Monday, Laundry Monday
December 9, 2008
6:35 PM: There is something tenuous about Monday nights. I can’t quite place it, but they always seem to either be the aggressive instigator of a really long week, or a quick trailblazer that drag the other days of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and finally Friday away in a flash, as if they have somewhere better to be. I have just finished making a pan of what promises to be delicious Japanese curry. My mouth waters mercilessly as I ladle the thick curry sauce onto bowls of steamed rice. Just as I finish, my phone rings. It’s my wife, Shannon. I know this cannot be good, and not because I don’t enjoy the melodious voice, or the unexpected turns of humor that she will drop into a conversation when I least expect it. I know this cannot be good because she left the apartment less than 90 seconds ago to move our laundry from the washers to the dryers.
“What’s up?” I say. “I can’t get the door open,” she says.
“I’ll be there in a second,” I say. Then I take the bowls of curry and place them in the microwave to keep them warm while I make a short jaunt over to help Shannon push the door open.
The on-site laundromat is a 60 second walk down the stairs and across the parking lot from our apartment door. It’s situated on a little grassy area, surrounded by evergreens on one side, and smashed up behind the unsightly, vanilla-colored rear of a thrift-store on the other. As I approach, I remark on how the door seemed fine when we put the clothes in the washers. I brace my shoulder against the door, place the key in the knob, and turn. The door is solid. I give the door some concentrated shoves, even going as far as to kick the door. No movement. I try to turn the knob, and as I do so, find that with little effort I can spin the door knob around 360 degrees in place. Those who use doors regularly will take note that this is not a regular occurrence. I note this as well, because the knob makes a grinding noise on the inner wood of the door.
“What are we going to do?” says Shannon. She is not what you would call a basket-case, but this is a question I hear often from her. She reminds me that we need our clothes. I do not disagree with her sentiment. And so, together we walk to the on-site manager’s apartment and knock on the door. “Sorry to bother you,” I say, “but the laundry room door refuses to open.” He sighs and tells us he will be there in a moment.
6:40 PM: When he arrives, we see him do much the same things as me. He turns the knob, but stronger than I did, ignoring the grinding sound. He kicks the door, but stronger than I dared to. He mutters under his breath, but with words that may have been stronger than I would have thought appropriate for the situation. Strength wins the day. The door is made to open, and Shannon and I enter, relieved that we can move our wet clothes to the dryers. So ends our troubles for the evening…
6:45 PM: I am on my knees, reaching into the dryer and fishing through wet clothes for a pair of Shannon’s nylons that aren’t supposed to be machine dried, when the manager remarks that the dryer I’ve placed the wet load in doesn’t function so well, and that the clothes will probably still be wet when I’m done. He insists on handing me a few quarters to run it again later. We pocket the change, then grab the clothes and begin moving them to a functioning, empty dryer. As we do so, the manager points out that we shouldn’t have anymore problems with the door, and to prove it to us, turns the knob a few times. Then he steps out and closes the door.
6:47 PM: We’re putting the finishing touches on the laundry, and turning the dryers on, when the doorknob rattles. It’s the manager again. I hear him kick the door. I walk over to let him in, but while the doorknob turns, the door doesn’t open. It occurs to me that this is not a good sign. I can hear the manager shouting something, but can’t make it out over the dull rumble of the dryers. I open the window next to the door. “It won’t open from this side,” I say. He groans. He pounds and kicks the door repeatedly. The same strength that opened the door previously, seems no longer to have any effect. “Okay,” he says sliding up to the window, “I’m going to slide the key to the utility closet under the door. Find a screwdriver and take off the knob.”
Invigorated with a new sense of purpose and eager to display my handymanship, I leap to the supply closet. It opens readily. I find a suitable screwdriver and leap back to the unscrupulous door. I take out the two screws of the faceplate, and hand them to Shannon. The knob does not come off, and neither the manager nor I know quite how to actually take it off. I walk to the window. “Ummmmm,” I say.
7:00 PM: “Okay,” the manager says. He thinks for a moment. “You know what? Get a hammer.”
My heart immediately sinks. It’s come to this. We’ve moved beyond reason, and beyond our advanced intellect. Within only a few minutes, we’ve run out of ideas and out of solutions. I walk back to the supply closet, and look for the hammer. The shelves of tools, the water heater, the bags of more tools, the bags of fertilizer, the bags of salt and the lawn-care tools become oppressive. I step over the toolbox into the center of the supply closet. I spin around, confronted by a million secret hiding places. I am swimming in tools. No. The door won’t open, and metal bars cover the front of the windows like iron fingers. I am swimming among the artifacts of my tomb. And what’s more, I can’t find the hammer. I CAN’T FIND THE HAMMER!
“Did you find it yet?” Shannon says as she walks in. She looks down at the toolbox. “It’s right here.” She pulls the hammer out of the toolbox and hands it to me.
7:15 PM: The hammer didn’t work. We’ve even tried taking the hinges off the door. Unfortunately, two out of three doesn’t do it when you’re trying to take off the door by its hinges. The door was given a fresh coat of white paint two weeks earlier and whoever did it decided to paint the hinges over as well. The top hinge is now sealed somehow. I have in my possession two screws, a mini-screwdriver broken while trying to pop out the hinges, a second, larger screwdriver, a tiny Allen wrench, the key to the supply closet, and lint from the dryers. None of these seem of any use now. The manager is outside beating at the doorknob with the hammer. We passed it to him through the bars after he cut a hole in the screen with his keys.
I imagine, months from now, the manager will show our replacements around the complex. “Don’t mind the screaming and scratching noises from our conveniently located laundry facility,” he’ll say. “It’s just a couple of tenants that got trapped inside. Want to watch me feed them?”
7:20 PM: Two minutes ago, we had a stroke of luck, and used the tiny Allen wrench to press an equally tiny button which allowed us take off the knob. We removed the faceplate again, and the manager pulled out the whole doorknob/locking mechanism. Unfortunately, our luck is short lived. The shaft from the internal body of the mechanism that actually keeps the door closed has detached and is lodged tight in place. No amount of beating with a hammer, fiddling with a screwdriver, or tickling with a finger can convince it to free us from our laundromat prison.
Worn out, frustrated, and disillusioned, our manager whispers through the hole in the door that he is going to make a phone call. He draws his cell phone from his pocket and, while dialing, nudges the shaft with the screwdriver. It falls out. The manager, Shannon and I stand in stunned silence as the door swings casually open, as if to say, in a bored, adolescent tone, “What?”
7:30 PM: We pull the bowls of curry rice from the microwave, and note that they’ve cooled. It is to be expected after almost an hour. We place them back in the microwave, and chuckle as our curry is radiated back to a palatable temperature. We sit on the couch, bless the food, and then savor the curry rice as it slides from our spoons into our mouths. It is not merely the taste of the curry that is savory though, it is the flavor of freedom.