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Monday March 10, 2003, 02:41

In the world that is my apartment building during the day, I am most certainly a rookie.

I work from home. I am (or at least, my card claims that I am) a "consultant," which, in this case, means that I wake up, roll out of bed, stagger to my desk, and start typing away at my computer1. This schedule is normally broken up with a read of the morning paper and a bowl of cereal and, when I'm lucky, a trip to the laundry room down the hall. This laundry room has one washing machine and one dryer, both of which do their respective jobs very well and which are fairly reasonably priced. They are both often very, very occupied.

I would have thought that the middle of the day would be the safest time to head to the washer and dryer, leisurely sorting darks from light and running cycle after cycle. What this assumption would not have taken into account would be the vulture-like housekeepers who inhabit this building while the tenants are away. I do not have a housekeeper. I would like to say that I don't need one, but I suppose the more accurate thing to say would be that I don't really know what I would do with one, nor do I think that I could live with myself if I hired one. Mostly I don't think that I'd be able to manage with another person wandering around the apartment once a week. Regardless, there are plenty of other households in this building that do find it in their lifestyles and pocketbooks to place in their employ the keepers of house. And these keepers are vicious.

I will decide to do my laundry. Perhaps it is the stray sock sitting on the couch or simply the realization that clothing has been piling up and the collection of clean clothing is dwindling dangerously close to my collection of (gasp) white shirts, which I avoid like the plague. I gather the clothing, sorting into light and dark. Well, black and grey, mostly. I grab a fist of quarters and the detergent and head to my front door when I hear the ding of the service elevator, the shuffle of feet, and the slamming of the washer and before I can even turn the knob to enter the hall, the washer has already started its forty-two minute wash cycle which I will, inevitably, miss the end of.

So I wait. I wait for the washer and dryer to be free again and, taking the prepared clothing collection up in my arms, head to the hall where I am finally able to begin washing my clothes (dark, most likely). Forty-five minutes later, I remember the recently completed wash cycle and head into the laundry room, pocket heavy with quarters, only to find my clothing already (already!) piled on top of the dryer and another forty-two minute cycle already begun on the washer.

They cheat, you see. I am not only competing with others from my floor, but rather an army of housekeepers from the entire building, all poised to remove my clothing as soon as the spinning drum begins to slow. I swear they must be wired into the central laundry monitoring network2 that will alert them the moment a machine becomes free in the building. I have no other explanation.

I'm trying to be better. First, I'm trying to remember when I actually have clothing stuck in the machines, so I am able to better coordinate my wash-dry-wash sequence without letting another player sneak in before I am able to play my second hand. Second, I'm thinking about installing a second lock on the door to the laundry room. Or maybe a trip wire.

Damn them. Damn them all.



1. So I just rearranged my desk today. This represents a major change for me as it places my laptop solidly in the middle of the desk, occupying the "center seat" as it was, and allowing it to exert its dominance over the rest of the computers. The Dell has been relegated to the corner where it sits, off, until such time as I will need a really big monitor. The Powerbook is just quieter, you see. The old Mac, well that guy is just old and tired. Headless now, he sits as a stand for the scanner connected to the spry young laptop. Truth be told, however, the laptop began to show signs of aging at a job last week wherein I was privileged to toy around with a brand new laptop. Soon enough it might be time to send this one out to pasture as well.

2. I think one of these actually exists at a college (MIT probably) where students are able to monitor the activity in the laundry room to save them the trouble of schleping all the way down only to find that the lacrosse team has decided to wash all of its jerseys at the same time.

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