long. I just have to tell you one last story. It’s my favorite, and it was hilarious, at least to me.

When I was about the same age as the Goose, my grandmother and I headed over to the small town, Union, where my grandfather’s relatives lived. We would go there sometimes to visit my Aunt Ruby, who really was not my aunt at all. I’m pretty sure she was third cousin, twice removed, or something like that.

As we drove into town, I noticed flags hanging from the light posts. They had a letter “K” on them. I asked my grandmother what they were for, and she began thinking about it. She stayed quiet, thinking for about a minute, and then she began thinking aloud. She said, “I know what it is. It’s the Que Cluck Clan. I just know it. The Que Cluck Clan. Oh, I can’t believe it. How can that be? The Que Cluck Clan in Union.” For a second, I had no idea what she was talking about. Then, I realized it, and I had to fight to hold the laughter in. She thought it was the Klu Klux Klan.

Now, Grandmother grew more and more distraught over this as we drove. She was almost in tears. She just kept repeating “Que Cluck Clan” over and over and over, and I was just about to the howling stage of laughter. I wasn’t even keeping it in at this point, but she was so busy being shocked by the Que Cluck Clan, she didn’t even notice my disrespect. I found this hilarious, and her pronunciation was awesome. Even now, I can’t say the name of the club the correct way. It just wouldn’t be right.

When we got to Aunt Ruby’s house, Grandmother went rushing in. She was so upset that the Que Cluck Clan was there. Aunt Ruby asked what in the world she was talking about, and Grandmother explained about the flags. Turns out, the Kudzu Festival was taking place the weekend after. In case you don’t know what kudzu is, bless your heart, it’s the plant that ate the south. (Google!) As Aunt Ruby explained that there would be kudzu jelly and fried kudzu flowers, I was laughing so hard, I was crying. Bless my grandmother’s heart. The Que Cluck Clan.

My grandmother was certainly not perfect, and I could probably just as easily write as much about all the negatives. However, I choose to think about the funny memories my grandmother gave me. If nothing else, she gave me writing material, and she was certainly an interesting character in my story!  -Al

When we moved to Tampa, I was angry with my parents. Actually, that’s an understatement. I was furious, beyond furious, with my parents. I won’t go into the details of why I was so angry. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t win me any points with them. I will say, though, that I was so mad about moving to Tampa that I called it “Tampax” for the first six months. I was here, but I wasn’t happy about it.

We moved to Tampa from Knoxville, TN. It wasn’t that I was upset about leaving there. We had been there for two years, and they had been the worst two years of my life. To date, those would still be two of the worst years of my life, though I must say 2012 gave them a run for their money. So, it wasn’t that I cared about leaving Knoxville. I mean, I hadn’t finished a sentence the whole time I lived there. You see, I was raised in South Carolina, where people take their time finishing their sentences. Slow and southern…that’s how we spoke. However, in Knoxville, people might have been southern, but slow was not how they rolled. They all sounded like auctioneers or like the guy on car commercials who tells all the rules at the end. Bless their hearts, those Tennesseans didn’t let me finish a thought for two whole years. That was just one of the many reasons I was angry.

When we came to Tampa, we first left my sister at college in Tennessee. We still joke that we moved away and left her twice, but she managed to find us both times. The first time was when she was in high school. She went on a school trip to Europe for a month, and when she came back, we had moved. She didn’t even know we were moving before she left. We picked her up from the airport and headed to the new house. She said, “Where are we going?” Oops…I guess we should have told her. So, when we dropped her off at college and moved out of the state two days later, I’m pretty sure it brought back bad memories for her. She still managed to find us eventually, though and came home on school breaks.

When we drove to Florida, we drove overnight, or at least that’s how I remember it. I remember every time I would get to sleep in the car, my parents would stop to get gas, go to the bathroom, etc. It was very annoying, and it only angered me more, if that was possible. I was 14, you know. That’s an angry age anyway.

Daddy got us settled in the local Ramada Inn here, and he headed back to Knoxville. He had to finish working up there, but we moved before him so I could start school at the beginning of the school year. Otherwise, I would have gone to school for only a few weeks up there and then would have started late here. There were not many hotel choices in Brandon back in the day, and the Ramada was the only one that would allow us to have our dog, Frazier. Frazier was a five pound Yorkie, so it wasn’t like he could do that much damage to a hotel room, but there was no room at the other inns for him.

