I’m forty-seven years old and I’ve never owned a washing machine. Once I moved out of my parents’ house life was one Laundromat after another. When I think of all the quarters I dropped into washing machines of dubious sanitary quality I probably could’ve bought several of them. And when I add up the time spent carting laundry bags up and down stairs, driving, parking and watching my clothes dry I estimate I lost a few years of my life in those coin operated establishments.
It wasn’t a complete waste of time, however. During my misspent young adulthood I developed what I called “Laundromat-Fu” – a warrior code for people who rely on public laundry establishments. I submit my hard won wisdom for your perusal.
The Art of Laundromat-Fu
(aka “The Way of the Broke Ass Warrior”)
1) Never go on Saturday. Why torture yourself?
2) Pre-sort your laundry at home.
3) Park close to the Laundromat. Hauling bags of laundry several blocks sucks. Swipe a spot from an old lady if you have to. I almost got into a fistfight over this once.
4) Use the biggest machines in the place. You’ll save time and money.
5) The moment you walk into the place, claim those big machines by throwing a couple of clothes into them. Then go to your car and get the rest of your laundry. That never made me popular.
6) The security settings on the change machines are set ridiculously high because Laundromat owners are terrified of getting stuck with counterfeit bills. Last time I checked the North Koreans weren’t printing portraits of George Washington in Pyongyang. After years getting mocked by machines spitting back my money I learned to bring my own quarters.
7) Never use a Laundromats that require a “coin card” to run the machines. Ever notice how there’s always just a little bit of money left over on the card? That ain’t an accident. It’s a global conspiracy.
8) Reserve a folding table by piling all your laundry bags on it. Again, never made me popular.
9) Never leave your laundry detergent unattended. It’ll get stolen and sold to a bodega for crack.
10) Bring your clothes into the Laundromat in a vinyl bag. You can stuff the bejesus out of those things. But take your laundry home in those nice blue bags from IKEA. That way your neatly folded clothes won’t shift during the trip home and get wrinkled.
11) Never leave those IKEA bags unattended. They’ll go missing the moment you turn your head.
12) Always bring an MP3 player so you can tune people out. Laundromats are filled with crazies who’ll jaw your ear off talking about their life of woe or that strange rash on their ass. I’ve been paid to deal with mentally ill people and I refuse to talk to them for free.
13) There’s always a cadre of freelancers in Laundromats getting paid to do other peoples’ laundry. If you’ve ever seen two women washing an infantry battalion’s worth of clothes you know what I mean. Not only do they cut into the establishment’s wash and fold profits, they hog every machine in the place. “Sorry Olga. I don’t care about your little side business. The super large dryer is mine.”
14) If you see these aforementioned people loading up the machines, make sure you get your washing machine into gear first – that way you can get to the dryers and folding tables before they do. That’s when pre-sorting your clothes and having your own quarters pays off.
15) Reserve a laundry cart by placing your coat in it. Otherwise you’ll never find one.
16) Always fold your clothes before you leave. Otherwise it’ll never get done.
17) Sweet talk the harridan running the Laundromat. Buy her coffee. That way, when your machine eats your money and refuses to work, she’ll look kindly on you.
18) Never try and pick up women in a Laundromat. Skid marks are not an aphrodisiac.
19) Never get a strange woman’s panties mixed in with your laundry. Wives and girlfriends freak out when they find them – especially if they’re much smaller and nicer than the ones they wear.
20) Never back down. Never surrender.
Of course I wanted to buy a washing machine and avoid all this nonsense but none of the places I ever lived in allowed me to have one. My apartments were either too small or the landlords refused to let me hook one up. So whenever I visited my parents’ house in Pennsylvania I would always bring several bags of dirty clothes to take advantage of the “free” laundry facilities. But when you hit forty that gets kind of embarrassing. Today, however, everything changed.
At 9:00 AM a delivery truck rolled up to my house and three men installed a brand new washer and dryer in my basement. Since my wife and I are both veterans of the Laundromat wars we splurged on the best models we could find – computerized energy and water efficient front loaders that require a degree from MIT to operate. After tipping the installers handsomely I couldn’t wait for them to leave and put my first load of clothes in the wash. The machines had settings for every dirt level and fabric imaginable. As I peered at the luminous dials I felt like Robin Williams in that scene from Moscow on the Hudson. Endless choices! As my hands trembled over the controls I thought about knocking back a few vodkas to calm down.
