The washers and dryers are also located in the basement of my building. When I was a kid, the basement was a kind of mystical land that belonged to the doormen and the staff. They had what I can only imagine was a rec room in the back, and had covered the walls with posters and images and sayings, stickers and photographs of celebrities, and a political poster of George Pataki turning into Rockefeller. There was furniture down there, and christmas lights, and books and mirrors. It was dark and there were only florescent lights, but they had little pull strings to turn them on, at the bottom of which were glow-in-the-dark plastic traffic lights. There were definitely roaches and all the metal boards creaked and banged, but it was a place of wise sayings and interesting nooks. I always thought the basement was neat, and moderately off limits except for the laundry room. It felt almost as though the washers and dryers had grown there like weeds, that no one had planned anything, that it all just kept accumulating.
All this is gone, now, in the new wasp-washed building I apparently now live in. They closed off the back of the laundry room for storage with this ugly partition, and they made the doormen remove all their knick-knacks. The place is bare. They even got rid of the old door at the far end of the basement dividing the doormen's space from the rest of the building, with it's red lights and music. It broke my heart when I looked over one day and discovered the door was gone. I walked to that end of the basement where I'd never been, and walked through where the old door had been and discovered that it wasn't some lounge, but just another area of the basement. It was so sad. Everything is gone. It's just another place to do laundry, a sterile part of this sterile building (which, by the way, will start locking its doors at midnight. For those of us without children in the building who tend to have people over late in the night, this sucks. For those of us who have been here since the crack addicts walked home on mornings before taking carpool to school, it just seems ridiculous - we managed all those years with barely a doormen, and now we have two stationed in the lobby all day, and a locked door and doorman at night. Who are we trying to keep out? The other wasps? I digress...)
So laundry. It's expensive, and now it's kind of boring. But the real kicker is that themachines still require quarters. I have to find seven quarters for wash, plus four or five more for drying, in order for me to get anything clean. That's eleven or twelve quarters! Most people outside of New York have never seen twelve quarters in one place at one time because if you have quarters, you probably spend them since they're worth 25 cents, and that's better than 10 cents or 5 cents. I spent my whole life regarding quarters as gold. When I got to San Francisco, and had a washer and dryer in my house, I still had a lot of trouble parting from them - it's just ingrained that you never ever give up quarters. They should be pried from your cold dead hand.
Today is Sunday. This didn't occur to me until I wanted to do laundry, realized I hadn't collected my weekly quota and would have to go to the bank. Except the bank is closed. Normally I would head over to my parent's house, who still have a stockpile of quarters even though they now do laundry in their apartment. But they're out of town. So I meandered over to the Food Emporium, not knowing if they would give me anything but a dirty look.
"Hi!" I said brightly.
"What do you want?" The cashier answered.
"I was wondering - could I possibly get some quarters."
"As many as you're willing to change," hoping that the joke would lighten the mood.
"I can't change them until you tell me how many you want," displeased and not liking my joke.
"Oh sure. Um... anywhere between $2 and $5...?"
Silently she opened her cash register, and took out $3 in quarters. Then opened up the next roll of $10 and got out $2 more. We exchanged the currency. I smiled.
"Doing laundry?" she asked.
"Yeah. And the bank's closed."
"Yeah," and she smiled. And I left.
And for some reason, it just made me love New York again.