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laundry with strangers

My washing machine died on Monday. I could tell you exactly how it happened, except I don’t know. What I do know is that a repair person diagnosed the problem as catastrophic. He has no idea.

When the washer broke, we were already behind on laundry. While we decide whether to pay $800 to fix the old machine or $1000 to buy a new one, the load of laundry that broke the machine has been sitting, rotting, in the drum. I’ve ruined a lot of clothing by letting it get mildewy in the washer, and this particular load had about $300 worth of Hanna Andersson pajamas in it. So as the hours ticked by, I’d try not to think of that load, because when I did think about it, I’d feel the vapors coming on. Eventually I prevailed upon my awesome neighbors Anne and Dennis, who opened their doors and their washer to Cuz, who kindly washed the load while I was at work.

But that load only bought me a day’s peace, because on Tuesday, I started running out of underwear. I stood in front of my drawer, looking at the last two pairs of cotton granny pants on the left, and the two fistfuls of Hanky Panky thongs on the right, which have not been touched since the day that I decided once and for all that my butt cheeks prefer not to have material lodged between them all day. Linds suggested that I drop all our laundry at her place, and that she could do the loads in the evenings. I was tempted, but I couldn’t. I mean, I’m hopeful that one day a hand will be able to reach into my boys’ hamper feeling assured that it will not graze dried feces, but I suspect that we’re yet years away. I couldn’t do that to Linds, best friends or not.

Which leads me to tonight. After dinner I looked solemnly at Tom, Cuz, and the boys, who were wearing clothes they’d worn for two days. We all knew it was time. We packed the car with five full loads of laundry, and off I went, wearing the stoic expression I reserve for moments of extreme martyrdom. Here’s the thing though. I love doing laundry. With every completed load, I feel a sense of freshness, satisfaction, and rebirth. It is definitely my chore of choice, although I also really enjoy organizing and labeling my spices with my labelmaker. And laundromats? They get me crazy. I f-ing love them. Because you can do like ten loads at a time, and fold ten loads at a time, and nothing turns me on like efficiency.

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In fact, I’d live in a laundromat if it weren’t for the people. With everyone washing and folding and making change, you feel a sense of common purpose with the other people in the laundromat, or you would, if they weren’t complete freaks. In a place like NYC, everyone goes to a laundromat, because most people live in apartments without washers. In Portland, there is a very small subset of people who go to laundromats. Hipsters, older bachelors, transients, people with broken washers. A tall skinny guy who was surrounded by an almost visible nimbus of pot smoke sidled over to me as I was filling a dryer. “Uh, I don’t want to sound sketchy, but there’s a pair of black Victoria’s Secret panties over there that might be yours.” Uh, so much for not sounding sketchy. A hipster couple kept trying to engage me in conversation. For what possible reason would you want to engage in conversation with a stranger at a laundromat? Clearly they sought to distract me so they could steal my clothes. I crammed my Yogitoes and Lululemon into the bottom of my basket and kept my eye trained on them the rest of the night.

Well, I did it. Five loads of laundry, washed and folded. In 90 minutes. Granny pants for days. Medal of Valor, you say? Nobel Peace Prize? Don’t mind if I do.

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42 Comments Post a comment
  1. Molly McKenna Weldon #

    We all want to know. Did you get a new washer or get the old one fixed?!

    November 11, 2012
    • very good news. repair technician called on friday to inform me that LG would pick up the cost of the rotor and motor, and that i just have to pay $280 for the board, whatever that is. $280 is painful, but way better than $800, wouldn’t you agree?

      November 11, 2012
      • mmweldon #

        Nice going, LG. Rotor, motor, board….it’s all the same. $280 is way better than $800 though. Although I think you had a great time at the laundromat. Kind of a nice break from hubby and kiddos,,:)

        November 11, 2012
      • yes, but it’s not fixed yet. i keep thinking the repairman was a figment of my imagination. i may have one more trip to the laundromat before this is over

        November 11, 2012
  2. Princess Catnip #

    washed & folded – for all five loads! hats off to you! I don’t mind tossing the lot into the washing machine but I absolutely detest folding clothes. I’m looking forward to marrying my boyfriend & moving into our marital apartment because we have already traded chores – I will wash, he will fold AND iron.

