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The Literary Girlfriend: The Laundry Room with One Dryer

April 12, 2013

Literary Jane

When I was in college, the best kind of girlfriend to have was the literary girlfriend.  Literary girlfriends liked to read, so dates were cheap.  We could go to a poetry reading or hang out in the university library.  The only problem with literary girlfriends was that they didn’t like football, so we always broke up in September.

But after I graduated from college and entered the professional world, literary girlfriends were difficult to find.  So for two years I went without even a hint of a girlfriend.  I think I was considered by my friends and family to be a lonely guy.  It was kind of humiliating being known as the lonely guy.  But all of that ended in the most unlikely of places.


The low point of any week was doing laundry.  My apartment complex’s laundry room was a few units away, so I had to stuff all my dirty clothes into one basket, carry them outside down a flight of stairs, walk past the outskirts of the parking lots past several other units, and then hope there were available washing machines.

Doing a quick empty-handed reconnaissance was useless. Even if washing machines were empty when I checked, by the time I had run back to my apartment, grabbed my basket, and returned to the laundry room, the machines would already be taken.  No, I had to go with all the laundry the first time and hope for the best.

There was no perfect laundry day.  Any day could bring competition.  Families could be hanging out at 2:00 in the morning.  Drunks could be lounging around at 2:00 in the afternoon.  If there was an ideal time, one where the odds were pretty good you could wash and dry all your clothes without interference, it would be around 7:00 on a weekday morning.  But I usually had to work.

The laundry room had six washing machines and three dryers, so this meant that a bunch of families tried to stuff two loads of wet clothes into one dryer and hope they could dry in one cycle.  One day I walked into the laundry room when two mothers (I think they were mothers because there were a bunch of little kids standing around them) cursing and threatening each other because one had clothes that had just finished  in the washer and the other was using up all three dryers for an extra cycle.  I don’t like loud profane conflicts, so I turned around with my stack of clothes and went home.

The most awkward situation was when a load of clothes were finished in the dryer but the owner hadn’t picked them up yet.  I didn’t want to be rude, but I didn’t want to be the victim of rudeness either.  I soon learned simple laundry room etiquette.  If the clothes belonged to a man, I took them out and placed them neatly on the laundry table.  Guys didn’t care.  Once a shirtless tattooed guy with a bunch of scars caught me taking his clothes out of the dryer, and I thought for sure I was going to get punched out or stabbed, but instead he sheepishly apologized to me.

From that point on, I was confident that men understood the importance of keeping the trains running on time in the laundry room.  But if the clothes in the dryer belonged to a woman, I would rather wait than get cursed out by a loud profane mother.

One morning I called in sick to work because of a bad cold and decided to do my laundry since I was already miserable.  I was 25.  I was single living in a second floor apartment.  All I wanted to do was get my laundry done for the week and go back to bed.  Nobody else was in the laundry room when I got there, which was good because I felt so foul that I really didn’t want to be seen.  I was in torn shorts (not the trendy kind) and a pitted white shirt.  These clothes should have been in the laundry basket, but I didn’t care.

As I struggled past the row of dryers, I noticed that only one of them appeared to be working.  One dryer had an official “Out of Order” sign from management.  The other had a sheet of paper taped to the top with a handwritten note that said: “THIS PIECE OF SHIT ATE MY QUARTERS!!!!!!” I took that to mean that it wasn’t working properly.

The good news was that I was the only one in the laundry room, so I wouldn’t have to worry about somebody else grabbing a dryer.  I dropped my basket and began stuffing the clothes into the washing machine. I reached into my pocket for quarters when I heard the door behind me open.  Uh oh.  Whoever had just entered was potential competition.  The best thing to do was to avoid eye contact.  Just concentrate on putting quarters into the machine and get out.  Don’t look at the competition.  Don’t look!

Of course, I looked.


To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: The Ultimate Bust .

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  1. Joe 'Blondie' Manco permalink

    I don’t think Australian apartment bloks have laundry rooms. At least my apartment block doesn’t. I have my own washing machine in my apartment. I’ve truly made it! Americans are weird.

    I could be wrong, of course. About Australian apartment blocks, that is.

    • I’m kind of torn about this. I hate apartment laundry rooms, so I like the idea of an apartment with its own laundry facility, but without the laundry room, this story never would have happened. Whether what happened because of the laundry room is a good thing or not, we’ll have to judge after “The Literary Girlfriend” is done..

      • Joe 'Blondie' Manco permalink

        I eagerly await the next instalment. Perhaps I will come to appreciate the laundry room more.

  2. Everyone, at some point in their life, should have to live somewhere where they have to share a laundry room. One learns very important lessons there.

    Now, that I live in a house with my own washer and dryer, I am thankful every single time I wash clothes. Having your own washer and dryer is, perhaps, one of the top pleasures in life.

  3. Judy permalink

    No fair. I don’t want to wait! I’ve put a lot of coins in various washing/drying machines in my younger years and don’t recall any exciting experiences.

  4. Great beginning. Looking forward to Part 2. 🙂 I generally hated laundromats but I did write most of my first novel in a laundromat over the course of a year, so I have that good memory at least. They are awkward places though, where the rules of etiquette are weird and malleable.

    • I’ve heard it said that if you can write a novel in a laundromat, then you can write a novel anywhere. At least, I think I’ve heard that. Maybe I just made it up. That had to be difficult, though, with machines whirring and kids running around and parents yelling and uncomfortable seats and watching dryers and calculating the time. I don’t know how you did it.

      • I wrote mine in the laundry room of my apartment complex late at night when there was usually no one else around, so that might be a lot easier.

  5. C’mon, DL … don’t leave us hanging on! What happened next???

  6. I have battled hordes in dangerous laundromats where whole loads of clothes went missing. So glad now to have only 3 others share the laundry. BUT I need to wash today and the landlord – one of the 3- has been washing the bedding from his 8 bed cottage all day long. He is not literary.

    • An 8 bed cottage? Maybe I don’t know what a cottage really is, but I always thought that if you could fit 8 beds into a cottage, then it wasn’t really a cottage. Maybe I need to read more about cottages. I hope the laundry went okay for you today.

  7. Gosh, I remember my apartment days. I made it a point to get to my dryer immediately so that my stuff wouldn’t end up on the top of the machine. Once, someone pulled a completely jerk move and took my clothes out, but put their own clothes in so that they could use the dryer I paid for. It still makes me mad just thinking about it. Grrrr.

    • I hope it wasn’t a guy that took out your clothes (it’s bad enough that ANYBODY did that) because I was taught that a guy never messes with women’s clothes in a laundromat or laundry room.

  8. Maybe it’s just me, but i found it humorous to hear laundry stories from a male . Being a good writer is just the cherry on top.

  9. Great first para! SD

  10. The series has me hooked! Daniella is a piece of work; he should be celebrating her departure.

  11. You are quite a funny guy and I totally enjoy reading your blog, but it is the kind of thing that takes my mind off all my troubles and therefore I cannot afford to read you much or I would never sort out all my problems learning to construct my own less humorous blog. I’ll keep you on my list though, in case I ever get my own up and running.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Literary Girlfriend: The Montage | Dysfunctional Literacy
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  5. How To Blog Without Burning Out | Dysfunctional Literacy

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