Mama, Frazier and I lived in the Ramada Inn for five weeks. In a way, it was fun. We had two adjoining rooms, so I had my own hotel room and bathroom. I didn’t even have to clean it, because I had daily maid service. (Hmmm, with the way they leave their rooms, I wonder if my kids believe they are living in a hotel....)  It got to the point where the maid would take Frazier out for a walk when she came to clean our room. That was handy, because it meant we didn’t have to rush back to take care of him if we had somewhere to go. Every morning, we ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant before I went to school. I actually had to leave for school before the restaurant was officially open, but the employees made an exception for us. I had chocolate chip pancakes and chocolate milk for breakfast every day for 5 weeks. One day, we tried to call them to see if I could have something different, and I placed my order. However, when we got to the restaurant, I was served, you guessed it, chocolate chip pancakes and chocolate milk. Oh well. At least there was some consistency in my life. The guy at the front desk was a native Spanish speaker, so he helped me with my Spanish homework. Come to think of it, I think he was actually just flirting with me. Ewww.  Creepy.

When we finally found our house, I hated it. I hated it because it was in Tampax and because I had to live there with my parents. (I’m telling you…I was angry.) My parents’ bathroom ended up having dry rot behind the tiles in the shower. The whole bathroom had to be remodeled. I always thought that was a shame. I wanted it to be my bathroom. My bathroom had pink fixtures. I hated that bathroom. My mother insisted on making it into a flamingo bathroom, since we were in Florida. I hated those flamingos. Stupid Tampax flamingos.

The house had a pool with fountains. My mother tried to sell me on the fountains. I wasn’t buying it. She let me decorate my own room. Since the carpet had to be changed anyway, I could pick what I wanted, and I chose a white linoleum with yellow diamonds. I had a white day bad with a red bedspread and brass and glass tables. The room was topped off with a papisan chair with a big yellow cushion. It was a cool room. I still hated it.

I hated the kitchen. I hated the family room. I hated the stupid little room upfront that served as our office. There was nothing my parents could say or do to make me like Tampax.

There were many things about Florida that I should have liked. I mean, the sun shined every single day. Stupid sun. There were palm trees. Stupid trees. There were lizards. I hated those lizards, especially when one ran up my leg. But, over time, Florida became not so bad, and now, 27 years later, Florida is home to me. There’s no place I’d rather be. (I’m a poet!)

In retrospect, I sometimes wonder what my life would have turned out to be if we had not moved to Florida. Now, I know my life did not really begin until we got here. Within the first six months of living here, I met Willow, Mr. Everything and Rose. It wasn’t too long after that when I started going to church and when I met Micah. Without Mr. E, I would have never had the Beetle or the Goose. Who knows? I might have the Spider and the Duck now. It just wouldn't be right. Without moving to Tampa, I would not have the characters of my life, and my life would not be complete.

I have long since forgiven my parents for all the reasons I was mad back then (except maybe for that ugly flamingo bathroom). Moving to Tampa was the best thing that ever happened to me, but I still refuse, yes refuse, to thank my parents for it!  Okay, okay.  Thanks, Mama and Daddy. I don’t hate you. -Al

Okay, so I’ve been stewing about a recent doctor’s visit for several weeks now. When it happened, I was so completely annoyed that it was not funny. However, now that I’ve had time to cool off and to stop thinking ugly thoughts about the doctor we saw, I want to tell you the story.

For years, the Goose has been saying she needed glasses. Now, before you get all judgey with me, realize, I’m the mother. I usually know what my kids need, and I was 99.9% sure my daughter did not need glasses. She never showed any of the signs that would tell me her eyes were not great. So, for years, I’ve been putting off going to the eye doctor. Part of the time, I was putting it off because we had no insurance and no money, and part of the time, I just got busy with life and forgot. (I know I’ve burst your bubble…now you know I’m not a perfect parent. Shocker.)

Finally, the planets all aligned correctly, and we had insurance at the same time I actually remembered to call and make an appointment with the eye doctor. The Goose had been saying for weeks, “Is that sign (book, TV, ____ you fill in the blank) blurry to you? It’s blurry to me.” I was pretty sure it was an act, but I decided I’d better have her checked, just in case.