    November 11, 2012
    • what? i’d get that in writing. i have no doubt your boyfriend is well intentioned, but ironing?? the absolute worst. wait until he gets assigned his first pleated skirt or silk blouse. i think my love of clothes folding goes back to all my years of working at the gap

      November 11, 2012
      • Princess Catnip #

        he LOVES ironing. he finds it therapeutic – one man i’m not letting go is someone who will iron for me. lol. and lucky for him, i don’t have a pleated skirt (yet).

        November 12, 2012
  3. Impressive! I used to use the laundromat as a young childless apartment dweller who only did laundry once a week. Was quite nice as I could sit and eat breakfast and read the paper while the machines did their thing. With my family and job now, I never seem to stop doing washing when I am at home. I even get up in the middle of the night to put a new load on after the first one has finished!

    November 9, 2012
    • you have to stay on top of it or it will destroy you. right? a lesson i learned when i had my first kid

      November 11, 2012
  4. Fia #

    It’s so fascinating! Laundromats doesn’t exist in Sweden.

    November 9, 2012
    • what? does everyone own a washer then?

      November 11, 2012
      • Fia #

        Almost. The ones that doesn’t, have common washing machines close to their appartments. So if you rent an appartment you can use the machines “for free” since the costs are included in your monthly rental fee. You book the laundry room for a couple of hours and during that time you are the only one that are allowed to use the machines.

        November 11, 2012
      • ah, of course. utopia

        November 12, 2012
      • Fia #

        Nah, in the perfect world there is no laundry at all 😉

        November 18, 2012
  5. Girl, I live in humble Claremore, Oklahoma, and I have been there (as in the laundromat) and done that more times than I care to count – without my washer being broken, but merely because the laundry has gotten so backed up & out of control. Thank goodness, I’ve gotten so used to my thongs I actually prefer them! (Maybe there’s something wrong with me?)

    November 8, 2012
    • clearly there are lots of women who prefer thongs, given the sheer number of them that are available at the mall. i do think there is something to be said for conditioning your butt cheeks to get used to them. but for me it was taking a really long time

      November 8, 2012
  6. This cracked me up… I too enjoy laundry, and labelling all my food containers (and… the shelves of my fridge so hubby doesn’t put eggs on the veggie shelf…), and I have a secret love of laundromats. They remind me of being on holidays, or of being a young povo student… And there’s always that slight hint of danger 😉

    I hope your laundry woes are fixed soon!!!

    November 8, 2012
    • you label your refrigerator shelves? i am in awe

      November 8, 2012
  7. I went to do laundry the other day. One person was using 6 machines and had one piece of clothes in each one to reserve them, then proceeded to fill them with very little clothes.

    November 8, 2012
    • yeah there was a bit of jockeying for position at my laundromat. a lot of panicked wheeling around of wire baskets

      November 8, 2012
  8. Meg #

    Yoona, I share your love of the laundromat on Belmont. When (and I say when, not if) your kids get lice, there is nothing better than putting all of the bedding and stuffed animals into those huge machines.

    I hope I haven’t ruined the Belmont EcoWash experience for you.

    November 8, 2012
    • oh jesus. lice. what am i going to do with myself. you haven’t ruined the experience but you have certainly tempered it, my dear

      November 8, 2012
  9. I’m just glad to see someone using “the vapors”

    November 8, 2012
  10. Laundromats do have their advantages in terms of getting multiple loads done at once. That said they are not the most entertaining places to spend an evening and I applaud your willingness to take that one for the team.

