5:59 AM. The elevator doors open into a blissfully desolate basement. The cleaning crew has not yet punched in and even the earliest-rising of your laundry nemeses, the old lady with the hip replacement and yappy Havanese, won’t venture in to wash her sofa covers for another 45 minutes.
6:00 AM. The world is still and you, content and calm. You march down a damp hall through the laundry room door with pomp and circumstance, Napoleon marching triumphantly on Austerlitz. Glance over at the whiteboard for messages of broken machines. 1-3 on the fritz, but 4-6 are good, and you’re flying solo! All systems go.
6:01 AM. Take your two overflowing sacks of pit-stained undershirts and two weeks’ worth of underwear and plop them on the plastic chairs. You’ve staked your claim and marked your territory by the compact $1.25 machines (leave those $1.60 top loaders for fools and sinners). Nothing can stop you now. The faintest hint of a smile flashes across your face. It’s OK—go ahead, take it in!
6:02 AM. Shove 30 pounds of laundry into each machine, using muscles you never knew you had to cram it all in, capacity be damned. Darks with brights, patterns with solids, whites with everything. An ungodly mix of drawers, plaid, bras, dress pants, yellowed undershirts, and the bathroom mat. These delicates, roughs, and dry-clean-onlys that, minutes from now, will swim in unholy union as they degrade, fiber by fiber, in a sad slow dance into oblivion…
6:03 AM: What’s that sound? The door opens. But…it’s…not…time…yet…sure as hell, the old lady with the hip replacement and the yappy Havanese. Maybe this time won’t be as bad as the last…maybe she’s had a good month. She gives you a once-over dismissively. Then inspects the white-board. You hold your breath…She tracks back and stares down the length of the room, squinting quizzically.
6:04 AM: She’s still squinting. Then, “Did you really take all 3 working machines?”
Gulp. “Yes, I needed all 3. Rule says up to 3”
“Not when the other three are broken…don’t you have any common sense?”
“You heard me…” Squints harder. “Wait…aren’t you the dummy who took the bottom driers last time when the tops were open…knowing I was just after hip surgery?”
Gulp. “Again, ma’am, I had no idea about your hip, and the drier was already running…and if I might be so bold, I don’t think you should have removed my clothes and dumped them into the wet sink.”
“I knew it. I knew it was you, you BIG DUMMY.”
“Again with the dummy…all due respect, there’s no need for that…”
6:05 AM: “OK, young man, I see I’m going to have to teach you some manners.”
Stutter. “Uh…um, ex-excuse me?” She walks back to the door. The lock clicks. Didn’t even know this door locked. What the…is she dragging a chair and propping it against the door?
She returns, rolls up her night-shirt sleeves, cracks her knuckles. This can’t be happening. You pinch yourself. Well, that was dumb. Still here, she’s…what’s she doing now?
She flips a laundry cart over onto her knee like a circus strongman and breaks the metal pole rack off. Now she approaches, slowly, wielding the chrome pole like a crowbar, dragging it across the line driers with a screeching sound.
6:06 AM: You look around for a weapon but all you can find is a soggy brown dress sock on top of a washing machine. Thinking fast, you yank the lint filter from the one industrial-sized drier and brandish it. Your mind races, hear pounding. The yappy Havanese is tied to the folding table. You love dogs, have been thinking of adopting one, and won’t want to hurt hit or hold him hostage but you’ll do what you have to do. It’s a long, narrow laundry room but the lady is nearly upon you…
6:07 AM: This is it. Survival of the fittest. To the strongest will go the secretly free drier that starts without payment (shhhh…). As you cross swords, your lint filter cudgel against her pole rack lance, you hear all three machines changing cycles from rinse to wash. There can be only one…