Divorce + Unemployment = Laundry?
My ‘divorce escape apartment’ was a super cute little place right on Park Street in Alameda that was meant to be, you know, temporary.
I enthusiastically grabbed it, despite it having no parking, no dishwasher and no laundry facility. I figured parking is only an issue when you’ve got stuff to carry, so I would have Safeway delivery my groceries (which worked beautifully). Who needs a dishwasher when I’ve got two arms and two kids? (That did not work beautifully.) And surely, I thought, here in the land of Uber, Lyft, Grubhub and other on-demand delivery-related services, I could find someone to pick up, do and deliver my laundry, right? Actually, surprisingly wrong!
I consider myself very lucky, given these unforeseen circumstances, to have been nearly a straight diagonal shot across the intersection of Park & San Jose to ... a laundromat! I schlepped my kids (7 and 9 at the time) and our dirty duds over to the Washboard Coin Laundry (the Washboard V, actually, though I never did ask the owner where I, II, III and IV were). Oh how fun and frugal this whole endeavor was! In moving out, I was also attempting to turn my back on an overextended financial life philosophy, and go a bit native - so this was cool - I don’t need no stinkin’ washer/dryer! I’m a lean, mean, low-consumerism machine.
It was exciting for the kids, too. Once. My son loves machines and mechanisms, so quarters! Washers! Good times. Until they weren’t, and doing laundry became just like washing dishes: the bloom on those roses faded very quickly. I may have been a prairie pioneer in a past life, but my kids were clearly descended from pampered royalty, so soon I found myself schlepping across those two traffic lights solo. The only saving grace to this situation, aside from my frugal pride, was the fact that when you use a laundromat, you’re running concurrent loads vs. serial loads, so the whole operation is over quickly.
Yet time was not really an issue then. Not only had I moved out in that spring of 2013, I had lost my job. And I was not having much luck finding another one. That’s it’s own story, but suffice it to say, both the laundry situation and the job situation seemed to have the same solution. If I can’t find a pickup & delivery laundry service, why don’t I start one? If no one will hire me, why don’t I hire myself? The first name I came up with was Duds - you know, like dirty duds. Seriously. All of my early brainstorming documents have that name. So cute, yet such bad mojo! Great if the future headlines were, “Groundbreaking laundry service Duds is anything but a dud!” but something I did not want in my obituary if thinks went south: “Ms. Becker, founder of the now-defunct and 100% dud Duds ...”
In riffing with a friend who had been hearing all of my Susie Big Plans wild ideas about this laundry thing (in addition to separation, unemployment, job-hunting, single-parenting and financial woes - this man is a saint), my love of robots came into the conversation, and LaunderBot was born.
The rest is history, which I will tell - as soon as I’m not so damn busy making it.