    Aside from keeping working machinery on hand (something I say I “do” because right now everything works so it is safe territory to claim) I typically address all laundry issues by assuring there are plenty of generously sized baskets in play at all times. Dirty or clean, it is my philosophy that no pile of clothing offers offense while it is safely nestled inside a plastic laundry basket.

    Every bedroom closet in this house has room for two baskets per occupant, one meant for whites, the other for colors. How often those loads get washed and IF they ever get folded, is up to the individual. We are all adults (chronologically at least), so as long as they “keep it in the basket” I am able to maintain a zen-like Launder and Let Launder attitude. Ommmmm.

    November 8, 2012
    • yeah i hear you on the basket thing, but there are limits. when there are ten baskets or hampers of stuff sitting around, i don’t care how clean the contents are, it’s a lot of real estate. i was looking forward to reading at the laundromat but underestimated the speed of the machines. of course i approve, heartily

      November 8, 2012
  11. beth #

    at the sit ‘n spin in seattle years ago, you could have a beer while you did your laundry…wonder if this was the ultimate pick-up place?! i was married at the time so i didn’t notice.

    November 8, 2012
    • sure sounds like the ultimate pick up place to me

      November 8, 2012
  12. 90 minutes, 5 loads AND folded? You rocked this. You need to set up a YouTube channel to show people how it’s done.

    November 8, 2012
    • the washers only take like 14 minutes. and the dryers are so hot and huge that it took like 12 minutes to do my cottons. the folding took most of the time. the machines they have are just amazing. it’s like when you go to buy a treadmill and the ones they show you look so dinky compared to the ones at the gym. this was like that. i need an industrial strength washer/dryer

      November 8, 2012
      • Those big washers where you can put more than one blanket in? It’s like you could wash a whole camping trip’s worth of laundry (tent included) in one go.
        Those dryers are like little ovens, too. The clothes literally can come out steaming.

        November 8, 2012
  13. You area beast, my hat goes off to you.

    November 8, 2012
    • i am totally a beast. with laundry, i challenge all comers

      November 8, 2012
  14. Deb Rhoades #

    That’s a swanky looking’ laundromat…where would that be? A good laundromat is a community treasure!

    November 8, 2012
    • hi deb! it’s the belmont eco cleaners on 47th and SE belmont. some of their machines take credit cards, which is nice. i just can’t get over how laundromats are completely unattended, though

      November 8, 2012
  15. Wow, you enjoy laundry, that’s a positive! You know if you have the speed setting too high on a running machine (I wouldn’t actually know because I’ve never been on one), but that feeling of it’s going to catch up on you soon and you will fall off? That’s how my laundry feels to me! We have 3 separate laundry baskets for our family of 4 and it is a rarity if any of them aren’t full to the brim. Also I have a problem with putting away clothes, I can sort, wash, dry, sort again & fold but the last step into the actual drawers I seem to have a block on which is why there is, currently residing in our study, 4 mountains of clothes- one for each family member! Which is a problem because a friend is supposed to be sleeping in there tonight. She may be sleeping nestled among clean clothes….

    November 8, 2012
    • same problem in our house although the stall usually occurs after the clothes have been dried but are not yet folded. then they sit there, rumpled, for days. cuz does laundry for us during the day but hates to fold. i’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth

      November 8, 2012
  16. I went from having my girlfriend having a laundry machine, to her moving in with me and us not having one at all. I know bad trade for her. But we do all our laundry at laundry matts. The worst. People never stop trying to talk to you! Let me read my novel about dragons dammit!

    November 8, 2012
    • this reminds me that i spent months on the game of thrones series, left off for a while, and now have no idea what book i even left off at. it would be nice if the covers didn’t all look exactly the same

      November 8, 2012
      • By book 4 it starts to go downhill. Plus he’s in his 60s and monstrously overweight. And with the increasing time that passes with each novel, he’ll most likely die before the series is done. Do yourself a favor and stop while you’re ahead. If I sound bitter it’s because I am. Those are long books.

        November 8, 2012
      • maybe i’ll just go back to the show?

        November 8, 2012

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