Snowbirding 101

Somebody has to do it

Laundromats are not for the faint-of-heart

Dryers at a laundromat
RVers are familiar with the challenges at coin laundromats. — Joni Krats photo

Keeping our clothes clean is not a job I relish. Rather than agonize over the prospect of having no clean clothes, I have learned to recognize the triggers that lead me to the place where I can renew the supply of fresh underwear in the almost-empty underwear drawer.

Each one of us has our “do-the-laundry” triggers, although some laundry-doers manage to approach the task on a schedule and know days in advance exactly when it will be done. In a way I envy them but I have never been one to keep schedules.

Anyway, my triggers are a full dirty clothes hamper and a near-empty underwear drawer. Again, there are exceptions to every rule—I have been known to let the dirty clothes hamper overflow or go to the nearest Wal-Mart and buy additional underwear.

The laundromats, laundries, washhouses—most RVers know them well—are the places where you take your clothes in dirty and (supposedly) they come out clean and dry. I must point out that this is not always the case, but I accept the clean and dry premise in order to not put the dreaded task off even longer.

Where do you wash?

Places to get your clothes clean come in various sizes, shapes and forms with just as many variations in directions and rules. It’s fascinating to watch people as they come in the front door. Typically, they come in, look around and make a mad dash to what they consider the perfect machines in the perfect location. If other customers come in at the same time, you know darn well they have chosen the same machines.

The race is on—subtly, mind you! With smiles on their faces, trying to sustain their normally friendly, co-operative demeanours, each customer does the marathon walk (not run) to THE SPOT and rapidly claims the chosen machines by putting something (usually soap or softener) on the top of them.

The first leg of the race has been completed. If you won that leg, you can regain your composure; load the machines with dirty clothes and whatever else goes into the big hole, find the right settings for the various loads, search out the proper change and ka-ching—the machines start. You listen to make sure they are really working (not that you don’t trust the maintenance of the facility). If all is well, you can decide what you are going to do to wait out the magic power of the machines to make your dirty clothes clean.

The non-winners of this first leg can be seen smiling sweetly, slowly searching for their second choice spot, and then proceeding in the same way as the winners of this first leg.

Waiting it out

The time between washing and drying can be either fun and interesting or boring and mundane. Many of us will take this opportunity to meet and talk with fellow dirty-clothes cleaners; others work on tasks that take time but no space; and still others can find a quiet place to catch up on some reading or relish the down time.

Regardless, we all keep a keen eye on the progress of our washing machines, where we can find the carts to unload and move the wet clothes from the washers to the dryers, and which dryers we can nab once the last cycle finishes.

Now comes the second leg of the race—getting the chosen dryers. The first challenge in this leg is to get your hands on a cart. You watch and wait. When a fellow launderer abandons a cart you need to be the first one there to claim it. There can be some creative strategies to this phase. Sometimes you can negotiate ahead of time and sometimes you need to stand over the person to hasten the progress.

Claiming washers is simpler than claiming dryers: there tend to be more washers and you have some way to tell the rest of the launderers that you have a claim on that washer (soap, etc). I have seen people with special magnets that say machine in use but I think this gives players, oops, launderers an unfair advantage.

Needless to say getting your clothes dry can be a special challenge. Can you put more than one washer load in a dryer? How many cycles will it take to get the clothes dry? You can usually add more coins to the machine but who wants to do that?

The home stretch

Finally, you are ready for the third and final leg of the contest: finding a place to sort and fold the clothes after you take them out of the dryer to get them ready for their journey home.

The ultimate is to find a folding table to yourself where you can spread out and get everything sorted and folded. Most times you have to share, but then again, the world is seldom perfect.

Not done yet though—all those clean, dry clothes need to find a place to go. Did you ever notice, once clothes leave their original place, something sneaks in and fills the appointed spot?

Don’t worry; it won’t be long before the clothes are dirty again. Then there will be lots of space, an overflowing dirty clothes hamper and an almost-empty underwear drawer. 

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