Sunday, September 27, 2020

Birmingham, AL: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: Laundry Economics of the South

Laundry tote and shelves. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.

Caucasus Georgia has its Khachapuri Index. The Economist has its Big Mac Index.

I've got my Laundry Economics, I guess, considering I write about this regularly.

The Economics of Laundry (2013)

In Tucson (March 2019), embedded in another post, I noted: Now that I'm in my 'permanent' domicile in Tucson, I'm again factoring in the economics of laundry, as my apartment has laundry facilities on site, but one pays. And, indeed, nowadays one does pay via pre-pay laundry card instead of having to negotiate the cumbersome quarters I messed with in the past.

Here in Tucson, it's $1.75 for one wash load and $1.25 for one dryer cycle of about 20 minutes. I still avoid buying white and light-colored clothing so I can throw all of my stuff into one load. Three out of four weeks, I do only one load of laundry per week.

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 17: Laundry Economics Revisited (April 2020)

Now Birmingham, Alabama.

My apartment complex has no laundry facilities, so for the first time in many years, I've got to schlep my goods to a laundromat. Being as we are in COVID Times, this adds an extra dimension to a mundane chore.

Not to mention that the circulation of quarters has stumbled, creating shortages at stores and, yeah, laundromats.

The two laundromats I've visited in Birmingham still eat quarters and not cards, but fortunately, I've not run up against a supply issue at either location.

But here was an unanticipated surprise: There are no one-load machines! The smallest machines are for two loads. Four bucks!!!!

Whoa, mama. That required a new laundry economics rule for me.

Instead of a weekly laundry routine, I now do laundry every two weeks. Which is just as well, I guess, in the COVID Era, as I reduce my COVID exposure risk by half (in the context of laundry excursions).

 I find that the two laundromats I frequent are, overall, pretty good at protecting customers and staff from COVID exposure. There are inconsistencies from week to week with staff or customer mask wearing and with maintaining clean surfaces of counters, machines, and laundry carts. I'll quantify "pretty good" as 3.5 on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being exceptional.

Fortunately, by having a Prius (because of its quiet, mostly-battery-powered climate control), I can hang out in comfort (and non-exposure for me OR infection to others in case I'm afflicted without knowing it) in my car betwixt loads.

Thank goodness I have a plentiful supply of underwear, which supports my bi-weekly laundry regimen.

About my photo. The two-part, hanging shelves-and-laundry tote gives me so much pleasure to look at, despite its prosaic purpose and its institutional gray color. I pull the tote off the hooks when it's time to go the laundromat, then toss it into my car. Because there are only three shelves, I'm hopeful the shelving part will serve a double purpose for easily-accessible organization of camping stuff in my car when I use it as Chez Prius.

About the towel that hangs from the tote. This is an artifact from the Sonoran Desert. Made in Guatemala. Retrieved by one of my fellow water carriers to the desert on a sortie we took together, who graciously allowed me to have it. Maybe a relic from Central American refugees to the United States. I touch this towel every day. I think of a person who undertook a long, long journey for self-rescue. Perhaps alone, perhaps with friends or family, perhaps with people who began as strangers.

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