ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Thanksgiving Eve, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m 300 miles away from my ultimate destination in a San Francisco Laundromat. For some reason this place is busy, which just adds to the horrible hassle of doing your laundry in a public forum. Add to that the fact that this Laundromat is definitely a shady one.
What makes one Laundromat shady while another might just be filthy or scary? Well, a shady Laundromat is one where you don’t generally fear for your life when you’re there, and the machines are clean enough, but you still feel a little vulnerable leaving your clothes alone for more than 15 minutes.
Here are some other traits of shady Laundromats, which I’ll write while wondering if bringing my laptop here was such a great idea.
Clothes thieves: This one’s an obvious one, and a phenomenon that I detailed earlier this year. I have plenty of pairs of socks, but seeing a drunk guy going through your dryer is falls somewhere on the violation scale between getting pantsed in junior high P.E. and that Ned Beatty scene from Deliverance.
“Err” messages: Not much makes me want to throw a brick through a window more than putting my detergent and clothes into a washing machine, closing the lid and hearing that ear-piercing “BEEEEEEEEEP” and seeing “Err” flash on the screen where the dollar amount and time usually are. It’s also a blast when adding time to a dryer that’s already going and getting the “Err” after putting a quarter in. It’s a damn quarter, dryer! You don’t want my money?!?!?!
Different drying rates: This Laundromat has 14 dryers, and they’re all the same. Two of them give you 10 minutes for each quarter, the rest only give you 8 minutes. Of course, the 10-minute dryers are the ones that most frequently go “Err” on you. It’s enough to chew four pieces of Double Bubble gum and throw it in one of these dryers and turn it on High Heat.
Public drinking: You know it’s going to be an interesting clothes-washing experience when there’s a guy on the bench drinking something out of a paper bag who isn’t doing any laundry. I usually don’t make eye contact this these guys.
Indoor smoking: Also fun is the angry guy who decides to start smoking inside the Laundromat. Usually this guy is smoking like he’s on a mission, taking drags every two seconds and blowing huge clouds towards the ceiling. I almost expect these guys to start doing some Dennis Leary standup material, which would at least be halfway amusing. I’d gladly deal with an indoor-smoking-guy if he started singing, “I’m an asshole!!!” I usually don’t make contact with these guys either (notice a pattern?).
Cheating bill changers: Nothing makes you feel worse about your day than putting in a $10 bill and getting $5 back in quarters. That’s why they make bill changers pretty much bullet-proof.
Bill changers that don’t work: I don’t know what’s worse, when the orange light flashes, meaning I have to walk at least two blocks away to the nearest liquor store and buy a soda I didn’t really want, or when my crisp dollar bills keep getting rejected. I swear, one time after the changer in here wouldn’t take my new $1 bill, I actually crumpled it up, stepped on it, unwrinkled the bill and stuck it in the machine. It worked.
Dirty folding tables: That substance has to be liquid Tide, right? Maybe I’ll fold this stuff at home today.
Why do I frequent a shady Laundromat, you ask? Two reasons: I’m cheap, and the Laundromat across the street from the shady one I go to charges at least fifty cents to a dollar more on each machine, and the Laundromat even closer to my apartment isn’t shady, it’s downright frightening. We’re talkiing a combination of a peep show booth and The Gimp’s living quarters in Pulp Fiction. I’ll go to a shady Laundromat over one where I legitimately fear for my life any day.