When I turned the machine on I was amazed how quiet it was. When I was a kid our old washing machine was a fearsome and temperamental beast. If you didn’t load your clothes exactly the right way it would rattle, roar and end up on the other side of the basement. Disasters were frequent. But not my new machine! When it began spinning like a centrifuge separating U-235 it barely vibrated and the clothes came out nearly dry. Best of all, my underwear didn’t spend any time marinating in an anonymous human being’s juices.
As I waited for the dryer to do its job I sat in my living room drinking coffee and watching CNN. I no longer had to fight over machines and parking spots, outmaneuver semi-pro laundrywomen, hunt for quarters, reserve carts or sweat my detergent getting swiped. Today I laid down my sword. I no longer need Laundromat-Fu. I am landed gentry.
Today I became the Shogun of Suds.
” I probably could of bought several” should read “could HAVE”.
Sorry – one of my pet peeves.
Wow…. I never even thought about you not having a washer/dryer in your new house! How on earth did your survive having a newborn and toddler without one up until now????????? I swear the kids force me to run the washer an extra time every week for some gross reason! 🙂
Hilarious piece! Congrats on all that free time. Enjoy!
Yo homes! Welcome to washing machine at home time! Though, I do use the laundromat every so often – most recently to wash my son’s sleeping bag as well as a king sized comforter. I lived in apartments where they had limited machines for the building and did the Saturday night laundromat thang. Having people’s kids aim toys at my head while I read really made me hate the ‘mat.
Congratulations. Truly. You were probably more of a warrior than I ever was, but if I’d had to use laundromats as long as you I’d probably be doing the wash in a hockey mask just for effect.
That said, the time will come, occasionally when “the laundry monster” (that looming pile in the hamper) gets so big that a couple of loads in the super-jumbo at Laundro World are the only way to slay it quickly.
Actually, one of the most successful counterfeiters in American history made $1 bills. And they were lousy copies. ‘Washington’ was misspelled, the paper he used was nothing special. But when did anyone look at a $1?
Turns out he was a old geezer who, whenever he needed a couple of bucks, he’s pull out his hand press and print a few.
There’s a movie, pretty good, about him. I believe the title is ‘Mr. 888″
I’d forgotten about people in US apartments not having washing machines. Is it a front or top loader? You should put a photo of it on Waiterrant.
For stuff you don’t want to tumble dry (for me, anything that isn’t sheets, towels or underwear), a dehumidifier is super useful.
Just finished reading Waiter Rant.
What an awesome, insightful and comical read!
I worked retail and retail management for 14 years and since as a Registered Nurse. Dealing with the public can be a thankless job but, I can’t imagine the horror of hungry patrons!
Thanks for the insight and laughs!
XO ❤ Maria
Just finish reading your book and love it.
Found your blog and the first one is about laundromat. It makes me smile because my dad used to own a laundromat on Atlantic Avenue. I still remember the customers fighting over dryers.
Oh great guru of the Internet, your writings have helped me kill time. May you live long and prosper.
Just seen this article – even though it was published some time ago, it just came on to my FB feed…. thought you might like it Steve 🙂
Some other LKF (Laundromat Kung Fu for you):
) Before loading the machines, always examine the interior of the both the washing machine and dryer as if you work for CSI. There was a spate of people leaving old biros in them where I used to go.
) Arrive early, but not too early. You’ll get the most efficient drying time from a dryer that has just finished being used 😉
) Watch other’s experiences carefully -you’ll see which machines are cleanest, spin dry the best and don’t turn your wash into beige colored ribbons
) Never, ever use the detergent available at the laundromat. It is useless, overpriced and will destroy the colors in your wash
I particularly like the hint about smooth talking the person operating the site. However (in the UK), laundromats are often only visited by an operator when they are opened or closed for the day. They are often run down and vaguely creepy places. In one establishment I went to in Preston, I watched as the drum spindle failed on one machine. Its contents were ejected into room at high speed. The poor elderly owner, stood helpless as the device ground her smalls into oblivion while sparks and smoke filled interior of the demoniacally possessed device. I grabbed my clothes, left and have never been back.
Thanks for the memory 🙂
I just finished “Waiter Rant”! I just want you to know how much I loved everything about the book, Dude! “The waiter who came in from the cold” just hit me, out of nowhere, & it put me at ease about writers’ block panic. Thank you!
Im going to follow this rules.
This rules are deffo getting followed, thanks!