The Goose and I went on a Friday afternoon to the eye doctor. On the way there, we talked about the “air blowy thing” that blows a puff of air into your eye. I had assured her it would not hurt, but she insisted she did not want it done. I told her not to panic and that we would talk to the doctor about it. After all, I had no idea what the purpose of it even was, so I could not say for sure whether she would need it or not. I had already also assured her she would not be getting her eyes dilated. I had that done once. That was a mistake. I was pretty sure having them do that to the Goose on her first eye doctor’s visit would ensure it would be her last eye doctor’s visit. (Keep in mind that both of my child have major anxiety about all things medical. One has it worse than the other, but neither of them is comfortable in a doctor’s office.)

We got to the office and checked in. The Goose was already busy picking out her glasses as she was sure she would be getting some. I told her not to hold her breath. We did not wait long before it was our turn. The assistant was friendly enough, and she had the Goose look into a machine. I have no idea what the machine was for, but there was no pain or air involved, so it was so far, so good. Then, the assistant asked the Goose to move over to the other machine so she could blow a puff of air into her eyes. Instantly, the Goose burst into tears. I looked at her and said, “Stop it. We already talked about this.” Then, I turned to the assistant and asked what the purpose of the air was. I never actually got an answer. I told her I would prefer to talk to the doctor first, and she said that was fine. She also said the doctor could put drops into the Goose’s eyes instead. Again, the Goose started to cry. At least we knew her tear ducts were working properly.

A few minutes later, the doctor called us back. Although I had written the Goose’s nickname on the forms along with her full name, and although the assistant had managed to call her by her nickname, the doctor did not. He called her by her full name. By the time we had reached his office, he had called her by her full name (the one she gets called when she is in trouble) three times. I nicely (Honest! I was still being nice at this point!) said, “Oh, you can call her by her nickname. That’s what we call her.” He shrugged and said, “Whatever.” Then, he called her by her full name. Strike one.

Now, allow me to interject here that, if I actually knew the doctor’s name, I would not hesitate to name him in this blog. I would not change his name to protect the innocent. He does not deserve that courtesy. Yes, it was that bad. However, he never showed the professionalism of introducing himself, so I have no idea who the man was.

Let’s just call the doctor, Dr. Dishtowel, because he had as much personality as a wet dishtowel. Dr. Dishtowel began running through the typical, “Does this look better or does that look better?” “How about this or that?” “Now this or that?” questions. By the way, I hate those questions. I’m always afraid if I don’t pass, I will end up wearing Coke bottle glasses for the rest of my life. But, this isn’t about me. I wasn’t the one answering. I was the one sitting in the corner, getting more and more angry.

Dr. Dishtowel was a jerk. There’s no nice way to say it. He just was. He moved in a rushed manner. He was brash, harsh, abrasive and just rude. My Goose kept looking at me as if to say, “Save me…” I had to chuckle to myself as I realized she probably wouldn’t insist on going to the eye doctor again for a very long time.

When Dr. Dishtowel finished his robotic examination of her eyes, he said her eyes were perfect. He told me the Goose’s eyes had probably the best vision of any he had seen all week. I resisted the urge to say, “I told you so.” I figured I’d save that little tidbit for later.

Dr. Dishtowel began writing in the Goose’s chart. As he wrote, he said, “Oh, I see we were not able to put the puff of air in her eyes. I’ll have to put drops in her eyes instead.” And with that, you guessed it, the tear ducts began working again. I calmly said, “Can you please talk to me about the purpose of the drops?” He snidely said, “The purpose is, it’s part of the exam.” Strike two.

I said I understood it was part of the exam but I wondered what purpose it served. He said he did not understand why I was questioning him or why it was a big deal. I said, through gritted teeth, “That’s the big deal,” as I indicated for him to look at the Goose. Dr. Dishtowel looked at the Goose, and then what he did next is what still makes my blood boil.

Dr. Dishtowel began a rant that went something like this: “You’re crying? Why are you crying? Why is she crying? She shouldn’t be crying. Is this normal? Does she always cry like this? Does she have some kind of anxiety disorder? Have you taken her to a psychiatrist about this? If not, you should. This isn’t normal. Crying isn’t normal. Really. Is there something wrong with her? Does she have a disorder?” Strike THREE!

I said, as calmly as I could muster, “There is nothing wrong with my child, but thank you so much for suggesting that there is, and thank you even more for saying it right in front of her. That’s definitely going to decrease her anxiety. Thank you very much. “(You idiot…Okay, I didn’t say that part, but it was implied.)

