It has been my experience that, when I am struggling with something I can’t control — something, say, like a severely constipated daughter — I will often turn for solace to some little aspect of life that can be controlled. I search for something, anything, that will deliver immediate satisfaction, does respond to my commands, doesn’t stymie me at every turn.
Yesterday that something was the ironing basket.
After watching, for months, as the heap of wrinkled shirts in there went from large, to massive, to mountainous, I finally snapped. I know, I had promised Mike repeatedly I would leave it. He had said he would get to it all someday. He is a man of his word. But he is absurdly busy. Yesterday, with the stress of MJ’s condition weighing heavily upon me, I felt an overpowering need to see something resolved. God knows there was nothing happening in the potty area. Maybe I could make up for it in the laundry room.
So I grabbed some shirts. Not all of them. About half. Nineteen, to be exact. I decided that I would scour Eagle Rock for the cheapest place to launder them. And I would get it done. What else did I have to do, other than wait around to see if my daughter’s colon would explode? Mike would understand. Heck, he might even be relieved. At least someone would.
We had to go to Trader Joe’s anyway, so I started my quest at the dry cleaners right next door.
“How much,” I inquired of the moon-faced man behind the counter, “do you charge to launder a dress shirt?”
He informed me it was $2.20. Hmm. I couldn’t remember how much we used to pay in the old days, (when we both had incomes, that is), but I felt sure it wasn’t that much.
I thanked him. We left.
By the time we finished at Trader Joe’s, I’d put a small fortune on my debit card, (a hundred and sixty bucks, plus fifty back in cash), filled four shopping bags, and lugged a huge bag of dogfood across the parking lot. I was ready to head home. I strapped MJ — lost in her roll of stickers — into her car seat. Then — doh! — I remembered the dry-cleaning mission. It still had to be completed. I really didn’t feel like scouring Eagle Rock anymore. But I knew of one place…
I decided to take MJ to lunch at Blue Hen, our favorite local restaurant. There was a dry cleaners next door. This one was in a strip mall. It’d be cheaper for sure.
We drove there and parked. I decided to take care of business first. Telling MJ we would eat in a moment, I dragged the huge bag of shirts with us as we headed for the dry cleaners. Oh, I could’ve left the shirts in the car until I learned the price. But I knew it was going to work out. I could feel it. No need to make two trips.
When we got inside a friendly-looking woman in her seventies asked how she could assist us. I showed her the stuffed bag and asked how much to launder each shirt. In a clipped but melodic accent she replied:
The bag sagged. So did I. I did the math quickly and realized I’d be spending about six dollars more to clean the shirts here.
On the other hand? I was spent. The sun was blistering. MJ was kicking at the counter, chanting “chicken noodles chicken noodles chicken noodles!” Thank God she even had an appetite. With the backup she had downstairs I was astonished she could eat at all. I should probably strike while the iron was hot — as it were — and get her fed.
So I put the shirts on the counter.
The proprietress — Lisa — counted them and told me it would be $47.50. Sheesh! Mike wasn’t so wrong after all. This was going to put us in the poorhouse! If I ever did it again. Which I wouldn’t. At least not until MJ was in college.
Lisa interruped my thoughts. “I take cash or check only. You pay now if you like.”
Oh I liked. No point putting off ’til tomorrow what will suck even more then. Out came the crisp new bills from Trader Joes. Two twenties and a ten.
Lisa slid my change — what little there was of it — back to me, deftly avoiding MJ’s grabbing hand.
“Saturday OK?” she asked, an almost sympathetic smile on her face.
I told her it was fine. Waiting is my life. I live to wait! If she needed me I’d be in the bathroom with my daughter, reading “Blueberries For Sal.”
We left, and trudged down the bright pavement to the resteraunt. There, I ordered MJ her usual: baby pho with chicken. But me? I would get something small. I was already six dollars in the hole.
Plus, I’m pooping just fine.