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April 20, 2006

Laundry Angst

As I came home today Alfredo, the doorman, handed me a large black plastic garbage bag; something straight out of Jumpers. It was for the trash, in case of a strike of building staff, which looks like it will happen at midnight. I threw out whatever trash I could before that point and tossed my laundry together.

I do laundry as if I was in college; when the pile takes over the floor and the cat nests in it, I load it into an old-lady shopping cart and wheel it downstairs. Our building has “enhanced” the laundry machines with chip-cards instead of coin slots. Today I noticed that they were .10 more per load. The cards eliminate searching for quarters, but allow plenty of unannounced price increases and breakage for the company as laundry now costs $2.10, $2.60 or $3.10 and the charging machine for the cards only takes cash and only accepts $5, $10 or $20 bills. My card has .50 on it, so I add $20.

I load the first machine; my card now reads $18.40. I load the second machine. The card reads $1.60. What is going on? I’m leaving for Philadelphia tomorrow. There’s about to be a strike; who knows if they’ll lock the laundry room. I don’t have time for this. I run upstairs to get another $20 bill, because I don’t know where to get a new chip-card. When I come down and stick the card in the charging machine, it reads the card correctly - $18.40. The big machine still reads my card as $1.60 however. I take all the laundry out, and carry it in armfuls to a medium sized machine and jam it in. It’s packed solid, but I’m past caring. I dump in detergent and borax, insert the card, start it and leave.

When I come back down to load the laundry into dryers, of course half the laundry from that machine has not even touched water from being packed so tightly. Argh. I try to separate out the dry stuff to put in another wash. I bring it over to another machine . . . and once again my card reads $1.60. First I try moving my clothing from one machine to another – a messy process because I already added borax. No dice. Still $1.60. And I’ve left my cash upstairs.

I race upstairs and get two $5 bills. Mercifully, the machine reads them, and so does one of the laundry machines, so I start up a new load and go back to loading my wash into the dryers, trying to pick out the unwashed items.

A lady comes in and peers dubiously into the washing machine I couldn’t use. There’s borax left at the bottom. As I shuttle more unwashed laundry over to the washing machine, I apologize and tell her it’s borax, thinking she’ll just use the machine.

“Are you going to clean it up?”

Something inside me snaps. She reminds me of the girls from Long Island I used to loathe in college, only grown older but no less entitled and prissy. I just lost more than $15 from these fucking bandit machines and now she wants me to clean borax out of a washing machine. It’s a laundry booster, she might as well just use the machine and consider it a bonus. I look at her as blandly as I can manage and say, “No, I’m sorry.” This is my fault, I should have communicated better, because instead of “borax” she apparently thinks I have said “anthrax”. I go back to loading my wash into the dryer as I hear her explaining to someone that I refused to clean the machine. She then goes out to get paper towels to scrub the machine out and quietly but obviously suffers through the task. I am just too pissed off at this point to try and apologize or even reason with her.

I hustle down to take the final wash out of the last machine, then once it's dry I bundle it into my old lady cart to fold it in my apartment. I always fold it in the laundry room, but I just didn’t want to deal with her.

I'm still surrounded with laundry. And of course some of it is still damp.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at April 20, 2006 11:48 PM

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