HARLEM – Living in New York requires that you accept that everything here is a pain in the ass.
What are otherwise routine chores everywhere else in the country are transformed into harrowing, patience-testing productions. Wanna go to the grocery store? Don’t buy too much, because you’ve got to carry it all home. Wanna get out of the city? Don’t forget to consult the train schedule, which may or may not be honored that day. Wanna park your car? Don’t bother.
More to the point: why the hell have you bothered keeping your car?
I love the city, so this isn’t so much a complaint as it is a display of resignation. As with everything else around here, living in the city comes with a toll. Which is why, in my building the last few days, you’d think that New Year’s Eve meets D-Day. Or that the city has indefinitely suspended alternate side parking.
For years, the folks who run the building have promised tenants a laundry room in the building. A few days ago, they finally delivered. And I’ve spent the last 48 hours indulging myself in the convenience taken for granted by everyone else. I’ve been doing laundry — pretty much nonstop — all without having to leave my own building.
Until the sudden appearance of the laundry room, I was forced to lug my dirty laundry a few blocks to the crowded laundromat down the block. For awhile, I stubbornly did the laundry myself, mostly because I could never get my mom’s voice out of my head. “Hey,” she told me once. “There’s no maid working here.”
But that didn’t last long, and for the last few years, I’ve instead paid to have the laundry done for me. In this scenario, the city had left me with two choices: a.) Waste time. b.) Waste money. I chose the latter.
On Saturday afternoon, everything changed. My roommate said she had heard a rumor that a new laundry room had been installed. She hurried to the basement, confirmed the amazing news, and promptly began a load of laundry. I wasn’t far behind. Her reports were accurate. It was our own dank, dingy, slice of heaven.
Objectively, it was a space that only a serial killer would love. The white paint couldn’t hide the roughness of the old walls. And despite the peach-colored paint splashed on the pipes overhead, it didn’t change the fact that some of them were low enough to conk your noggin.
Against the wall stood three shiny new washing machines, one of them industrial sized, and three dryers big enough to fit a smart car. A long folding table stretched across the opposite wall, waiting to be covered clothes that were still toasty from the machine. The building super even included a laundry cart to haul damp clothes from the washer to the dryer.
To me, it was Vegas on a Saturday night, and I had a laundry bag filled with cash.
It has been about 24 hours since my roommate let me in on the secret and I’m just finishing the last of my laundry. The first day, I had the place to myself. Three loads of laundry, uninterrupted, no crowds, no screaming children, no substances of unknown origin clogging up the detergent dispenser.
“How did it go?”
“It was everything I thought it would be. And more!”
But people in this building talk, and news of the new laundry room has spread like wildfire. Sadly, I’ve already seen two others down here today. I suspect there will be more. One of them celebrated appropriately. Upon walking into the laundry room for the first time, she jumped up and down, and threw her arms around her boyfriend in a moment of unrequited joy.
“This is the happiest day of my life!”
“I thought the happiest day was when you met me?”
“Want me to do some of your laundry?”
No more than 20 minutes later, as I loaded one of the smart-car sized dryers with newly-bleached socks, she used the washing machine I had intended to fill with a bag of dirty T-shirts.
Alas, the gleaming new laundry wasn’t going to stay a secret forever. But a break is a break, and when you live in the city, you learn to enjoy them. Even the small ones. They don’t come around often.
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