Cleaning up.

I adore high-end (preferably custom-made) chocolates. My current faves are from Alexander’s Patisserie in Mountain View, CA. (The site does not seem to have pictures of the chocolates, which is a shame: they are encased in a very thin shell of colored candy. They look like planets. Miniature planets made of Vahlrona chocolate.) That said, I will sometimes eat OTC candies: Twix, Mounds, Peppermint Patties, Jolly Ranchers — even the rare Hershey’s bar.* Not Mike and Ikes, though.

Except at the laundromat.

I started going to the laundromat a while back, when the washer at House Entropy was being flaky. I have kept doing it ever since. I find that I prefer to spend a couple of hours and twelve to twenty bucks rather than dealing with laundry at home. King-size sheets and blankets are much easier to wash in the big washers; pillows have to be washed in them. I even have a “laundry kit” (detergent pods, stain-remover gel, etc.) that I keep in the car so that I don’t have to remember to grab supplies before I head out the door.

The laundromat enforces discipline. All my life I have had the occasional bad habit of putting clothes in to wash and forgetting that I have done so. (Doing this in Florida in summer results in particularly nasty clothes.) When I finally remember, hours later, the clothes have to be washed again. If I remember to put them in the dryer in a timely fashion, I often forget to take them out before they are cold and wrinkly.

I can’t do that at the laundromat. When the clothes are washed, they are immediately transferred to the dryer. When the clothes are dried, they are folded and placed into bags to  be transported home.** I even have to plan when to do laundry; I can’t decide to do laundry at eleven o’clock at night unless I want to haul it over to the late-night laundromat across town.

You learn the secrets of the laundromat: when to go (just before school lets out is good — the single guys are gone and the moms are waiting to get their kids — or on Sunday mornings before everyone gets out of church). That you need to grab the short carts — they can get through the door and you can roll them to your car. That pulling clothes out of the bottom row of dryers can really torque your back. That you can walk to the Fresh and Easy and back in four minutes, and so can go and get something to drink from there, but the line at Starbucks is really unpredictable and can take up to fifteen to get there and back. (Not to mention you can get drinks with caps. Mocha is not a good color when the blouse is supposed to be cerise.) That you need to have a charged phone and your earphones, or you will be stuck listening to Kiss 98.1 (“The Bay’s old school!”), a station which seems to have a playlist of a hundred songs and no sense of scheduling. (On more than one occasion I have heard the same song played two or three times within the space of two hours.) That, no matter how many service requests get put in for it, the second dryer from the end on the left side of the room takes half again as long as the others.

You develop rituals. Some of them make sense: you pull all of the shirts rather than put them in with the other things, since the shirts usually need stain treatment and the rest of them rarely do, and you can treat all the shirts one after the other. You wait until all of the laundry has been sorted, treated, and put in washers before you get your change from the change machine, so that hopefully all the washers will finish within a minute or two of each other. Some rituals don’t, like eating Mike and Ikes.

For those not familiar with Mike and Ikes, they are elongated jelly beans. Not the good jelly beans like Jelly Belly, but the low grade jelly beans often found in cheap Easter baskets. When I am in the candy aisle at Walgreen’s looking for movie candy, my eyes slide right past them until I find the Junior Mints.

I have never bought a box of Mike and Ikes in my life. But at the laundromat, there is a row of glass candy dispensers like those I remember holding gumballs as a child. One of them does indeed hold gumballs, but the others contain M&Ms (both plain and peanut) Hot Tamales (bleccch) and Mike and Ikes. You put in your quarter, turn the handle, and you get a handful of oblong gobs of sugar. They come in a variety of “fruit” flavors, although I have always though it more accurate to call the flavors colors. The red is different from the yellow but I would not really call them cherry and lemon. Like M&Ms, I am always tempted to group them together by color and only eat the same color together.

I don’t know why I first got a handful of Mike and Ikes: maybe I was bored and wanted to look at the pretty colors up close (they don’t taste like much but they are pretty) or I had skipped breakfast and needed some sugar and the dispensers were all out of M&Ms. But it has become a (very silly) ritual: after I get all the loads of laundry in washers I get one quarter’s worth of the stupid candies. (I only get one: my capacity for cloying sweetness is exhausted after just that one handful.)

It is odd to think that these stupid little candies have come to be one of my “tradition” foods, like turkey at Thanksgiving or ham at Easter, but they have.   All the others taste better, though. I would say that Mike and Ikes take me back to my childhood, but I never ate them then, either.

I was thinking about  writing a post about Mike and Ikes in the context of ritualized food: those foods which bring meaning into our lives beyond simply sustenance. Then I realized that was serious overkill. They’re just stupid little candies, which make doing a laundry a little more amusing in an odd way.

Which is perfectly fine.

*A friend of mine once stated that life is to short for bad chocolate. As I see it, life is too short for bad ice cream; bad chocolate is occasionally a necessity.

**Okay, sometimes I get home and I forget to take the bags of folded clothes out of the car immediately. Progress not perfection.

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