Monday, August 20, 2007

The Dirtiest Place to Get Clean

When I was a kid, I loved nothing more than going to the laundromat with my friend Jessie.

My family, being relatively well-off in our humble little cow town, had its own washer and dryer. This seemed to me to be a great injustice, since all things awesome and off-limits were only a quarter's throw away at the laundromat on main street. There we could glug down bottles of full-strength Coke, cold and sweating when fresh from the vending machine. We could revel in the nasty adult antics on full display in the unlimited soap operas on the tube. We could gape at grown-ups who sat and OPENLY FLAUNTED their cancer sticks while accepting the peppermints they slipped into our greedy little hands. Sheer heaven, and all of it prohibited at home. Whenever I begged my mother to go to the laundromat witih Jessie on their weekly sojourn, she rolled her eyes and consented to this little "adventure," knowing later she'd have to lather my obstinant little head with a full bottle of Johnson & Johnson's to get all the secondhand smoke scrubbed out of my locks.

Today, of course, I understand Mom's disdain for the dirty dirty laundromat.

For the last five years, I had somehow had the good fortune in New York City of paying below-market rents for apartments that had IN-HOUSE washers and dryers. Only if you are a city dweller can you know what a joy this is. People who came over to visit and got "the tour" would literally fall on their knees at the site of my in-house unit, knowing that I was spared weekly the torture of hauling a back-breaking load of smelly whites into a laundromat with one of two choices: risk the derision of the Chinese ladies who did the laundry and hope no weirdo panty-sniffers worked in the back, or sit for hours in the steamy stank-jungle that is a New York laundromat, wishing that the very fires of hell were powering the dryer so you could sooner make your escape.

This year, though, the gig was up. I moved up and I moved out, into a place where I pay market rent (read: a king's ransom) for a space that's huge and lovely, but has no in-house laundry. It was back to the laundromat for me.

I hoped only to find a place less desolute than the 'mat I used in Fort Greene, where a man came in every day selling used socks and a bum would regularly strip down eight layers or so beneath his trench before throwing it all -- dirty -- into one of the very same dryers I used to dry my own threads.

And actually, I did. But this place has another problem: It is dirty.

Now, I am not talking average run-of-the-mill dirty. I am talking DIRTY. Dirtier than the Canal Street subway station when the pipes burst under Chinatown's fish market. Dirtier than the old man who regularly flashes me at 6 a.m. on my way to the gym, before he's even had his morning coffee to perk up. Dirtier than the Bush administration. I know, it's hard to imagine.

This place is so dirty I am quite certain they had to try extra hard to get that way.

It has invested in the latest and greatest grime-attracting technology.

Not satisfied with the errant hairball or wandering dryer sheet, my new 'mat has installed Willy Wonka's Pre-Wetted Gobstopper Linoleum, all the better to attract cat hair and chicken bones tracked in off the street. They special-ordered the Ronco 2000 Asbestos Wall Fan with patented Nutria coating, to make sure the dust and dirt is thoroughly distributed via its in-wall ventilation systems. Lighting units were special-ordered from the Sing Sing Interior Decorating Department; through feats of technology they manage to cast their pallid, greenish glow over the premises while hanging tenuously by a mere centimeter of warped aluminum. And don't forget the ceilings! This place went the extra mile, bringing in neighborhood hoodlums to relieve themselves over the panels before they were installed, creating a complex tapestry of yellow stains.

Luckily, I have telenovelas to distract me for the 90 minutes it takes me to strap on a gas mask and do my laundry. The soaps, at least, never change, even though the laundromat has lost its appeal.

And with that, I'm off to slip into bed. Ahhhh....there's nothing like clean sheets.


Blogger Mike said...

I miss drop service.

2:55 PM  

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