Series: Spring stories in Warrensburg

Editor’s note: This story is the last in a three-part series of spring stories assigned in Matt Bird-Meyer’s Advanced Digital Journalism class. To see the origin of the assignment and the first story of the series, click here. To read the second story in the series, click here.

Here are the challenges for the spring stories presented below:

In your story, someone must reference water.

The first letters of three consecutive paragraphs must spell U-C-M.

You must describe the weather using a simile or metaphor.

Your first and last sentence must each contain five syllables.

One sentence must include three consecutive words using onomatopoeia.

Spring stories in Warrensburg

The Washboard

At last, spring is here.

Washing machines hum, ceiling fans turn and nearly a dozen citizens complete the dreadful task of doing laundry on one of the few beautiful days the state has seen in this young year.

The winter season was not kind to Missourians and, despite an optimistic prediction from Punxsutawney Phil, spring took its time arriving in the Midwest. Ice, snow and frigid temperatures kept citizens from enjoying the many outdoor attractions of Warrensburg. Parks, lakes and college baseball are just a few of the activities that can be enjoyed on a day like this.

Instead, on April 15 inside The Washboard, a local laundromat, Julie Lakey and her grandson Cylus wait for the dryer to finish tumbling so they can partake in spring’s debut.

“I enjoy the weather this time of year,” Lakey said. “I’ve lived in Warrensburg for over 50 years and this winter has been one of the worst.”

Her grandson sits next to her, one hand on a McDonald’s cup, the other holding a smartphone playing videos of Spongebob. His eyes are glued to the screen as he lets out an occasional chuckle. She said she is enjoying the time she is spending with him.

“Him and my son are down here visiting from Oregon for six months or so,” she said. “It’s great to be able to spend time with him and take him to the park.”

People are constantly moving throughout the aisles of machines, collecting their laundry, moving it to a dryer or preparing to fold it one of the few tables available.

Unlike Lakey, who came prepared with quarters of her own, some bring bills to feed the change machine on the wall. The noises are distinct and near impossible to miss, reminiscent of feeding dollars to the machine at an arcade. The machine buzzes, cranks and clatters as the coins drop to the bottom and are retrieved by a hand that is oftentimes too big to fit in the slot.

Coins fall to the floor as the hand of a woman wearing a Planet Sub T-shirt struggles to corral the $5 worth of quarters she had traded for.

A group of students enter and deposit their laundry in adjacent machines before sitting down at a table to kill the time.

“How long do you think this will take?” one says.

“At least an hour and a half, hopefully not two,” another replies.

For a community that was banished to their homes for the majority of March, the chance to get outside isn’t being taken for granted.

“It’ll be nice to get him (her grandson) down to the park sometime this week,” Lakey said. “Hopefully, it won’t rain too much.”

She said her family spends time in town at the local lakes as well as heading a couple of hours south to fish.

“We spend time down at Lions Lake when it’s nice like this,” she said. “We also try to head down to Truman Lake to do some fishing.”

Lakey said she also spends time during the day working in her garden, ensuring her flowers can thrive throughout the year.

“I usually plant marigolds, lilies and roses,” she said. “But I might try something new this year.”

On the other side of the laundromat, a couple shuffles back and forth between machines. A load that almost required more than two carts was brought to the front of the store, where the folding began. Each load separated by color, demonstrating a commitment to maintaining the quality of the truckload of clothes they had brought in.

Another woman walks by and comments, “that’s a nice system you have there.”

He replies quickly, “Thanks, been working on it for a while,” as he chuckles and looks to his wife for approval of his joke. Laughs are had and they go their separate ways, both with tasks at hand.

The white walls and cool atmosphere are normally a great environment for accomplishing work that might otherwise go unfinished while the spin cycle runs for what seems like forever. Steve Harvey galavants on the television during another episode of Family Feud that no patron is paying attention to.

The grandson begins to grow impatient with the waiting game that is doing laundry in a place that isn’t home. After growing somewhat impatient herself, Lakey got up checked the timer and assured him there were only four minutes left.

The Washboard like other laundromats is a place for the community to do a weekly ritual. One woman on her way out the door is stopped by another who says, “Hey, we missed you at church on Sunday.”

She replies, “I know, we just had so much going on, I think we’ll be there next week.”

“I sure hope so,” she says through laughter, “It’s Easter!”

The buzzer sounds and Lakey rises with a sigh of relief to retrieve a blanket that had taken longer to dry than the rest of the load. Her grandson, painted with excitement, knew the spring air, like presents on Christmas, was awaiting him.

“We’ll probably go to the park now,” Lakey said. “It’s too beautiful to stay inside anymore today.”

Their plan was clear.

Enjoy the weather.

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