I haven’t had to go to the laundry mat in over 14 years. Perhaps even longer; I used to have a peculiar friend who used to volunteer to take mine when she did her own. Needless to say, laundry is my least favored domestic chore, so I was perfectly content to let her wash, dry and fold, as unusual of an arrangement it may have been.
Unfortunately, while my new rental is inexpensive, quiet, and handy to my office, it does not have a washer and dryer hook up. My laundry loving girlfriend now lives across the country. No help there, it’s can’t be cost effective to UPS my dirty clothes to the Mid-West. A woman I work with suggested I drop off my sundries at the Fluff-n-Fold, but the thought of downright strangers rifling through my unmentionables fills me with the heebie-jeebies.
I resigned myself to the fact that the laundry mat was part of my foreseeable future. The facility most convenient to my house is open every day, 5AM to 11PM. I put off going until I was dangerously close to having nothing clean left in my drawers, and then reluctantly piled the baskets in the back of the car and headed out.
First things first, as cliché as it is, apparently 2PM on a Sunday afternoon is when all the creepy, alcoholic, chain-smoking, lecherous types take their dungarees to the laundry mat, trolling for the newly single. Aside from a tired looking mother, attempting to wrangle a couple rambunctious toddlers, I was the only woman in the place. How was a girl to know?
I immediately drew attention to myself by proving inept at “laundry-tech.” Gone are the days of needing a roll of quarters – now they issue you a location-specific debit card to use on the machines. You put the card in a curious ATM-like contraption and then feed it dollar bills, like some mechanical stripper, to load credit on your account. At the risk of sounding pompous, according to a number of tests I’ve taken over the years, I have a notable IQ. The Laundry AI clearly has superior intellect. Worse, instead of allowing me to fumble through my incompetence in a discreet fashion, the dang machine talked to me. Loudly. Like blood in shark infested waters, it attracted the hovering creepers.
The first to approach was a “gentleman” notably my senior, wearing stained sweats and smelling like he’d already spent some quality time that afternoon with Jimmy Beam. In some weird laundry mat etiquette, the other sharks fell back in deference to the alpha, but continued circling warily. After a brief tutorial, I procured my card and retreated to the bank of washers. My new friend shuffled after me, and carefully inspected the contents of my laundry basket while leering down at me as I crouched in front of the machine. Luckily, I was rescued by the buzzer. I hurriedly finished loading my clothes while he was preoccupied with the dryer.
I realized I now had idle time on my hands and the sharks were still prowling. Unfortunately, there was nowhere really to go, but I employed my first line of defense – a thick book. I settled into an unyielding plastic chair in a corner and started turning pages. I adopted my best inapproachable demeanor and hoped for the best. Whether the laundry mat was fraught with desperation, or I’m simply just that irresistible, it became glaringly evident that my best just isn’t good enough. (Hmm, I hope the sarcasm translates…)
The next contender decided that sitting alone, absorbed in a novel was clearly an invitation for conversation. At first glance he was more respectable – at least he was closer to my age, clean and didn’t smell overtly of alcohol. He also rapidly proved to be the rudest, most disrespectful, braggart I have ever had occasion to attempt to ignore. He prattled on in an extensive one-sided conversation, demeaning several ex-girlfriends as well as his mother, all the while portraying himself as a tragic hero, and self-proclaimed Don Juan. No joke, in the space of 10 minutes he compared himself to Brad Pitt, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Gordon. He took no notice of my noncommittal, monosyllabic responses and endeavors to dissolve into the pages of my book. The only bonus was that his nonstop diatribe kept the rest of the sharks at bay…
When the dryer buzzed I made a superhuman escape, not bothering to fold, I simply stuffed the still warm clothes into the basket and fled. I laughed all the way home. There may have been a twinge of hysteria, but at least I wasn’t bawling. How the heck was I going to get through THAT on a regular basis?
Since the first depressing event, it’s gotten a little better. I try to be onsite on a Sunday morning no later than 7AM, since the heavy drinkers and shifty lay-abouts are unlikely to see that particular hour of the day. I’ve also discovered that the combination of a book AND ear buds are a better deterrent than simply reading alone. I can always pretend I didn’t hear the unsolicited overtures due to the music. Laundry remains a dreaded chore – the next place will have washer and dryer hook ups. Not negotiable.