Launderers in Their Natural Habitat

My apartment complex has the cheapest laundry facilities on the block. That’s good and bad. The bad part involves everyone on the block using the laundry facilities. Doing laundry can be a real pain due to the crowds. The difficulty is exacerbated by people who do not remove their laundry promptly. My response is usually to do my laundry early in the morning or late at night.

I have made a solemn vow that I will not be part of the tardy removal problem. I show up before the machine finishes its cycle so I am ready to wrangle my laundry as soon as it is ready.

This means I spend a few minutes waiting in the laundry room. Normally I just lean against a wall or stand by the machine I’m waiting on, but occasionally I sit on a shelf that lines one of the walls (it’s entertaining to try to hold still enough to allow the lights—which are powered by a motion detector—to turn off, it takes absolute stillness and a prolonged absence of other launderers to make it happen, in three years of attempting the feat I have only accomplished it once).

For some reason many people are completely oblivious to my presence when I’m on that shelf (even when I’m not holding still). I have no idea why, for when you enter the room you look right at it. But people must tune it out. Last week the cloak of invisibility allowed me to witness two humans in their natural habitat, unaware they had an audience. It was a late night.

Human 1. A middle-aged guy in a good mood. As he folded his laundry he was dancing a little jig. He also was singing about folding his laundry as he folded it. Some in English, some in what I believe was Hindi. It was a rambling operatic song, simply stating what he was doing (So I fold the shirt, so neat and clean, so I fold the shirt). Suddenly without warning he switched from opera to rap. His rapping was bad but very entertaining (is this denim? what? what?). In the middle a tribute to a pair of socks he turned and saw me. We made eye contact. He showed no embarrassment at all. I showed no amusement. He finished up folding his laundry and went quietly. After he left I laughed.

Human 2. About ten minutes later, a middle-aged guy who reminded me of Danny McBride walked in. He entered the room with his head down, looking tired. His phone beeped, he looked at a text message. Whatever it said was not good. He stood in front of the dryer he was waiting on and crafted creative curses directed at someone (I assume the person who sent the message) and a situation (I assume whatever the message was regarding). In the throes of his angst he put his fists on the dryer and banged his head against it (not very hard). Upon doing this he turned around, walked outside and lit up a cigarette. While smoking outside he noticed me through the window, when he returned he was quiet.

One thing I feel I should mention is that I was not trying to avoid being seen. I was wearing a red Temple Owls jacket and a red Phillies hat against a white backdrop. When people entered the laundry room I was swinging my legs and randomly kicking the side of the shelf. I even cleared my throat a couple of times for good measure. Never underestimate the potential of a human to be oblivious.

Doing laundry late at night is entertaining.

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