Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Laundromat

Hello to everyone. Today is Sunday March 29. It is 6:30 pm and Jennifer and me just returned from a day out with Kari. We started the day off by doing laundry- wow! such excitement you say. Well let me tell you, doing laundry in downtown Philly is an experience to say the least. After choosing the one we thought was best, we found ourselves in a small strip mall with a number of small stores and the Laundromat on the end with an alley on the other side. By alley I mean the kind of alley you see on all those “cop” shows, complete with any number of illegal narcotic deals, wrecked cars, music blasting, and people just sitting on the side of the street with nothing but time on their hands. The scene was complete when I noticed a dog that was tied up at the entrance to Dunkin’ Donuts! After a few minutes, an elderly lady walks out, unties the leash and walks at a snail’s pace on her merry way. Now call me crazy, but when a 90 pound little old lady owns a dog that is not only taller than she is, but outweighs her by 50 pounds, I’m gonna guess that companionship is not her first priority!

As we entered the laundromat, I quickly looked for a change machine to acquire some quarters. Just as expected, right on the wall as you entered, 3 change machines were easily visible (see picture). I approached them, bills clutched tightly in my hand, only to find multiple pieces of ragged, worn out, scotch tape placed like a dressing for a gunshot wound over the slot where you put in the paper money! The remaining two machines on either side were both decorated with a sheet of yellow legal paper over the money slot. The inscription read, “out of order”. So, what does any person with at least low to normal intelligence do? Well, off I went, leaving behind my wife and 7 month old daughter with heart disease to fend for themselves. As I exited the laundromat, I quickly came upon KUJO, being ever mindful of the length of his leash. After evading certain death, either at the jaws of KUJO or from latent rabies, I continued down the storefronts looking for someone willing to change my bills for quarters. Eventually I reached the last store at the other end of the strip mall, a Rite-Aid. I walked up to the counter, and politely asked, “Can u spare some quarters?”, never thinking of how this must have sounded. After the clerk recognized that I was not begging, he said, “I will have to open the register.” After he realized how that sounded to me and perhaps noticing the rather blank, perplexed look on my face, he said, “You have to buy something.”.So I picked up a nearby chocolate, (perfect for a hot, humid laundromat….) tossed it on the counter and walked out only to realize that I had just risked my life and that of my family, for a grand total of $3.75 in quarters (I gave him $4 but he charged me .25c for the chocolate I would never enjoy). Little did I know however, that back at the laundromat (a.k.a the front lines), the price for a wash was $2.50 and the price to dry was .25c……….. for 7 minutes! You can do the math from here…… go ahead, laugh it up!

Well, I returned to the laundromat and told Jennifer of my misfortune. She then said “I’ll give it a try.” So, off she went while Kari and I stayed behind in our bunker. A few minutes had passed and I looked up to the front of the building and there, standing in front of the change machines was not only Jennifer, but a whole slew of people, yep, you guessed it, cashing in bills and receiving quarters! She returned, all smiles and I said, “where did you get the quarters?” “At the change machine of course”, she replied. I paused a moment, and said, “I thought they were out of order.” “No,” she said, “the sign just says so.” Had I entered the twilight zone? No, I entered a laundromat with change machines that said were out of order, that were really NOT out of order. Yeah, okay, it all makes sense now.

We now had enough quarters for our laundry; our clothes and detergent were placed in the washers. All that was left was to insert the money and wait. Well the first machine went well, the second was smooth and then came the third. Jennifer began to insert the quarters but they did not go into the machine. Instead, they became “jammed up” in the slot, appearing similar to a California traffic jam- you know, like the ones you see that are taken from a helicopter. After trying unsuccessfully to rescue our precious quarters, Jennifer decides to ask the attendant for help. The attendant came over, inspected the situation and said, “Just a minute, I will have to get the tool to remove the quarters.” We were actually impressed that we would even receive our money back. She soon returned with the tool- it was a nasty white hanger all bent up and rusted on the end. As she proceeded to pound on the coin receptacle, she repeatedly jammed the end of the hanger into the slot. With just few seconds of abuse, the quarters rolled out the ejection slot and she walked away, saying nothing. Both of us just stood there with our mouths open and began to laugh out loud. Of course we thought, it all makes sense now. This place seemed to have its own set of rules and procedures- all of which were above our ability to not only comprehend, but to implement as well.

We finished our laundry, loaded it up, and went on our merry way, feeling confident with our newly acquired life skills. We learned to never pay attention to an out of order sign, never buy chocolate when going to the Laundromat, always pay attention to the length of a dog leash, never assume a coat hanger is just for hanging clothes, and if you have laundry to do in Philly, have it sent out!

Needless to say, Jennifer and I were a little taken back while navigating the Laundromat. However, Kari on the other hand was “wide-eyed” and enjoyed every last minute of it. For her, there was not a dull moment. She got to see the washing machine go round and round and round and round and round and round……. (you know, “the wheels on the bus go…..”) and to top things off, she got to sit on the washer- when it was going mind you, and play her xylophone for the whole Laundromat to enjoy! So much for inconspicuous…… Before long, Kari was the hit of the Laundromat. People were talking to her and she was grinning from ear to ear, continuing to take it all in. I have included a few pictures of this experience for your benefit. Enjoy! Feel free to laugh aloud.

