Sunday, September 7, 2008

Forced to do my laundry in the city

Ugh. I knew this day would come. After a year of going up to my old house in Connecticut once a month to do my laundry I have been forced to find a place in NYC.

I know it's weird that I was doing my laundry in a different state. It's a product of being a germaphobe. While I am able to just condone germs in most places -- the guy who sneezes or coughs towards me on the subway, the disgustingness of door handles city wide, etc. -- for some reason the thought of sharing laundry machines in particular gives me the eebie jeebies. I'm pretty sure I developed the phobia during college, where I watched in horror at the things guys would do with the laundry machines in our dorms. So sharing laundry machines with a couple of roommates? OK. Sharing laundry machines with a few hundred (or thousand) people at laundromat? Not so much.

My old roommates in CT have been quite gracious in letting me trek up there and do my laundry for free. But our third roommate moved out last month and the remaining two replaced him with two girls sharing a room. That makes four people living in a 3-bedroom house and the thought of me hogging the machines for even a day was too much. I really do understand but I was bummed when P told me, mostly because I had a month's worth of laundry to do!

Defeated, I evaluated my options. Most of my friends recommended going the laundry service route but I was nervous about having some stranger washing my intimates. Some friends said laundromat was the way to go. A few tried to tempt me with the thought of meeting a hot guy there. But laundromats in NYC aren't how they appear in the movies, or at least not on the Upper East Side. It isn't all windows and sharing frozen yogurt with your true love/arch enemy's girlfriend or finding out that your Spidey Suit got mixed in with your whites. They're dank and sometimes smelly and small and crowded all the time.

On top of that laundromats barely seem to exist in my neighborhood. I vaguely remember seeing one when I first moved in but that was over a year ago now. Using Google Maps I wrote down the address of several supposed laundromats around me. Half of them turned out to be laundry services. One-third didn't exist (commercial real estate turnover is pretty high right now). And the last third were yucky.

Nonetheless, I needed clothing. So I split my heaves of clothes into a self-serve pile to take to the laundromat and a full service pile to take to the laundry service. And then sadly I wasted a Summer Friday morning doing my laundry. The laundromat was only a block and a half away but it was very hot and I was exhausted when I arrived. It cost $3.50 to a load of wash (quarters only of course) but luckily the place was staffed and had plenty of change. The machines were good ol' Wascomats that I remember from previous laundromat excursions. At least they were kinda new. I can't tell you how many of those things have eaten my money.

I got there early enough that I was able to find 3 empty machines out of the 12 or so the place had. It was kind of weird because the laundromat was also a laundry service so I was doing my laundry as the staff did other people's. There were a few other self-serves so I didn't feel too weird. I had to wait around to put in the detergent and I decided to just wait out the full cycles. Once the wash was done it was over to the dryers. It took about 20 minutes to dry my clothes to damp-dry. Then I brought everything home and hung it on the drying rack that I am now so glad I didn't throw out. It was a pain the ass because the rack is big and took up about half the free floor space in my tiny studio. All in all, it was fairly miserable.

The following Monday I nervously put my self-service pile in my laundry bag and walked up my block to a laundry service. I was mostly scared of not getting everything back...not really sure why. The store was operated by two women. I told them there were two loads in the bag and asked them to bleach my whites. I also had a few dry cleaning items. They gave me a ticket and told me I could pick up my laundry later that day, dry cleaning the next day. Same day for laundry? Really? OK.

After work I picked up my laundry. When I got to my apartment I opened the bag and my clean clothes were wrapped inside a bag. And amazingly, they had made everything the same rectangular shape. Even my socks. It was like they had put my clothes through a haybaler to get the shape. It was kind of awesome! I would pick up an item and it would open back out to it's natural shape. My first fear of things missing was qualmed after a quick survey of the items. My next fear was shrinkage. Luckily my clothes seemed to have been spared. I missed my normal laundry smell of mountain spring detergent and Bounty drying sheets but the clothes smelled clean and I guess that's all that matters.

The final tally: laundromat cost $17.50 and was a pain in the ass. Laundry service caused $14.50 for laundry and $3.50 for dry cleaning and was easy. The decision was made: I'm using the laundry service from now on. This is probably why there is only one laundromat in my neighborhood.

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