The Literary Girlfriend: The Laundry Room with One Dryer
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 .