Wednesday, March 31

The Wonders of the Mid-Week Weekend

Today was laundry day. It's an occasion that I dread; putting it off for as long as possible. But as most of you know, there comes a certain point... past re-wearing jeans and electing sandals over shoes (for lack of socks...), that the chore can not be pushed back any further. I woke up early to brew some coffee, and I sorted the daunting piles to some new Beach House albums I picked up from eMusic. After a quick run to the border for lunch, I swallowed my pride and carried my multi-tiered laundry basket the two hundred yards to the beige capsule that is the community laundromat.

As I rounded the corner, I saw a mid-eighties Hyundai leaving the vicinity, and some unfamiliar faces eyed me cautiously as we crossed paths. This is never a good sign, folks. I maneuvered the basket around onto my hip to get the access card out of my back pocket, and I stumbled through the door. Sure enough, 6 of the 8 washers were in use, and, just as always, the right half of the room was submerged in an inch of spring-day smelling water. I slogged over to the remaining two machines I was constrained to with what I estimated to be 7 plus loads of milk-stained uniforms and the few clothes I manage to wear when I’m not working. I like to call them my ‘streets’. Two loads in and I hopped up on the sorting table to hunker down for the long haul.

I brought along my headphones and The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland, a needed break from Dostoevsky. The facilities here aren’t exactly what one would refer to as “top of the line”. I couldn’t decipher the writing on the sticky notes adorning the dryers, but I knew well enough that they warned any would be users of the tribulations awaiting them should they attempt to use that machine. From the looks of it they weren’t in English anyway, which is also normal. With the music playing over the low droll of the straining machines and the monochromatic oppression of so, so much beige, it is a strange kind of relaxation that takes hold. Somewhat like being in a hospital bed, knowing full well you don't want to be there. I tried my best to focus on the text and let my brain filter out the white noise. As well as the beige noise.

I guesstimated that the Hyundai owners had started their machines at roughly 1:00PM. I know that one wash cycle lasts approximately 20 minutes, and one drying cycle lasts from 30-90 minutes depending on the size of the load and how lucky you are feeling on that particular day. I did some quick math in my head and figured out I would be there for most of forever. I checked my phone periodically for e-mails or texts, and I was periodically disappointed. The Gum Thief was annoyingly direct. I was more in the mood for some clever jokes and casual observations about the mundane, sprinkled with blunt truths, which is what I expect from Coupland, but this book was lecturing me about the futility of life and minimum wage jobs without wasting any time at all. I felt myself growing angry at his pretentiously self-aware narrative and the immensely small characters. Eventually, my machines clicked off, but no one else had ventured inside since my arrival, so I transferred my unmentionables to the only two dependable dryers in the room. I know them not by their location, as that varies from week to week, but by their manufacturer’s ID numbers; good old WMZ-872 and GHF-020 have yet to let me down. Being observant has its advantages, after all. In go the jeans and the aprons.

I took a break from my sentry duties and walked through a few courtyards in search of a vending machine. The complex was eerily silent on a workday. The towering office building next to the apartments looked as still and immovable as ever, yet, I knew there were thousands of employees inside hustling about, making comments about hump day around the proverbial water cooler. The skyscraper’s windows reflect these little boxes of light on the pavement. If you stand in just the right spot, you are lit from both sides. You can almost imagine what life would be like on a planet with an extra sun, standing there with your headphones in, listening to Wilco and sipping an off brand Dr. Pepper. Back in the isolation chamber, still no sign of any other washees, so I resumed my post. Back into the book, I finally break after falling for a more than one of Coupland’s intricate psychological traps and agree that, yes, sometimes I would like a life do-over. Now I’ve identified with the characters that I previously thought of as small, and I realize that this is what he wanted. He has defeated me. Easily. Now I must continue reading to discover how I can redeem myself from my small life. I continue to be disappointed in my phone.

The weather outside is gorgeous. Did you know you need at least 15 minutes of sun a day? It’s true, I googled it. The temperature in increasing inside the laundry room, making the most uncomfortable place in the world that much more uncomfortable. Around 3:30, one half of the faces from the Hyundai stumbled in. But it wasn’t the brief stumble and recovery that accompanies most entrants, this was a stumble followed by further stumbling. I watched her gather her bearings, register another presence in the room, become embarrassed, and then play it off like she knew I was there the whole time. She wobbled through the shallow lake and began to check her machines. Then she checked my machines. Now she was putting her hands in my machines. I remained hunched over my book, but I cleared my throat loudly, leering at her in what I hoped was an intimidating manner. She smells like body odor and tequila. After a brief pause for reflection, she went over to check the dryers. I tried to focus on reading, but she was now moving around the room like a moth trapped in a garage, moving aimlessly from machine to machine... not really doing anything... just floating around. Again I tried to read, but now I was irritated by the intoxicated moth woman and I had lost all focus. Reluctantly I remove one of my ear buds. But just one.
“Hi, can I help you with something?”
She spun around so quickly she lost her balance and began listing to one side. I knew the physics of the situation didn’t stand a chance of working out, but I still jumped down and made an effort to catch her. She mustered up the entirety of the will a drunk person is capable of mustering in times of distress, and caught herself on the edge of the sorting table. Luckily, I stopped before awkwardly grabbing her, but now we were standing very much in each others personal space. I have never smelled such an evil odor as that before. I’m telling you there was a definite malice in the stink.
“Are you OK?”
A blank stare. An uncomfortable silence. Far, far too much eye contact. I backed away Scooby-Doo style just in case this Hyundai moth woman was some sort of early stage zombie. I recalled the empty courtyards and my lack of phone correspondence, and decided that zombie apocalypse was now a feasible scenario, and I was not about to go down here, in this purgatory of neutral colors and ancient commercial resale laundry machines. She continued standing there... just staring at me. I was no longer annoyed, I was slightly afraid.
“What’s wrong?!” I was navigating around the island of washers towards the exit. “How It Ends” by DeVotchKa came on the shuffle, which somehow solidified my concerns, and I made a break for the door, not quite running, but definitely not walking. Once outside I headed for my apartment at a brisk pace, still somewhat aware of my surroundings. I saw a guy taking out his trash and there were cars coming in the gate, punching in the code before entering. There was an ominous lack of blood curdling screams and mobs of the undead. Crap.

I headed back to the laundry. The woman was now gone. She left her clothes in the machines, untouched. My clothes still needed to be washed... so I just, kind of hopped back on the sorting table and started reading again. I made it maybe three words before stopping. I thought about calling someone to tell them what just happened, but I just checked my phone, which was being rather consistent today.

I was disappointed. Because, for just a moment, less than a minute, I thought that something was actually happening, something stupid, something different. But it was just a drunk woman, and it was still laundry day, and my phone was still quiet, and the room was still so very, very beige.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved this.

-Perry

jade_thenerd said...

Your words connect with me on a level I can't really fathom... I would love to meet you one day, and I know that sounds stalkery. But I really enjoy your writing.

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Lốp Ôtô said...

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Dr. kold_kadavr_flatliner, MD, the Roamin' Cat said...

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