What seemed like just five minutes ago (but was actually an hour and forty-five minutes ago) the laundry room in my building was piled with a million bags and baskets of laundry. Other people's laundry that either needed to be washed or dried. It was hard to determine what exactly was going on with those bags and baskets (some baskets trying desperately to be anything other than mere laundry baskets, like the bushel-of-apples style basket) or what it meant in terms of time. And I didn't want to get too close to try to determine the wait time for the machines. I hate other people's laundry.
At times like these I try to recall how I once dreamed of living in a building with laundry facilities. That I'm lucky that I no longer need to go to a laundry mat. That this (basement with mildew and spiders and one light bulb) is an unprecedented luxury.
Sometimes I forget.
Still, I get frustrated with the situation of the laundry room. I'm sure that everyone in the building does. Everyone except Mary. I think Mary likes the laundry room. Mary, who once (when I was late in getting my laundry out of the dryer) was found by me to be folding my laundry. I'll never forget it. How I instantly hated her for folding my laundry. I remember initially saying sorry (for making her wait for a dryer), but then (as I saw what was really going on) my eyes and actions (and maybe even my posture) saying something to the effect of:
What on EARTH do you think you are doing?!
Actually, I might have said this part out loud. And there might have been yelling. I don't recall. I was confused by the incidence of so many negative emotions hitting me all at once. No doubt Mary saw herself as supremely neighborly in folding my laundry. I, on the other hand, saw what she was doing as grossly intrusive. If not sickeningly martyr-like. And I quickly determined her to be passive-aggressive (such a hostile transgression masked rather uncleverly as helpfulness) and just horribly, horribly inappropriate.
No. You do not fold your neighbor's laundry. Maybe at the turn of the last century. Maybe. But even those women (in long white smocks with black button up boots) that I am imagining (leaving calling cards in scented envelopes just to say hello) knew each other. Mary and I don't know each other. We just live in the same building. The fact that I know her name is remarkable. And Mary's name might be Kathy. I don't know. And she doesn't know my name, either. It's that minimal respectful distance in such close quarters (where personal space is at a premium) that everyone (except Mary) is trying to maintain. It's the way we avert our eyes on the train, though we are packed as sardines. Yes. I hated Mary for folding my laundry. It would have only been worse if she had opened my mail and read it to me.
At that point, I took the clothes from her (and I detected the faintest of resistance on her part; she now felt some ownership of my laundry, I think, and I could tell that for an instant she still thought that all of this was was ok, and that she expected a compliment) and put them (once again) into the nearest washing machine. I put the quarters (thank God I still had quarters) into the slot, and pointedly turned the temperature gauge all the way up to HOT! (passive-aggressive/ fight fire with fire). I did this fast. Without apology. With a cigarette dangling from my mouth and my eyes fixed on her the entire time. And she returned the look. Unwaveringly. Holding on for dear life to her position of righteousness. It became a sort of standoff. And though she was wrong, very wrong, and she knew that she was wrong, Mary did not break her half of the Stare of Mutual Incredulousness that had, by then, been established between the two of us (mine rightfully; hers more desperately). She stood firm. Even though I am sure that she was devastated, she was stubborn to the bitter end, that Mary. Or Kathy. Whatever her name was.
I never saw her again.
And it was no more than a half an hour later when I discovered that it was in fact Mary's own clothes that she had been folding when I mistakenly tore her laundry away from her, and put it through a second cycle of washing.
So, I know that I am pointing out the obvious when I say that sharing a laundry room can be tricky at times. That timing is essential. And, tonight was no exception to the obvious, well known, and at times boring facts about laundry rooms that I have outlined here. There was so much laundry in queue to be either washed or dried in my laundry room, that it was hard to differentiate between the two. Apparently a system had been developed between the tenants. But it was lost on me. It just seemed that every tenant in the building suddenly had a ton of laundry to do. There was the sense that some emergency had transpired. About laundry. And that, whatever it was, it was epic. It has never been like that in the laundry room before. I should also mention that at this juncture one of the washing machines appeared to be broken. It was a bad. Bottom line. So I put down my laundry bag and turned around to go upstairs. By the time I reached my apartment, I was in a rotten mood.
My whole world came crashing down:
I hated everything now. I had nothing clean to wear. Not for Father's Day. Not for Monday. So I sat here and paged angrily through a magazine and hated my life and all of my clothes. My dirty clothes. Why didn't I do laundry last night? Clean or dirty, it didn't matter. I wanted to throw away all of my clothes. Not just into the garbage, but through the window. While yelling. At this point, I really hated my clothes. Mostly for not being clean. I was tortured by the idea of, What will I wear tomorrow? The next day? What will I do? Which led to, What am I doing with my life? Why don't I have my own washing machine by now? Which led to (alternately), Who am I? And, Who the hell do I think I am? And finally to something about, I hate this kitchen..
It went like that for a while.
But then I went downstairs (mostly to recollect my bag of laundry before some cat made it their bed for the night) and all of the piles of laundry were gone. And every machine, be it washer or dryer, was empty. And it looked like someone swept. And the broken washing machine was again lit up, saying, $1.25. So everything was ok. So I put my laundry in. Now I'm just waiting to change loads.
Note to self:
Watching Francis should be done only when one is well rested and otherwise not menstrual.
Avocados are not that good for you, require patience, and are only to be eaten when actually ripe.
Placing phone calls while still partially asleep is a big mistake.
Your new permanent raspy voice is not because you are finally becoming Marlo Thomas, but because you are tired and have been smoking too much.