Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dirty laundry

There are many advantages to living in the city, and, contrary to popular belief, you don't have to hold your nose to enjoy most of them (except on garbage days). In the city, you can avoid high gas prices by walking everywhere, go to some of the best restaurants late at night, and get a new cultural experience by simply riding in a taxi cab (okay... you might want to hold your nose for that one). However, for all the upsides there are some downsides: for example, my apartment has no central air, no dishwasher, and sometimes no hot water - especially if family is about to visit. Perhaps one of the biggest inconveniences is our lack of a washer and dryer. That leaves us with only three choices: don't wash our clothes at all, burn them, or trudge down to the dreaded laundromat. Usually we go with the third option, since we don't have enough matches.

There once was a time when we could get away with doing laundry just twice a month. That was before we had a child. These days we visit the laundromat at least once a week, thanks in part to Kyle's ability to dirty clothes before wearing them. The laundromat isn't far away, thank goodness, or we'd probably be burning his clothes too. Still, a short walk doesn't typically lead to a pleasant experience, especially on days when the laundromat is busy.

A packed laundromat is like a steel cage match. If there's a free dryer, and you can get to it first, it's yours. If you can't get to it, you run the risk of being trapped in the hot, tight quarters, forced to listen to the TV's talk show repeats ALL DAY LONG. So you do whatever you can to get to that free machine, even if you have to shove, tackle or punch several people along the way. Of course, that's the polite way to nab a machine. The laundromat vultures don't even wait for one to get free - they'll take your clothes out and throw them in a cart or on the floor if you're not there the second the machine stops.

Jennifer nearly got into a brawl with one of these vultures several years ago. It was right in the middle of that 2004 Sox-Yanks playoffs series, so the stress level was pretty high in our household. The normally mild-mannered Jennifer walked into the laundromat just minutes after her wash was done, only to find an older woman removing her clothes from the washer. Jennifer nearly pounced on her, grabbing the laundry and shouting "WE DON'T DO THAT HERE!" Several heads turned and I think somebody gasped, but the vulture didn't let the harsh words phase her. First, she was a lifetime patron and knew the only rule of the laundromat ("Don't overload"), and she wasn't going to let some young Southern girl tell her what to do. Second, she didn't understand Jennifer because she spoke only Polish.

We have tried to make our laundromat experience better by befriending the attendants. However, it's turned out to be a futile effort. We haven't been given priority for the machines. Instead, we tend to get Christmas gifts, usually in the form of a laundry bag, extra quarters, or "new" pairs of socks, t-shirts, and underwear. So while Kyle received some new onesies out of this friendship, I still nearly got a broken nose trying to clean them.

Anyway, I have to be going - there's a load of laundry waiting. If I don't make it back, please tell Jennifer and Kyle I love them... and have them run down to the laundromat in 45 minutes, or someone will steal our clothes.

No comments: