Lame Adventure 442: The Misery of Company

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.

I thought:

Me (thinking): Ugh.

I said:

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?

From the Not Flashy but Practical Collection.

From the Not Flashy but Practical Collection.

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?

EB umbrella.

EB umbrella.

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.

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59 responses to “Lame Adventure 442: The Misery of Company

  1. A couple of thoughts about this…

    Can laundry only be done on one certain day of the week? One or more additional pairs of underwear would give you some scheduling flexibility.

    That umbrella could have belonged to Ernie Banks…Mr. Cub.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laundry gets done when I’m available to do it, Jim, and rest assured that my underwear collection is extensive, but like many women, I hate a lot of it. I try to steer clear of doing it on the weekends when my laundromat is a madhouse. Good point about Ernie Banks! But no way would I use a male name around Mr. Sticky Fingers. What if he said, “Yes, that is my name”?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There are only 3 things I need in life: air-conditioning and a washer and dryer.
    Everything else is negotiable

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  3. Being a physical therapist and bodyworker, I have to do 6-7 loads of sheets every work day, so I feel quite blessed to have my own washer and dryer. But I do remember the days of living in Boston and the laundromat. It did involve some negotiating and often the good graces of the timing-gods.

    And the umbrella thief? What a bold move! Interesting that he didn’t somehow think you would notice.

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    • That almost enough to make me want to relocate to Fort Collins, Cathy, but then I recall the mountains of snow that fall your way. Think I’ll continue to tough out going to the public laundromat.

      The Umbrella Thief truly had cajones the size of grapefruit! He wasn’t performing sleight of hand. His maneuver could have been called obvious of hand.

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  4. Way to face down a would be thief, Editta! Is your name German or from Polish descent?

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  5. I have a (I guess it’s cultural) question for you. Are laundromats common in NYC specifically or is it an American thing generally to have a laundromat? Is it a lack of space thing? Are washing machines in the US somehow more expensive to buy?
    Forgive me if that sounds ignorant but I’m asking so I can educate myself about this .
    It seems such a foreign notion to use a laundromat. The only time I think they were a thing in the UK is in London if people just rented a room for accomodation. But I don’t know of any laundromats that exist here still. So no matter how small your flat/appartment I think you’d call it. Not having your own washing machine at home in the UK is just not an option. Ss you really have me curious.

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    • Laundromats are fairly common in NYC, Mathie, but it surprises me that you claim they’re not in the UK. A delightful Stephen Frears film set in London, released in 1985, My Beautiful Laundrette, is about a punk’s relationship with a Pakistani laundromat manager. The manager’s uncle reasons, “There’s money in muck.” It introduced me to a new actor. His name: Daniel Day Lewis. I do know that the more upper class the neighborhood, the fewer laundromats. Possibly you reside in Buckingham Palace? Or, is there no longer money in muck in the seedier sides of London town?

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      • Haha I wish, nope I live in a tiny flat in a countryside town famous for pig farming, quite far away from london. Most likely the laundromat is something that has been fazed out here. The only one you will hear about is the one featured in the tv program Eastenders, and that is set in London. I’m sure they only kept it for historic value however as I have driven through the east end of London before and am still yet to see one for myself.
        That said there is an old proverb in the UK about not airing your dirty laundry in public. Though this usually means not making a fool of yourself by keeping your most personal affairs private it seems the British have also taken it literally.

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      • I say most likely, given your answer it seems certainly the case.

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      • I lived in very lowest Manhattan for over 8 years (think Gold Street, Battery Park City, etcetera) and can’t remember ever seeing a self-serve laundromat; my ex always thought we could have cleaned up if we’d opened one. I suppose most (all?) apartments down there have washers/dryers. Where I later lived in Harlem, around 135th and Malcolm X, there were 3 large laundromats within a 4 block radius, open 24 hours no less!

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        • Hey, Jeremy, good to hear from you! I am sure that most of the buildings in my hood either have a communal laundry room for the tenants, laundry facilities in the apartments or the tenants just drop their wash off and have it done. My building lacks the first two choices and that third solution is too pricy an option for someone like me who’s in the fast lane to get rich slow.

