Where Do You Do Your Laundry?

July 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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As I may have mentioned, I live in a six-story apartment  building (54 apartments I think) in the middle of Brooklyn, NYC. At a certain point, in an attempt to gentrify the neighborhood,  they started calling the neighborhood “Ditmas Park,” which was the name used by the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who lived here when Brooklyn was the suburbs of Manhattan. But really, we live in west Flatbush.

Our apartment is on the first floor, which means it can be  pretty dark. All kinds of plants have died here from lack of light. One advantage to being on the first floor, though, is that we can sit and watch the neighborhood walk by on its way to the street where the stores are, Cortelyou Road. It’s not everywhere that you can watch Hindu women  and saris, Muslim women and their daughters from Pakistan and Yemen veiled  head to foot (even their faces), couples talking Russian, families from across Latin America talking Spanish, Jewish families, mostly not wearing overblouses and yarmulkes (the Orthodox having moved farther out decades ago), very many Caribbean folks talking the Queen’s English (sort of), and old and young white gentrifiers yakking along with everybody else.

I really love living here. But I have to confess that sometimes it also makes me feel superior, to have transcended (as it were!) the kind of boundaries that diminish our supposed democracy. Until there’s a laundry crisis, that is.

Something has gone wrong with the laundry in our basement. My financial consultant has advised me not to tell you just what. But my usual bi-weekly trips down to the basement to jam the laundry into the washing machine, followed forty-five minutes later by another trip to transfer it to the dryer(s), followed an hour later by folding or hanging the clothes onto hangers and sliding them back into the closets, are in abeyance. When the baskets under the bed got stuffed beyond functioning, we had to think of something else.

The something else was a trip to the commercial laundromat six blocks away, at the corner of Cortelyou Rd. and E. 16th St. Compared to our basement laundry, the local laundromat is really something. Forty washers, more or less, some requiring eighteen quarters, some requiring eight. No spiffy money cards as at home. Forty dryers. Fifteen or twenty folks using them, almost all women. We were the only white folks in the place. Lots of different kinds of music playing pretty loud. Seriously hot and muggy.

Keith had helped me carry the laundry down to the laundromat–three big bags. The plan was that we would get the machines going, I would sit there while the clothes washed, and then call him to help me fold them and carry them home after they were dry. But I more or less became a nervous wreck as I was trying to get the machines going–poured the bleach into the wrong slot, put the laundry detergent in too soon, and was being driven nuts by the music. So I was the one who went home.

Eventually Keith called me on his cell and I returned the six blocks for the folding and carting part of the adventure. The woman on the folding table across from me had clearly been doing this for a long time; if one sock got over the dividing line, she would say “Is that your sock there? You wouldn’t want to lose track of it.” From which I took it I’d better be more careful with our socks. (Keith assured me that she had been every bit as tough with the Caribbean woman who had preceded me.) At a certain point I just threw all the unfolded and sometimes damp clothes back into the bags and dashed home to deal with them in our quiet bedroom. Some are a little wrinkled as a result, but oh, well.

Rumor has it that our laundry room in the basement will be accessible by the time the baskets under our bed are full once again. And if it’s not, there’s a Chinese laundry down on Newkirk that will pick up our clothes and wash and dry them and bring them back, even if that means I have to iron them all afterwards. I’m kind of proud of living in such a diverse neighborhood, but you don’t want to get too carried away with such things.

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  1. Ah, yes! Laundromats certainly help you get a new look at the neighborhood, up close. I have been doing mine at the local laundromat most of the ten years I’ve lived here (little town — hamlet, actually, part of a town — in Westchester, fo those who don’t know me). The people I meet there are not the crowd I see in other parts of town.
    Courage, marian — if you do need to keep going there: I eventually found times when it is much quieter and less crowded, so maybe you can, too!
    Doretta

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  2. I, too, am on the laundromat circuit, and have been for years. I live in the country. Why risk the well and the septic system when I can drive into town. The laundromat is much smaller than yours, and after all this time I know how to avoid the “rush hour”. But the laundromat crowd is a different, and most of the time pleasant, experience.

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  3. My Laundromat gives me money if I do my laundry during the week. This is really a double bonus: I get free money and a quiet laundry. Thank God for a flexible work schedule and a bit of creativity on my part.
    I went to it on New Year’s Eve 2011. My roommate laughed at me and told me the world and its cousin would be at the laundry. She was right. Shock !! Surprise!!! (for the previous 6 New Year’s Eve I used my gated apartment complex laundry or the in-house one at the monastery). The upside: My hope was rewarded; inspite of the mad crush I had no problem getting the washing machines or dryers I needed.
    I

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  4. Dear Marian, I can’t manage to send a response to your latest post so I’ll just add it where I can. You write such interesting posts. A dear college friend just died a few weeks ago. She is from Wilmington but lived in NYC for years. I think I must have visited her every summer when she had a vacation so I had aplace to stay plus a great tour guide. If you can image, she attended Mount St. Scholastica, my alma mater in Atchison, KS. She’ll be greatly missed. I’m so grateful that I know as much about NY as I do.. Thanks for your comments about the Grail meeting. It sounded like everyone had a great reunion. I got info from Fran Martin and Stephana which I enjoyed a lot plus the Grail newsletter. Glad I now know how you do your laundry. I have a washing machine just off the bedroom but end up drying the clothes on one of those folding racks. Glad I only have to take care of myself. Please keep those posts coming. Love, Lyllis

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  5. I live in a 4th floor walkup building with no machines in the basement. I go down the block to do laundry, and the Polish women who run the laundry do ours usually, but I do the hand laundry stuff, which also includes our little rugs from the bathroom, once a month or so. It is always an adventure. There is another laundromat around the corner, but it has a cold atmosphere, so I end up doing ours on the block, though it is a little more expensive. They don’t allow loud music, so you can hear yourself think, and read while you wait for your laundry. Having grown up in a house in Ohio with our own washer and dryer, it took a while to incorporate doing laundry NYC style into my calendar. Now I have been doing it so long, visiting my sister, with her own washer and dryer, it is a pleasure to do laundry, and I usually do several loads for her because it feels so easy.

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  6. I loved this story. Though I’m sorry the laundromat was nerve-wracking. I can see why! “Where you do your laundry” is indeed a “thing” in NY, with many political resonances! For years I did mine at the Laundry Queen near the corner of Atlantic and Nostrand. They have TVs, snack machines, tables, a bathroom and an attendant 24-hours who keeps things slightly less nerve-wracking. I would take breakfast and a thermos of coffee and hunker down. I stopped because … I would delay going until I needed underwear. And then delay more by just buying more underwear. I must have five months’ supply of underwear. So, even with the wonderful Laundry Queen experience, it was too much of a chore to do laundry out. Now I do drop it off, at a Chinese laundromat around the corner. I can do other things with my morning and still support the local economy. I see the woman of the couple who runs it at the Y, in the sauna. I tell her I love her business so much. By the way, if you do drop-off too, you will not be refolding or ironing. The professionalism–and economy (.75 a pound here)–of drop-off service might convert you, even if your basement laundry revs up again.

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    • Oh, we send out our underwear and sheets and towels, just not our clothes. And yes, the folding is wonderful!

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  7. Iron?

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