Graphic of washing machine
By Rory O’Connor

I’ve lived in Shaker for many years, in two single-family homes and three apartment buildings. The building I’m in now is quite nice – the management efficient and responsive, the neighborhood pleasant and attractive, and my fellow tenants friendly and courteous. And really, that pretty much describes my overall experience in all three buildings.

But apartment life is not for everyone because you cannot take for granted the everyday chores that one performs almost without thinking in a single-family home.

I’m talking about laundry.

Maybe you’ve noticed, but there are no laundromats in Shaker. And the dry cleaners here don’t do wash-and-fold, whereby your laundry is done for you, my preferred method. I know because I’ve checked.

So unless you find a newer building with washers/dryers in the units, you’re in for doing your wash in the basement, or else in a little room on the floor you live on. I’ve lived under both systems. Need I point out that neither is ideal for anyone who hates wasting time washing clothes?

For the floor-by-floor system, the general practice is for the building manager to post a grid, usually hand-drawn, in the laundry room. This grid looks much like a calendar, with the days of the week and the hours of the day in columns. Tenants on that floor are supposed to put a check mark next to the days and times when they want to do their wash.

The first building I lived in had this system. It worked maybe half the time. The other half of the time, the aggravation wasn’t so much that someone was poaching my time, which they were, or that their clothes were just sitting in the washer, wet and gooey – it was that the clothes would remain there for hours, sometimes an entire day.

Dark thoughts would plague me.

“Just throw them on the floor,” said the building manager, an Englishman, who was suspicious of me anyway due to my lack of furniture. “Or put them in the bloody dryer.” Both really bad choices, since I would have to use the dryer myself. Another building I was considering some years later had the same system. The unit for rent was on the third floor, and the laundry room had the typical chart, but it was completely filled – by the same tenant – except for Sundays. Church time?

“Oh, it’s just a nice old woman,” the manager, a Scotswoman, said. “Don’ worry about it, no one else does.” Yeah, that’s what you think….

The other system, the basement system, sometimes is not much better – if there are not enough machines for the building’s population, there will be all sorts of trouble. To wit: The first basement-system place I lived in had two washers, two dryers, and about 25 tenants. One of them was a Starbucks barista, who would wash half a dozen or more aprons at a time and, yes, leave them in, wet and soggy. For days.

“Throw ‘em on the floor,” said the manager, a Clevelander, “or just stick ‘em in the dryer.” Which, this time, I did. And paid to dry them. And kept one. I still have it, all these years later. Yes, I know the barista had to pay for it. But so did I. And I still happily use it. There’s an old saying in Zen Buddhism that goes, “After the ecstasy, the laundry.” And vice-versa.

Originally published in Shaker Life, Summer 2018.