New York Tip #5: Some Things Are Worth Paying For

I do not enjoy the repetition of seemingly insignificant tasks. Laundry is a prime example. I can’t think of a chore I loathe more.

In the city, “doing your laundry” typically means you have to lug a heavy pile of dirty underwear and dresses down the street. You don’t have a car, and your mesh hamper is always on the brink of ripping apart. (But that’s your own fault because you haven’t replaced it since college.)

Then, you start sorting your apparel in a dingy room, complete with soul-sucking florescent lights and other people’s dirty underwear. It’s usually stuffy and crowded on the weekends, so try to make your trips at random times, like a Tuesday night post-happy hour.

Once you’ve crammed all your laundry into one washer with both hands and maybe a foot, fish out 12 quarters and hope you’ve done your math appropriately. NO, I see you! Don’t bother sorting your colors from your whites, my dear. You’ll be here all day, and these industrial washers make your laundry sixty shades of gray anyway.

$1.75 for a 20-minute wash seems about right. So toss in the quarters—one will always get stuck—and then consider what other chores you can do for that odd period of allotted time. Going home is a waste of movement, as it takes five minutes to get there and five minutes to get back. Looks like it’s time for another coffee at the café nearby?

Ok! You’ve refueled and you’re feeling fine—this terrible process is halfway done. Now, wrangle one of those huge metal carts used for taking your clothes from the washer to the dryer. Scout out the territory and walk with confidence. Fight off the angry old bat who smells strongly of cat pee. Procure your wet laundry’s vehicle with authority!

As you pull your clothing out of the washer, one of your bras will inevitably fall to the floor.
Throw the old thing out?
Rewash it? (No.)
Just shrug and stick the now dusty garment into the cart with your clean clothes.
A little dirt never hurt.

Squeak, squeak, squeak.

Roll the cart across the aisle and examine the wall of endlessly tumbling dryers. Someone else has also just finished their wash cycle—you can hear the squeak of their cart approaching.

And then disaster strikes.
Full dryer, full dryer, full dryer…
All the machines are taken.
You will have to wait.
We don’t like to WAIT.

But what’s this… ah, do you see it? In the far-left corner there’s a perfectly empty machine, glimmering in the distance. It's the trophy your hard labor deserves.

Sq-sq-sq-squeak! Sq-sq-sq-squeak!

The other Washed Woman has also spotted the dryer. Move, my friend. Act fast! This is now a race you cannot lose! Being damned to the laundromat with a cart of wet clothing and waiting in dryer limbo is one of New York’s worst punishments. This, and being grazed by a rat. 

Your cart is slightly ahead of the other woman’s so lock in and push fast. Past the crying baby, past the women watching a soap opera. You roll over the forgotten towel on the floor—speed bump!—and squeak your way into first place. Washed Woman closes in behind you, but don’t turn around; don’t engage. Put your damp clothes in that dryer and mark your territory like a dog peeing on a mailbox.

Victory is yours! Yes, you might feel a little out of breath. You heart is racing and there’s sweat on your brow, but the extreme anxiety you’re feeling only makes you more successful in your pursuit for moderately clean clothing.  

Doing laundry in the city is its own specific type of hustle. I can only imagine what urban mothers must endure—those heaps of clothing I see on Instagram are panic-inducing.

This, my friends, is why I now utilize the drop off service. I still walk to the laundromat with my college hamper, but no longer do I engage in cart competitions. Some other kind soul washes and folds my wardrobe. I am a seasoned New Yorker, therefore, I know the extra $8 is worth my mental stability. The same rules apply for $10 late-night Ubers. 

And if I had a psychiatrist, I’m sure she’d advise the same.

I haul my laundry to this little street in Brooklyn. 

I haul my laundry to this little street in Brooklyn. 

New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it: Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.
— John Steinbeck

Editor's Note: This is real life.