Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Perils of Laundry In An Apartment Complex

Laundry was once an enigmatic thing for me. When I was young, I would put my dirty clothes in the hamper and mom or dad would extract them, bring them downstairs and a few hours later they would reappear on my bed, folded neatly and smelling like summer rain or springtime breeze (smells that until I could read the labels on the dryer sheets eluded me). Let me rephrase one part of that....when I would 'throw' my 'smelly, mud-stained, sometimes frayed or ripped' clothes into the hamper, causing it to 'overflow.'

OK, now that we're back on a truthful track, let's return to our story. As a teenager, I sometimes did laundry; by 'did' I mean put the clothes in either the washer or dryer (the mysterious, noisy contraptions which dominated our basement), and mom or dad would put in the necessary cleaning ingredients before presto, I would be summoned to extract them and fold them.

Folding was not a difficult job, nor was putting them away or even changing them over from the washer to the dryer. Even in college it was easy to do laundry. Most of the time I would transport it home where my parents would do it, but on the occasions (toward junior and senior year) when I would do my own laundry, all I had to do was throw everything into a washer or dryer and all the settings were already arranged. It was foolproof: place everything inside and it would wash it with cold water, at a low speed, thereby ensuring that delicates or bright colors that tend to run were even safe. Fill up the compartment with enough detergent and you're on your way. Throw everything in this dryer, insert a dollar and hit 'dry.' It will be done when the clothes are dry, no matter how long. But it wasn't until I moved into the apartment complex here with K. that I got my first (bitter) taste of laundry in the real world.

It's a lot like a to-do list. If you don't constantly tend to it, it piles up. But the main difference between laundry and a to-do list is that once you have forgotten about it for a week or more, it begins to stink up the apartment. Then it comes time to really rush to get it downstairs and to do it in a timely fashion. But it's not just the t-shirts, jeans and 'college clothes' that I'm putting in the dryer downstairs, it's all my work clothes--neat, dressy pants that I once feared because I equated them with boring hours of church or family functions when I would have to be polite, well-behaved and display my best manners. I'm also now doing clothes for a female as well.

This opens up a whole new world of laundry. 'Delicates' are a favored setting for females, as well as something called 'permanent press,' and there are many pieces of clothing, both K.'s and mine, that require a slow or low tumble dry cycle; and there are some that cannot even go in a dryer and must be hung up and...duhn duhn duhn...IRONED!

Ironing is another hatred of mine. As the work clothes stack up in chaotic fashion, the evil iron must be summoned to thwart their takeover of the furniture in the second bedroom. Each side of a pant leg and the annoying tight and tiny collars of K.'s work shirts often make my ears steam (much like the iron...see what I did there? Parallelism...) with frustration and boredom. And ironing comes after laundry.

Back to the laundry. When we moved in here, there were 6 dryers and 5 washing machines, each requiring a one dollar deposit to clean your clothes to a satisfactory condition. Presently there are 4 working dryers and 3 working washing machines. Of the dryers, one of them requires at least 2 dollars to complete the same dry cycle as the others (I affectionately call it the 'special' dryer as it only dries the clothes to a 'damp' dryness after 1 hour), while two of the washing machines must have read an article about inflation and have decided to require 2 dollars now to wash clothes.

Needless to say there is always a battle to get the $1 dryer before someone else does. The apartment complex has nearly 40 apartments in it, and anywhere from 75-90% of them are filled at any given time, making it a dash downstairs whenever an opportune moment arrives, hoping and praying to get that washing machine, else I must double my payment to achieve the same result.

Today, for the first time in more than a month, I got the $1 dryer. The woman that walked in after me, right as I was pressing START had a look of envy and contempt on her face. I swear I heard her mutter 'dammit!' as I walked down the hall and she realized I had beaten her to the machine by only a few seconds.

The settings are confusing and varied, the times and prices are many, and the result is not always to our liking, but laundry is always an adventure here in the apartment complex. Whether it's racing downstairs to beat someone else to the cheaper or working machines, or it's praying no one takes out my clothes and leaves them in a heap on the floor if I'm even 30 seconds late running downstairs once they're finished, it's never boring doing laundry (as I once thought it to be).

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