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    • While I can’t say I’ve seen a laundromat in Great Britain, I have used them in Scotland, so I know they exist.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The best deal I ever struck was my honey does the laundry and I do some vague stuff around the house. Make dinner! Sometimes. Unload the dishwasher! Sometimes. It works out very well for me.

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  7. LamoBendix!!! Say, don’t you have family on the west coast—like San Francisco? Why don’t you come west, Editta? Do you know WHY you live in NYC when we have washers and dryers sitting empty in most of California??? Too funny you are—maybe too funny for west coast!!!

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  8. Aaaaah. I have the luxury of the in-home suburban washer and dryer combo … at my convenience all evening. And, since I live in Nevada, I’m not sure if I own an umbrella. There might be one in the trunk of my car — that I have never used.

    🙂 Yup.

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  9. Hey Editta …good, quick thinking … then again, I imagine that is a personal trademark.

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  10. I actually stopped reading to look up “Editta Bendix” (this post is the only relevant hit, in case you’re wondering) on Google. I probably should have stuck around for the denouement first, huh?

    I didn’t realize you worked so far from home (relatively speaking; nothing’s further than 14 miles on that island). What I find completely unbelievable–UNBELIEVABLE–is that an NYC laundromat does “last call” at 6:30. And you mean 6:30 PM? New York City–the City that Never Sleeps (or as some wags have deemed it, “the City of Insomnia”) has laundromats with Westchester hours.

    Okay, in my town of Morro Bay, the City that Frequently Snoozes, laundry services are available until 10:00 at night. The population of this town could partially fill an NYC city block.

    Also, laundromats the world over (and I’ve done laundry on two continents) are populated by society’s fringe dwellers. The last time I had to go, I had a run-in with a homeless man who became enraged for no apparent reason. I was terrified. The guy was probably 6-8 inches shorter than I was and at least 50-60 pounds lighter, but his eyes positively festered with madness. It’s one thing to think that you might end up taking a couple punches, and quite another to imagine getting a pencil in your eye.

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    • “Editta Bendix” wasn’t meant to trip you up, Smak! … But I’m highly amused that she did. The laundromat situation in my hood sucks the big one. Yes, “last call” is 6:30 and it is an outrage. The competition shuttered about two years ago so this one is the only game near where I live. I wish I could take the subway to Morro Bay and do it there. When I’m done, I could hook up with you for a libation before heading home.

      There are definitely more than a few fringe dwellers that have used my laundromat and I have encountered more than a few loons, but not that many violent types over the years. Once, when I used to do my laundry at my current laundromat’s former competition, one of the attendants, a guy with a deformed ear, kept haranguing me to marry him. At first I thought it was just a silly joke, until my gf, Voom, showed up one evening. We didn’t do any PDA, but it was probably obvious that she was my partner. He gave her the stink eye. The next time I went there he proclaimed, “I don’t like her.”

      From that day on I switched laundromats. Fortunately, Voom was so self-absorbed she never thought to ask me why. That guy and his homophobia creeped me out big-time.

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  11. There are 8 million stories in The Naked City….and this was one of them….the case of the forgotten skivvies or Hey get your mits off my umbrella!

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  12. Not that I have sticky fingers, but I am lucky enough never to have had to buy an umbrella. There always seems to be one left behind…

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  13. Poor Eddie Bauer running around in the rain with no umbrella. Shame on you. He monograms everything he owns and still can’t keep up with it. Hell, I’ve seen some of his stuff here in NW Arkansas and I doubt if he even knows what continent we’re on. I bet those laundromat thieves take his underwear too, then brag, “Hey, look at me. I’ve got Eddie Bauer’s undies.” Maybe I’ll take up a collection and buy him some Fruit of the Looms.

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    • I think my laundromat thief thought he was absconding with Editta Bendix’s umbrella, but when I returned home I noticed that I was missing a black spin bike sock. Maybe that score satisfied the neighborhood klepto?

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  14. So true that just a few minutes can make all the difference. Leaving my apartment 5 minutes late in the morning means a shoulder to shoulder crowded train versus actually getting a seat.

