Just so you don’t think I’m totally gross after my last post….
There is one chore that I’ve managed to keep up with this month – laundry. I actually really enjoy doing laundry. Mostly because apart from loading the machine, I don’t actually have to do anything. (Oddly, this same feeling does not carry over to loading the dishwasher, but that’s a subject for another post.) Also, laundry fresh from the dryer is one of my all time favorite smells.
Even on the days when getting out of bed seemed like too much effort to bother with, I somehow managed to get my laundry done. I guess that is a testament to my frugal personality rather than some insatiable need for clean clothes. See, I’ve been driving back and forth from New York to Massachusetts a lot lately, and no matter how sluggish I feel, I can’t seem to pass up an opportunity to do my laundry at home, for free.
That’s right. I would rather drive my dirty clothes across state lines than walk them around the corner to the Chinese Laundromat on the next block. I absolutely loathe not having a washer/dryer in my apartment. We tried to get the owner of the building to put in a washer/dryer hookup in the bathroom when they were renovating the apartment back in 2008, but they wouldn’t do it. Something, something flood insurance, blah, blah, business downstairs…you get the idea.
So in the weeks when I don’t have any immediate plans to go home for a visit and a massive laundry-doing sesh, I go to the dirtiest, darkest, ghetto-iest Laundromat in West Harlem.
[Note: there is a newer, cleaner, nicer laundry place just a few blocks away on Amsterdam Ave, but every time I stop by, no one is working there. (I tend to do my laundry at night.) Their machines use cards instead of quarters, but the stupid card dispensing machine is always broken so I’ve never been able to buy one (the two times I tried.) So unless you’re lucky enough to be able to purchase a card with like…$500 on it because you’re never going to be able to refill your card using the stupid, broken machine ever again, then you’re shit out of luck. I have no patience for such things, so I vowed never to go to there again. Also, you have to walk uphill to get there so….]
Chinese laundry it is!
I’ve outlined a typical trip to my neighborhood laundromat in the following handy twelve step program:
Step two: Maneuver said cart down the steps of your apartment building, through the most ill-conceived entryway known to man.
Step three: Roll your rickety, piece of shit cart around the corner, up one block and down a ramp to the dark and decidedly sketchy laundry place.
Step four: Hand over some cash to the mute Chinese lady at the counter and receive a plastic detergent cap full of quarters in return.
Step five: Find an empty machine. This step can prove daunting if you prefer to do your laundry during times when most normal people are awake. On weekends? Forget about it.
Step six: Stand around and wait for a machine.
Step seven: Once a vacant machine is acquired, try not to notice how disgusting it is (and how much money it costs) before putting your clothes in.
Step eight: Guard that motherfucking machine with your life. Most people pull up chairs and sit directly in front of their machine(s). It’s not that people will steal your shit (they will) it’s more of a territory thing. This laundromat isn’t one of those places where you can throw your clothes in, go next door for a cup of coffee and come back when it’s done. Oh no. God help you if that machine buzzes before you get back because people will take your shit out and throw it into a random cart, or on the floor, or wherever. One time I left for a few minutes while my stuff was in the dryer and some unsupervised, asshole kid threw a wad of chewing gum into the machine. Ruined my best sheets. Lesson learned.
Step nine: Repeat steps six through eight.
Step ten: Sit around for what feels like an eternity while you wait for your clothes to dry. This part is always the worst because at this particular laundromat entertainment options are rather limited. Much of your sitting around time will be spent shifting your chair and about a million carts around the impossibly cramped room in an ever-changing game of laundromat Tetris. This activity is always more frustrating than entertaining for me. You’ll also have to fend off the roving bands of Asian ladies selling bootleg DVDs. There are two televisions in the room, but one is always tuned to strange Chinese game shows while the other alternates between telenovelas and Mexican variety shows. I usually bring a book.
Step eleven: Remove your clothes from the dryer. Try not to be discouraged by the fact that they now inexplicably smell like a combination of burnt rubber and wet dog. DO NOT fold your laundry at the ghetto laundromat! I cannot stress this point enough. You really don’t want your clothes touching any of the surfaces in that place once they are (marginally) clean.
Step twelve: Maneuver your heavily laden cart back to your crappy apartment and wish you lived in a better neighborhood.
So that’s what it’s like to do laundry in West Harlem. Now do you see why I’d rather let my laundry pile up for weeks or go out and buy new underwear than do my laundry in the hood?
And yes ma, I will pick up more detergent the next time I come home.