I lost my job but found the best time to do laundry

By Liz Yank  | September 23, 2010 - 7:13AM

New York City is probably the only place in the United States where a six-figure income does not guarantee possession of an in-home washer/dryer.

In a recent discussion on StreetEasy, a wide majority indicated that they would prefer to add a washer/dryer than a powder room—yes, even if they only had one bathroom

And citing concerns over plumbing not robust enough to handle even the latest low-water high-efficiency machines, pre-real-estate-boom buildings are notoriously strict about permitting residents to install their own washer-dryers.

Some desperate New Yorkers resort to smuggling machines into their apartments. Most of the rest of us just go to the laundry room.

Even though my building is not unduly laundry challenged (we have four washers and dryers for about sixty apartments), I, for one, hated to think about doing laundry because my ability to do it when I wished to was always a gamble. How many hours have you spent waiting for an open washer?  How long has someone else’s semi-damp dainties kept your stuff out of the dryer?  How many worthless trips did you make to the laundry room on Saturdays and Sundays this year alone?

Then came the financial meltdown of 2008-09. I lost my job, but I gained an additional 10 hours per day, five days a week for laundry.  No more paycheck—but no more competing for Sunday afternoon washer space either.

However, the first couple of times I tried to do weekday laundry I came face to face with several unanticipated realities: Elderly ladies, cleaning women and babysitters. Each group presented a hurdle.

The domestic employees started early and tended to leave their clothes in the machines for hours.  The elderly ladies were more meticulous about timing their laundry but age takes its toll one one’s ability to remove clothes  to the folding table in the 3.2 seconds the rest of us would prefer to see it done.

Then one day I stumbled upon THE GOLDEN HOUR.

Technically, it’s two hours.  From 4:30 to 6:30 pm Monday through Friday, all machines were free nine out ten times.   This is the time, I realized, when housekeepers have finished and gone home, babysitters and parents are feeding the kids, elderly ladies are settled in front of the Evening News--and anyone with a day job is either still at the office or just getting home and exhaling.

There are a few exceptions.  Holidays--secular or religious--blow up the Golden Hour completely and can affect the rhythm of laundry for a whole week.  Summer Fridays, when people sometimes sneak out of work early, can lead to some unanticipated competition in the laundry room…so of course can any weather related disruption that has resulted in warnings for people to stay indoors.

(A friend recently shared another tip:  On Friday and Saturday nights, washers and dryers apparently go stag while most people are focused on kindling some romance. And of course, there's always the crack-of-dawn shift any day of the week, though my laundry room is only open from 7 am to midnight.)

I won’t lie. Though I look forward to going back to work someday soon, I do not look forward to rejoining the ranks of weekend launderers.  In fact I think I will consider directing some of that new paycheck toward the luxury of sending my laundry out.

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