Then, Dr. Dishtowel said, “Well, I am so sorry. I did not mean to cause this. I’m just doing my job. I didn’t mean to upset anyone, but obviously I did.” (Yay think, moron??) “After all, I’m just the eye guy. What do I know? I mean, I only went to school for this, but you must know better. It’s a normal part of the exam, but it wasn’t supposed to make anyone cry. I’m just so sorry. I think you need to get out of my office now. I’m sorry I caused this. I’m just the eye guy.”

Honestly, people. I’m not making this up. You can ask the Goose. She watched the whole thing, wide eyed, waiting for Mama Bear to rip this man’s face off. I managed to get out without hurting him. Honestly, I was so shocked by the whole scene that I did not have time to respond. The only thing I managed to say was, “Well, you’re the one who said her eyes were perfect. I don’t see a reason to put drops in perfect eyes.” I don’t think he heard me though, because he was so busy saying how he was “only the eye guy.”

To say the visit was bizarre would be an understatement. The Goose and I got to the Suburban and just sat in quiet for a minute. Then, my first words were, “What. The. Heck. Was. That??” We both laughed. Then, I reminded my dear, sweet Goose that if she didn’t trust me, who could she trust? It was a little over-the-top for her to cry when Dr. Dishtowel said he was going to put drops in her eyes. If she knew me at all, she should know there was no way I was letting that man put anything in her eyes. I also reminded her that, in the future, instead of crying, she should speak up, and that it was okay for her to speak up when it involved her own body. Hopefully, she heard me. All I know is, she will never have to speak up to Dr. Dishtowel again.  -Al

As you may recall, a certain Goose broke my washer and dryer a few months ago. Mr. Everything managed to fix the dryer, but the washer? Not so much. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that he can’t fix it. It’s that he hasn’t fixed it. In his defense, he has been very busy with work and has not even had time to look at it. (Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. I just want to wash my clothes.)

Anywho, I’ve been letting clothes pile up for longer than I care to admit. I was trying to do a load at a time in my mother-in-law’s machine, but that meant lugging the clothes upstairs and back downstairs. (Hey, don’t judge me. Those stairs are really steep!) I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t had time to do any loads for a while. (If he can use the excuse, so can I. That, my friends, it what you call equal rights.)

So, tonight, I decided it was time to visit the Laundromat. You may be asking yourself what possessed me to head to the Laundromat on a Friday night, but don’t ask. It’s me. Just go with it. (And, by the way, my spellcheck keeps capitalizing Laundromat – See? I don’t know why, but it’s not a typo. Apparently, it’s such an important place, it deserves a capital letter.)

Supper was cooking in the crockpot, so I loaded the Suburban with my mounds of dirty laundry and headed to the ‘mat. I gave myself a pep talk on the way. “Al, it’s going to be fine,” I said. Well, actually, I didn’t call myself by name, and even if I did, I’d probably call myself Alison. Myself and I are on a more formal basis than “Al.”

Now, while I’m driving to the Laundromat (L!), let me just clue you in on something here. In case you haven’t figured it out, I led a pretty blessed childhood. I mean, sure, my parents struggled when they were first married and when my sister and I were little, but by the time I can remember, we had money. We didn’t *do* the Laundromat. If the washer broke, my mother either called the repairman or bought a new washer. That’s how we rolled. The only time I ever remember going to the Laundromat was to wash nasty horse blankets because my mother did not want those smelly things in her house. (Which, by the way, may be part of the reason I think of Laundromats as nasty…horse blankets.)

So, for me to go to the Laundromat, by myself none-the-less, is a pretty big deal for me. Judge if you will, but it’s just not something I’ve done in all my 41 years (41! Ugh.). I’ve been there once or twice to wash blankets after camp, but Mr. Everything always went with me. Since he’s a pretty smart fellow, I just relied on him to tell me how the machines worked. In fact, I’m pretty sure I just stood back and let him handle it. I was pampered. Until tonight.

I got to the Laundromat and went in first without my clothes. I figured I’d stake the place out and make sure I was going to be able to figure it out. I had a bag of quarters, but I wasn’t even sure whether the machines took quarters or some kind of magic card Mr. E had told me about. If they took debit cards, I was all set. Otherwise, if I needed dollar bills, I was in trouble. My wallet has been a dollar-bill-free zone since the late 90’s. Luckily, the machines took quarters, and there were plenty of machines available. I went back to get my clothes. All 4 hampers of them. (What? Like you’ve never let laundry pile up? Don’t be a hater.)

