Yesterday I went to Old Masset's new laundromat. We've been without one for almost a year now. It closed down because the machines were costly to maintain. This probably happens when treeplanters, fishermen, and people who live off-the-grid load them to the brim with the kind of dirty things the makers of such machines weren't expecting. Moss, sand, fish guts, poopy cloth diapers, twigs. These are just a few of the things that had been causing the owner distress for years.
So I was shocked to meet the husband and wife team of the new laundromat (which, by the way, is one washing machine and one dryer in a private home) and hear them exclaim: "Slime, guts, blood--don't be shy--we've seen it all!" They told me how the nurses always forget dirty band-aids in their pockets--"So, don't worry--we check pockets!" They introduced me to their five cats and showed me the restaurant in their kitchen with hand-written menus and crocheted placemats. I wasn't sure I'd eat there, but they assured me, "We've just finished our training!"
I didn't know whether to be alarmed or enchanted by their enthusiasm for my dirty laundry. They assured me they would wash, dry and fold the mammoth pile for five dollars a load in four hours. "Could you pay us now?" the wife asked. "You know how it is around here." I kind of knew how it was around Old Masset--some of the neighbours' houses had smashed-in windows and vehicles rusting on their lawns. I knew some of them housed drug addicts and sad characters I'd heard stories about during my years working at the transition house a few kilometres away. But I'd learned to overlook all that in favour of looking into people's eyes. I looked into the laundrywoman's eyes and peeled off three fives.
When I returned at the specified time, they were waiting for me. They insisted on carrying my clean laundry to the car and from a distance I could see the perfectly folded dishtowels. "Are you sure I don't owe you more?" I asked. "No honey, not a penny." They were all smiles. Suddenly I felt ashamed for ever doubting them. I wanted to find more dirty laundry to entrust them with. I wanted to attend the loonie auction and ham dinner fundraiser next week they were hosting to fix their collapsing roof.
I drove away, heading back to off-the-grid to ponder this adventure, to realize I'd just fallen in love with this place all over again.