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.

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