Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that New York City’s population has hit a record high of 8,405,837, so the city with insomnia is getting even more crowded and that can undoubtedly bring out the worst in some inhabitants.
When I leave The Grind at 5:30 I hustle to catch the uptown express at the Chambers Street subway station back to my home base, the Upper West Side. On nights when the stars are in perfect alignment I can return home by 5:54. On other nights, when my train karma is comatose it might be closer to 6:15. On those nights when I have to do laundry, cutting it close is the cause for a level of anxiety that can almost merit professional psychiatric help. A mere nanosecond of delay can make all the difference in getting a washer or not at my laundromat. Last wash is at 6:30 and this is the only laundromat close to where I live.
To further fray what remains of my shredded nerves, the fleet of fully operational washers has been cut in half in recent months. I asked the attendant why the owner does not have the broken washers repaired. She explained that the repairman died. I remembered that guy.
Me: He didn’t look old and he didn’t look ill.
Attendant: He was fifty-five.
Me (thinking): Ugh.
Me: What did he die of?
Attendant: He dropped dead.
Me (thinking): Ow.
I wondered why this dead guy is so irreplaceable? Does he not have a single successor in a city of 8,405,837, or now, 8,405,836? Was he really the only guy in the five boroughs that can work laundromat machine repair?
Last Thursday, my train karma was sluggish. It was rainy and I did not make it back uptown on laundry night until 6:10. I thought that the foul weather would work in my favor and deter customers from doing their laundry, but I was mistaken. When I arrived, every single load washer was in use. Customers avoid the larger washers because they cost more. I noticed that I had never seen any of these customers before. I thought that was strange. It brought to mind the lyrics in an old Doors’ song, People Are Strange:
The Doors: When you’re strange, faces come out of the rain.
I doubt that the customers in my laundromat were what Jim Morrison had in mind when he wrote those lyrics, but he was probably high so anything is possible. One woman hogged three washers. With the Washer Hog dominating forty-five percent of the single load machines, the attendant let me use a double loader, which usually costs $4.50, for $3. A single load machine is $2.50.
Half of the driers are also broken, but I was able to score one when the Washer Hog was plying the attendant with questions. I felt like I had won Powerball or at least five bucks on a scratch off lottery card. When I returned to retrieve my dried clothes, the joint was still jumping. There were three people, two millennials and a man in his sixties, waiting. I could feel three pairs of eyes on me as I removed my load. I figured that someone wanted to pounce on my dryer so I moved fast, what I consider basic public laundromat courtesy. What I didn’t realize was that in my haste to be considerate I dropped a green sock and a pair of blue underwear on the floor. None of my three witnesses said:
Three Witnesses: Hey, you dropped that!
Fortunately, the attendant noticed. Maybe I was mistaken and none of the three had seen my airborne garments. Possibly they had more pressing thoughts on their minds than my fallen sock and underwear?
When I was zipping my jacket to get ready to leave, the guy in his sixties weaseled over to my cart where I had placed my umbrella. He dipped his hand in and palmed it.
Me: What are you doing with my umbrella, Sir?
He let it go.
Would-be Umbrella Thief: I thought it was mine.
Me: Uh-huh. So your initials are also E.B. for Editta Bendix?
Would-be Umbrella Thief: It looked like mine. It’s black.
He scurried out into the drizzle, umbrella-less. I guestimate that ninety-one percent of the umbrellas in New York City are black, including the one Would-be Umbrella Thief didn’t bring to the laundromat. As for those initials, I’ll admit it here: they’re for Eddie Bauer.