Monday, July 14, 2008

Hell is Other People (‘s Laundry)

Many years ago, most land was owned by a small percentage of rich white males. If you weren’t fortunate enough to be a member of such a male’s family, or have a job that included a place to stay, you had to rent from one of these males. This tradition continued for many years, and eventually distilled down to modern apartment buildings that the owner visits maybe once a decade. You know, landladies used to cook breakfast for their tenants. I’m just saying.

On the positive side, renters are now afforded a large amount of independence. Getting a house and land of your own is no longer a laundry_21746_lg priority for many people, since an apartment is basically a mini-house that you can just leave when your lease is up, instead of trying to sell it for a fraction of the price you paid 15 years ago. If you find the right place, you can do whatever you want – paint, have pets, be loud and obnoxious a 3 in the morning, et cetera.

One problem, however, has yet to be solved: communal laundry.

In some, rare cases, renters get their own washer and dryer. But most don’t. Since everyone has to do laundry, and most people only need to do a few loads per week, it makes sense to team up. Like many apartment complexes, ours has a mini-laundromat in the basement. Three washers, three dryers. Since all the buildings are connected via the basement, in a complex series of underground tunnels, one has the ability to use another building’s machine in the event of overcrowding or malfunction.

Today, I decided it was time to venture into the dark. Both of our couches are extremely old and ratty hand-me-downs, not that I am complaining, because they were free. And, as far as we know, not infested with fleas or diseases. But it was pretty much imperative to cover them up with something, since they looked like hell and smelled strongly of Chef Boyardee.

So, we have two couch covers. And now that we have a dog, they smell like rotten chicken and are covered in hair. It’s imperative to wash them at least once every few weeks, and since we’ve got family coming over to dogsit during the midnight showing of the The Dark Knight, I felt the place should have some usable seating.

So, I stripped off the covers and headed down to the basement.

When I reached the machines, I saw that all three washers were marked with a neat sticky-note that stated something like:

Flashes once THREE TIMES “choose cycle” called Mac Gray 7/12/08

I don’t know what the hell is going on. Although it’s quite possible that this person is insane, I really don’t want to take the chance of it stealing my $1.75 and refusing to go. So, I decide to take a little journey to the adjacent laundry room.Laundry-Posters

I should mention at this point that our basement is creepy as fuck. Not the actual laundry part, really; it’s a little dirty, and there is a mysterious storage room filled with random household items and possibly the jarred head of one of Hannibal Lecter’s victims, but other than that, no biggie. It’s when you start to venture into the pathways that connect the buildings…

Pipes cover the ceiling. Scratch that, they ARE the ceiling. In some places, they’re so low that anyone over 5’ would have to hunch over to avoid a concussion. Cobwebs are everywhere. The hallways are dank and narrow, and lined with mysterious unlabelled doors. I think my actual worst nightmare would be getting stuck down there in a power outage. I should really start carrying a flashlight.

Some rooms have gas meters on the walls, others have cable connections hanging precariously from the ceiling. Others are eerily empty. Since I’ve traveled between this building and the next before, I wasn’t too freaked out; I just made my way calmly to the next laundry room, basket in tow.

All three washers are filled with clothes. Two are running, and one has completed its last cycle. I have no way of knowing how long it has been. And so the conundrum begins.

Is it my right to remove this person’s laundry and leave it in a wet lump on top of the machine? For all I know, the cycle ended five minutes ago and the person is on their way down the stairs as we speak. What if, horror of horrors, they CATCH ME REMOVING THEIR CLOTHES?


Then again, maybe it ended an hour ago and this person isn’t coming back for days. Yes, it’s happened – I once removed a person’s clothes from the dryer, reusable sanitary pads and all, and set it on top of the machines. Where it remained. For about a week.

(On a side note, can we pass an edict that people with communal laundry systems PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT USE CLOTH SANITARY NAPKINS? Highlight of website: 100% money back guarantee. Try our pads for yourself for 3 months - if you aren't completely satisfied with their performance - return your pads for a 100% refund (excludes postage). I don’t know about you, but I would NOT work in that Customer Service department.)

I really have no idea what to do in this situation. If a single person has decided to use all three laundry machines at once, then they deserve to have their clothes in a wet lump. In fact, they deserve much worse than that. But what if I come back down to find a note reading, “HEY ASSHOLE, I AM SO SORRY THAT YOU WERE IN SUCH A HURRY THAT YOU COULDN’T WAIT FIVE MINUTES FOR ME TO COME GET MY CLOTHES…HAVE A NICE LIFE! P.S. I PUT POISONOUS SNAKES IN YOUR LAUNDRY, ENJOY.” Chances are, this person doesn’t realize that there are no other available machines in the general area, and I really had no choice but to do what I did.

So, I decided to venture beyond the two laundry rooms with which I am familiar…into the great beyond.

I found: mysterious doors, cobwebs, a giant rusty water tank, and a room that contained a wicker bench with a hurricane lamp sitting on it. I did not enter this room.

At this point, I decided to give up and return to Laundry Room #2. I had now given this person ample time to return for his or her laundry, and I couldn’t wait around any longer.

Pulse racing, I dug the sopping clothes out of the washer and piled them all on top of the adjacent machine. I shoved my own laundry in, poured in detergent, slammed the door, and chose my cycle….and ran.

I’m afraid to go back. But I have to. I have to.

Hey, all you wonderful hip young people with communal laundry rooms – here are some tips to keep in mind. It’ll keep us all healthy and happy.

1. I am truly sorry if, for some reason, you had no choice but to let your laundry pile up for several months. However, no matter how many loads of laundry you need to get done OH MY GOD RIGHT NOW, please for the love of God do not use more than two machines at a time, AT THE VERY MOST. Unless you have a laundromat with like 50 machines, in which case, go nuts.

2. Keep track of your goddamn laundry. Now, if you are running two-three loads simultaneously, despite my advice, you had better set a kitchen timer and be down there at THE EXACT MOMENT when the laundry is done. But if you are using one machine like a reasonable person, you should still be considerate, especially at peak times – evenings, weekends, et cetera. Don’t start a load if you can’t be back to check it at the proper time. Or, do your laundry at 3 in the morning and don't worry about it.

3. If you are not able to keep an eye on your laundry, leave a basket with it. The odds of someone stealing your basket are fairly low, plus they cost about $2 so you can just buy a new one. Leaving a basket with your clothes ensures that the next person to use the machine will have somewhere to put them, rather than in a pile on top of the machine.

4. If you are a paranoid schizophrenic, please refrain from leaving incoherent notes on the washing machines. Also, take your pills.