After this, we drove through a park (by the way, today was the first nice day we’ve had so we decided to get out and take Kari in the fresh air) where they were having a Greek Orthodox get together. People were everywhere but she didn’t seem all to interested in this. So, on we went. We went back to the hotel, parked the car, loaded Kari in the stroller and began walking around Philly and the Univ. of Pennsylvania. We eventually landed in a restaurant, ate lunch together on the outside patio and enjoyed the nice weather. There was a warm breeze throughout the afternoon- the temp was about 75 degrees.

From here, we walked along the streets and suddenly Jennifer began to argue with a cab driver who was honking at us as we were crossing the street. We were about mid-way across and he was turning right and he honked at us- Jennifer looked at him with a fiery stare and then let loose- she “said her peace” and we continued on. What were we supposed to do- run across the street! The kicker was he didn’t even have someone in the car. I guess he was heading home. Boy was she mad. I turned to her and said, “Honey, maybe he was just trying to get home because he’d been working all day and he’s tired. Cut him some slack.” Well that went over like a……..okay, okay, I didn’t think anyone of you would buy that story coming from Jennifer. You got me! Yes, as you suspected, it was me yelling at the cabby. Tell the truth, you were shocked when you thought it was Jennifer, weren’t you? Me on the other hand, well…..Hey it was worth a try!

Eventually we stopped and sat on a bench. Breeze blowing, Kari in absolute delight, and the worries of Wednesday as far away as they could be. People would walk by and immediately say hello to Kari, she would smile, laugh, and wave. This was repeated several hundred times- okay, not several hundred, but a lot. It seems like everywhere we went, Kari would bring out the best in everyone. From the drug dealers at the laundromat to the passersby who had not bathed in days, to normal everyday people. She even interrupted a guy on the corner who, by the way, was clearly insane or psychotic, that was yelling all kinds of unrecognizable verbiage. He even stopped for a moment, much to the delight of everyone around him. He noticed Kari and said hello to her. She did not smile at him though… go figure? He quickly regained his rhythm though and continued yelling. Needless to say, we moved on. We stayed on the bench for about 90 minutes then began heading back to the hotel. On the way back, two Asian guys with a two year old son stopped us to say hello- they were most impressed with Kari’s blue eyes. I guess they don’t see many sets of blue eyes- you can’t get more Eastern European than Kari though. I’m sure Kari would be glad to know what a thrill she gave them.

We eventually made our way back to the hotel with a steady, warm headwind the entire way. Kari was face forward in the stroller, chin up, eyes wide, looking at every site and listening to every sound. I really think she enjoyed the afternoon- it was the best day we’ve had in quite some time. I will never forget it. As I sit here writing, I have been thinking about this day. I asked myself, Would I have enjoyed this day so much if it were not for Kari’s illness? Would I have noticed the breeze, noticed the people, heard the sounds, and realized how pleasing it was to just spend time with my family”? Or would I have been focused on getting here, going there, seeing this, seeing that, while “rushing around” complaining that we were not moving fast enough or doing anything fun or exciting? I’m sad to say that it is the latter. Today was one of the best days we’ve spent with Kari since she was born. For the first time in a VERY long time, I was not focused on where I had to be, what I had to do, who needed what when, or what time it was because time was running out. Rather, Jennifer and I spent the day as a family with Kari- it’s too bad Jeffrey and Katie could not have been there. Those of you who know Jennifer know that she does this all the time- she stops and smells the roses….. and tulips……and carnations…..and trees……..and.. and..and…. while I’m over there pulling my hair out (maybe that’s why I’m bald… Huh- never thought about that) because I have so many things to do. For years she has tried to get me to slow down and relax- probably because she doesn’t want me to have my cardiac arrest before age 40. Oops! I’m over forty now…… see, I knew I was right when I kept telling her it wouldn’t hurt me. No, now seriously, and I hate to say it, but she is right. Sorry guys, don’t consider me a traitor but every now and then, the wives are right! (come on, I was just kidding).

It is now Monday morning at 9:35. Jennifer and I are getting ready to go to the Red Cross to donate blood for Kari’s surgery. The reality of why we are here has returned today but the memory of yesterday will be with us forever. I am grateful for this…. Jennifer and I laughed more about this than we have in a long time.

Finally, in closing, please remember Kari on Wednesday morning. She is scheduled for her surgery at about 7am. We will take her in that morning and hand her off to the surgical team- this will be an extremely hard time, especially as we watch her roll away down the hall, hearing her anxiety and seeing her face turning to find us. It breaks my heart just to think about it. Despite all our sadness, it pales in comparison to what Kari is about to undergo. So please try to remember Kari on Wednesday morning- pray if you can or when you can. I have send an email to WXBQ 96.9FM (the country station) and WCQR asking them to remind everyone about Kari on Wednesday morning. I don’t know if they will or not- I guess the worst thing that could happen is they don’t respond or just say no. The best case scenario is that it actually happens and many more people are recruited to pray for Kari. I have requested them to play “My Wish” by rascal flats as well. Many of you may remember this song as part of her slide show back in November. If inspired, you might make a call to the radio station in support of this, the number is 1-800-332-3697.

For now, I will sign off. I thought hearing some good news about our time with Kari was the best segue to Wednesdays events. A little laughter seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. I hope you all enjoyed the story-
God bless and thank you all once again. I will write soon with an update on karris progress.


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