Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Horror.....The Horror....

I have seen the Pit of Doom, and its name is LAUNDROMAT.

Back on October 26, 1858, a patent for a clothes washer was issued to a fellow named Hamilton Smith. And on June 7, 1892 a patent for a clothes dryer was granted to George T. Sampson. Here we are, over a century later, and we honestly take these home appliances for granted. Seldom do we give them a second thought. That is, until one of them craps out on you.

I have a washer & dryer, like most people. In fact, I checked with the Energy Information Administration and they claimed that 95% of American single-family homes have a washer and 90% have a dryer. However in multi-family homes (ie: apartments) it’s only 32% and 27% respectively, and in mobile homes it was 85% and 76% respectively. My dryer is fairly new, only two years old, but the heater element died this week and needs to be replaced. Not a catastrophe but still a pain in the ass. I had planned to just go to Ace Hardware, get a new element, and replace it myself, but the nice folks we bought it from said it was still under warranty and that they’d call their contracted repair guy to come out, warning us that admittedly he was a bit backlogged.

Okay, that was 4 days ago. And with no dryer the only recourse available was to wash the clothes at the house and then head to a laundromat with bags of wet clothes. Not what you really want to do on a Saturday night, but options were limited and the clothes needed to get done. And since nothing is ever as easy or as simple in the Execution Phase as they are in the Planning Phase, you know it couldn’t be an easy operation, right?

We have four ‘mats here in Walterboro, and the best logical choice was the one we knew for sure was open 24/7. Heading off to Option 1, I was a bit surprised to find it empty except for one person, who completely ignored us like we were invisible when we walked in. This place doesn’t use the usual quarters in the machines; instead you purchase a card that works like an ATM card, sliding into a card reader slot in the washers and dryers. This ensures that no one can just walk in and use a change machine to get quarters and just leave. You’re stuck with this card that works nowhere else in the known universe, making you a hostage to this establishment. The reason why this place was deserted? No cards. That’s right, kids. Both of the card dispenser-vending thingies had hand-scribbled signs that said “Out Of Cards”. A Saturday night, a weekend, when people do laundry, and they let this place run dry? Morons. Well, shit oh dear, we’re buggered. Now where to go? Off to Option 2.

Option 2 was looking pretty dark inside. Uh-oh; bad juju. Option 2 was closed and had been for about 2 and half hours. Off to Option 3, which was even darker, as it looked like it went outta business sometime about the mid-1880’s. This left us Option 4, the one Crys said was in a slightly unsavory location and a bit run-down. Great. Of course, this was provided that Option 4 was even open.

Lo and behold, the last place we wanted to go was the only place open. From the outside it looked as if we were pulling up to a bunker in downtown Beirut, a dimly-lit block structure surrounded by dilapidated old houses, none of which were lit up at all. Not even streetlights worked here. Oh, man, this was gonna be fun. We walked in to recon the place & see if anything worked. I felt like I was stepping into early 1970, with old beat up machines, cracked floor tiles, moldy ceiling tiles, rust stains on the walls, and this old guy with no teeth watching boxing on a small TV mounted in a wooden box from the ceiling. A second TV a few feet away was showing Ultimate Fighting Challenge cage matches. The two shows were competing with each other volume-wise, making for a confusing cacophony heard overtop the tumbling dryers.

There were two customers, a young fellow quietly folding his clothes who helped us with operating instructions for the dryers, and his friend, who never spoke except into his phone. Looking around, I half expected Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard from Apocalypse Now to surface from inside a washer. That’s how dark & dank this place was. Where was Colonel Kilgore to tell me the smell of mildew and Tide in the morning smelled like Victory? At one point I looked down and had to grab Crys’ sleeve to tug her out of the way of a massive palmetto bug that looked like it owned the place. Uber-Roach exploded with a mighty pop as my shoe showed him who was higher up the food chain. Cruel? Maybe, but I’ll risk the Karma damage to not share my immediate environment with a pestilence the size of a house cat. For the rest of the time we were there, Crys was so skeeved out by the roach incident that she kept checking her flip-flop-clad feet for visitors.

I had to remind myself that I was not in an inner-city Greyhound station at 3AM. Fewer people and no stench of urine, though for amusement I nudged the bathroom door open at Crys' request and peered into a Third World hell that under NO circumstances would I ever use. Not even amoebic dysentery or the Marburg virus would have put me near that toilet. Sadly, poor Crys needed to go, and nothing short of a rupture of her internal organs was gonna even get her near the door.

An hour later and five bucks in quarters poorer, we took our clothes and went home. I was left hoping that the repair guy comes soon so as to avoid this again, and was also left thinking a new element is no more than 20 bucks and I can install it myself. If I have to make another trip here to this place, that’ll be 10 bucks gone, plus gas, so it’s not saving me any money waiting on the factory guy. Is it worth voiding my 3-year/36,000 load warranty to do it myself? Quite likely.

For those of you who have to use the laundromat every week, I feel your pain. Readers, don’t ever take your laundry appliances for granted. You too may one day witness The Horror….The Horror…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like it ... takes me back to those days of college when you couldn't leave your clothes unattended for fear someone would toss a massive wad of bubble gum in your dryer that still had 35 mins to go.