At the intersection of Clark and Atherton there was a gas station, 7-Eleven, and Laundromat. A five acre dirt field separated our house from this strip mall. It was filled with gopher holes so it wasn’t smart to run across it for a Slurpee.
With laundry you’d have to drive the long way around. We didn’t have a garage so we had to load and unload our car parked on the street. My job was to help with this—and clean out the dryer vents. I thought this was the best part. I would make a lint rainbow with whatever colors I found.
For helping I was given a quarter to buy an Almond Joy at the 7-Eleven. This was our Sunday after church ritual and if I’m honest, it wasn’t always the way I wanted to spend the afternoon. However, I was always proud of my mother who never complained. She felt thankful to have a car and would tell me about the days of walking a mile with two toddlers and a wagon to get the “wash” done.
Monday our water heater shut down. I knew this wasn’t good. It was unlikely anyone in town would have the part for our tank-less system. This was confirmed when the repairman said he couldn’t have the part until Friday and that would be if I paid for expedited shipping. “Expedite it!” I said.
He laughed, ordered the part, and apologized for the delay.
“This is a first world problem,” I said.
“You’re right, but it’s really inconvenient.”
“I’m trying not to think about that part of it.”
“Good luck with that.”
Of course the minute he left all the issues associated with no hot water started rolling through my head—washing dishes, showering, and the biggie LAUNDRY. The first two didn’t freak me out. However, the laundry with 12-14 loads a week started to feel like a drag.
The issue came up at dinner that night with some girlfriends. When someone asked what I was going to do I tossed out the idea of going to the Laundromat.
“Yuck, I’d find some other way,” one gal said. “Those machines are dirty and hard on your clothes.”
“Yeah,” she said and went on to explain all the other reasons I shouldn’t go including the sketchy people I might run into. Now my head was really spinning and the laundry started to feel like 36 loads. What my friend didn’t realize is how many nerves she’d touched.
Now instead of feeling resourceful like my Mother I felt ashamed I would even consider going to the Laundromat. It was so obviously looked down upon. After that crazy cycle finished I felt a little scared. Who was I going to run into? Then there were our clothes. Would they survive?
I went to bed and tossed around like socks in the dryer. Fortunately, I woke up and the problem had shrunk back down to size. I loaded my car with the laundry and headed out. Before unloading it I went in to see if washers were available. They were and that’s when the hipster guy working there asked if he could help. When I said no thanks he insisted.
We walked out to my car and both noticed the penny I’d parked in front of. I reached down to grab it and he told me how lucky I was going to be. I didn’t say a word. I just smiled and pocketed the coin.
Inside he helped me get the laundry going and chatted with me while I was folding it. That’s when I learned he worked there full-time, made a cut of the days washing, and was buying his way into the business. “I love working here,” he said. “I meet so many interesting people and feel like I’m helping make their lives easier. The owners are awesome and really care about offering a safe clean place people can do their laundry.”
After I finished he helped me out and when I offered a tip he refused it. “You’ve already paid me with your business,” he said. I got in my car feeling silly I’d let a few comments from the water heater guy and a friend send me into a spin.
I live a life of ease compared to the majority of the people. No hot water is a mild inconvenience and going to the Laundromat is not below me. These really are first world problems and in my heart I know this. The crazy cycle starts for me when I buy into the world’s way of looking at even the slightest hardship. With the world’s way of thinking an inconvenience is something to be complained about and apologized for. In God’s world inconvenience equals opportunity.
Looking back, I can see that every Sunday when we had to go the long way around to the Laundromat I got to show my Mom my willingness to help. She showed me her appreciation with a small reward and a work of art was created from lint. What was once a bother is now a treasured memory.
Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies but for many of us it’s not filled with as much hardship as we like to think it is. Grumbling about our non-problem-problems shows a lack of gratitude for the abundance with which we live—and leaves little room for character development.
I’m guilty as charged but with a little help from the hipster Laundromat dude—who looked a lot like storybook Jesus—I know I can do better. That’s a good thing because a few days later my kitchen flooded reminding me that when it rains—it pours with opportunity.