I stood in front of a washing machine, looking at it, as though it was going to guide me through the process. There were instructions that were written on about a first grade level. You’d think I’d be able to figure them out. You’d be wrong, but you’d think that. (Just a side note here – I’m terrible with directions. I can’t read and follow instructions to save my life, especially when I’m nervous. The instructions might as well have been in Japanese.)

So, I successfully got the first machine going. I found out later that I washed my dark clothes in warm water, but hey, overall, I was pretty successful. I even figured out where the laundry detergent should go.

The second load did not go as well. I poured the detergent in the top, as instructed. Then, since I was washing sheets, I poured bleach in the top too. As I poured, I heard it sloshing down into the washer and even felt some splash out onto my feet. Then, I saw the sign that said, “Wait to add bleach until ‘Add bleach’ light comes on.” Oops. Stay in school kids, so you can follow directions.

I stood there thinking about what to do now. My blankets were white, so at first, I thought I would just load them first to avoid bleaching out the red sheets. Then, it occurred to me that I had not put my money in the machine yet. If I switched machines, I would only be losing a cup full of detergent and the bleach that I had poured in.

And, I would just like to take a moment to apologize to whoever decides to use the machine I abandoned. I still feel really guilty about leaving the machine. However, if you take the time to read the directions, they say, “Check machine before placing clothing inside.” Hopefully, you can read better than I can.

I got all four loads of laundry going and waited. Really, by the time I navigated my way through loading dirty clothes, pouring detergent and feeding quarters to the machines, the first machine was just about finished. There wasn’t much time to wait.

As the machines finished, I took the wet clothes and loaded them into the monster dryers. These suckers were so big, a family could live in there. (Note to self…remember that if things don’t work out at your mother-in-law’s house.)

I started loading quarters into the machine, but it wasn’t working. I stood there for a minute, attempting to actually READ the directions and realized I was feeding them in the wrong slot.

And, allow me just to take a moment here to say, “You’re welcome” to whoever got an extra 30 minutes of drying time from my stupidity. Maybe that random act (accidental, yet still random) of kindness will make up for the bleach incident. Karma, are we even now??

I went to the Suburban to wait for the dryers to finish. As I sat there, two extremely homeless looking gentlemen walked up and were standing between my car and the Laundromat. They were looking around, nervously, as though they were up to something. One seemed to keep watch while the other one went into the Laundromat. I started to panic because my clothes and laundry baskets were in there with the suspicious man. Then, I realized I hate my clothes anyway and all my laundry baskets are broken from years of abuse, so I had nothing to lose. I had already made up my mind just to let them have whatever they wanted.

I sat there, kicking myself (Okay, that would be impossible – don’t be so literal!) for going to the Laundromat alone on a Friday night. What was I thinking? I was going to be murdered by homeless men, and my clothes were going to be stolen, and it was all because I was too lazy to walk upstairs. (I’m telling you, they are really steep!). The homeless dude outside the building kept looking around, making sure no one was coming. The one inside turned the corner and disappeared out of sight. A few minutes later, he came out, moving very quickly. He had cash in his hand and was moving toward his bike. In a flash, they were gone (okay, it was more of a shuffle and a pedal than a flash, but you get my point).

I sat and pondered what I had just witnessed. Was it a drug deal? Did the guy inside steal something? The only room that was open and unlocked that he could have gone into was the bathroom. There was an office, but it was locked. There wasn’t even anyone else in the Laundromat at that time, so what could he possibly have done?

I waited until the men were out of sight, and then I went back in the Laundromat. As soon as I entered the building, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, what the guy had done. It involved the bathroom, and it was overpowering the smell of fabric softener.

Luckily, my clothes were dry, or at least, dry enough. I loaded them into my hampers, while holding my breath and breathing through my mouth. I got my stuff and moved to the door as quickly as I could. As I was leaving with my last load, a family entered to start their laundry. They smelled the smell and all looked at me as though I had done it. In my mind, I was saying, “It wasn’t me! I didn’t do it!” The people pleaser in me wanted to be sure they knew that hideous smell had not been created by me. However, the new, reformed “I don’t care what you think” person looked them in the eye, smiled and said, “Have a pleasant night!” I was proud of myself as I got in my car. I had conquered the Laundromat, and I had let others think badly of me while not caring. Yay me! With all this progress, I wonder what tomorrow holds in store. -Al