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On the Importance of Sorting Laundry

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"...Oh, no."

Penny glances up from her book; the guy who always looks at her like he's about to say something but trails off mumbling instead is staring into an open washer, frowning. He says 'oh, no' a few more times, and by then, her curiosity's piqued.

"What's wrong?"

He about jumps out of his skin. "Nothing, it's... nothing, I just. Think I... might've ruined something."

"Hate it when that happens. You put bleach in the wrong load?"

"No. No, kind of... exactly the opposite problem."

They just kind of look at each other for a minute, before Penny realises the guy's half forgotten about his laundry. "Well, you might want to get it out of there, whatever it is. Before it gets any worse."

"Oh. Um. Right." He glances around the laundromat first, like he's worried about someone seeing whatever it is, but Penny's pretty sure she's the only person watching. After that, he starts pulling out clothes and piling them in his basket, starting with jeans and sweatshirts, moving through to new-looking bed sheets, and finishing with a white lab coat.

Well, it's mostly white, but it's pretty clearly the source of his despair; some dye leaked out of something, and the coat's now sporting several patchy blue spots.

"...At least it's not pink?" she finally says, doubting it'll be much consolation.

"True. But it looks like a bad tie dye job, and this is the only one I have."

"Could you run it through again, with some bleach?"

"Don't have enough quarters, I don't think." The guy keeps talking, something about how bleach would slowly trash the coat's fibers anyway so he'd really rather not, but Penny's lost in some mental math of her own. There's the sound of his voice, now that he's not half-panicked, and the lab coat, and if she imagines that and a pair of welding goggles on him...

"...oh my God." She laughs a little, despite herself. "I thought you looked familiar."

The guy looks at her funny. "What do you mean?"

"The lab coat. I follow your blog. Never would've guessed it was you."

"You do?" He grins, apparently forgetting all about his laundry again. "Cool. Um. What do you think?"

"You do a good job. It's really funny."

"Oh. Well. I don't... I'm not playing all of it for laughs. The world really is screwed up, or I wouldn't even be trying."

Penny considers that for a few moments, absently biting her lower lip. "It is, but I don't know... well, anyway, you need to put your stuff in a dryer. If you still want a sounding board or something after that, I'm game."

"Okay. Right." He sets the lab coat down on top of his basket; Penny looks at it for a second, then reaches for her purse.

"I have a few extra quarters," she says, after counting to make sure. "If you want to try to wash your coat again. Might have to let it air dry, but it's better than giving the stains time to set."

He grins again, and Penny wonders why he doesn't do it more often. "Probably a good idea. Thanks."

"No problem."

He leaves the lab coat on a washer and heads for the dryers; Penny facepalms, and starts laughing again. She can't help thinking she should have recognised him sooner, but either way, it looks like she's in for an interesting conversation.