    Laundry pet peeve: people who leave their clothes in the washer or dryer past the 10 minute grace period. Do you boldly take out their clothes or just give them the passive-aggressive stare-down when they finally come back?

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    • I aggresive-passive ask the attendant to do the muscle-work for me. But I sense that you have laundry facilities in your building so it’s the unwritten code of conduct that the laggards violate. My neighbor-friend (with the best dog on the block!), who lives in the building across the street from me has indicated that her laundry room is a turf war. It sounds like anxiety on a whole other level. My idea of the good life used to mean living in a building with a/c and laundry facilities. Now it’s living in a building with a/c and my own washer-dryer in my apartment. At this stage in my life I’ve switched gears from fantasizing about easy women keeping me warm on cold winter nights to fantasizing about easy peasy laundry-doing any day of the year. I am officially middle aged.

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  15. That’s rough dealing with such a packed laundromat like that, especially after working all day. I’m sure that must be the prime time for washing. Could you get one in your house? We do so much laundry at my house. It’s never ending. When it breaks down, the world stops. Too bad about the repair guy. Ow. They better get on his replacement soon! Otherwise, people are going to start fighting with their umbrellas.

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  16. We have a washing machine in the flat, which is shocking since my flat is the size of a shoe box. But no dryer. Dryers aren’t big in England. I don’t have an outdoor space either. So my laundry is always hanging up in my flat in various states of drying.

    I have a pink umbrella and no one ever tries to steal it. One kind man asked me where I got it since he wanted one for his grandmother. I felt a little old when he said that.

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    • TBM, I was so hoping that you’d weigh in about whete laundry is done in the UK! Across the pond sounds so much more advanced than what goes on over hete in the Big Apple but no dryer?!?! That’s rough.

      Your umbrella’s pink? That takes guts I sure don’t have. Gimme basic black. But, three decades ago, i held a May-December torch for someone 24 years my senior. She gave me a lavender color umbrella with a duck’s head handle. I actually used it. Just thinking about that now is mortifying, almost as mortifying as being with someone pushing 80. What a relief that DIDN’T happen!

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  17. Bummer not having a washer and dryer of your own. I suppose your apartment pre-dates the handy little stacking washer/dryers they have for small spaces these days. It’s bad enough to have to vulture a washer on vacation to get one as soon as somebody else takes their stuff out, getting in only because none of the other would-be washing machine vultures could find enough quarters.

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  18. I’m sad for the laundry guy–it’s like no one missed him but you. I love NYC but the crowds, at times, made me feel a little claustrophobic. I cannot believe your mat doesn’t stay open–even in small towns, they’re open. I can remember when I was younger, finding it soothing to do my laundry. But that was in a small place and no one was there but the attendant person and the machines and dryers were working. This sounds like a big stress fest! Glad you did rescue your green sock and pair of undies though. Who knows where they could’ve ended up.

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    • They close at 8, Brig, but last wash is at 6:30. I think they do this to try to encourage patrons to drop off and pick up. Of course this costs a lot more. The attendants have told me that they don’t make any profit off self-serve and that might go away. That would mean fewer theater tickets for me. That would blow.

      Last post, Mike Calahan confessed that he’s been absconding with my socks all these years, so we know where that was heading. I think he resides on Sock Mountain.

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  19. Douche bag..nice tags 😊

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  20. I now understand why my daughter and son-in-law send their laundry out, instead of doing it using the shared laundry in their building! They figured it was easier to cut out a few “extras” and have it done rather than have to fight over who did or didn’t put stain remover on the baby’s clothes or who needed to switch the wash to the dryer at 9:30 at night! I shall never complain about doing laundry again! *gazing at my lovely red washer & dryer* xoxoxoxo 😉

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    • Hey Savannah, great to hear from you! In recent days, the temperature here plummeted. Last night was the most convenient time for me to get my laundry done this week (I try to avoid the lunacy of going on the weekends). I had the place almost all to myself. Sweet! Apparently, people come out in the rain but stay in when it’s cold. I can certainly understand the appeal of sending laundry out, especially if it helps keep a relationship sane.

      Like

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