Friday, May 18, 2007

"A Clothes Call"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Every time I write about something that happens in our house, which I do almost every time I write about something, my wife says I am airing the family’s dirty laundry. This time I am really doing it because our dryer died recently and my wife sent me to the Laundromat with – you guessed it – the family’s dirty laundry.

Actually, it was the family’s clean laundry because the washing machine was still working. But the clothes were all wet, just like me, so I had to take them to a nearby establishment to run them through a couple of huge dryers, which, also like me, were full of hot air.

Because this might have made me a basket case, my wife kindly gave me a basket, in which she had put the color clothes, and a large shopping bag, in which she had put the whites. "Don’t mix them up," she said as she handed me a bunch of quarters and sent me on my way.

When I arrived at the Laundromat, I discovered a world where life is cyclical: Some people had their clothes in the wash cycle, others in rinse, still others in dry. I skipped the first two and went straight to the dryers, which were lined up in a long row, two deep, on the left side of the place. Each was big enough to swallow a full-grown man. Fortunately, most men don’t go to the Laundromat, and those who do probably couldn’t figure out how to run a dryer after falling in, so there were no casualties.

After I put the color clothes in Dryer No. 13 and the whites in Dryer No. 14, I struck up a conversation with Mary Ann, the co-manager of the Laundromat, who was folding clothes for a customer who had dropped off his laundry, not only because he didn’t have time to do it, but also because – and this was the main reason – he didn’t know how to do it.

"Some men are completely helpless," said Mary Ann, a friendly, witty, middle-age woman who declined to give her last name but who did say that she has one husband, four sons and a daughter.

"I do laundry for all of them," said Mary Ann, who performs the same service for many of her customers. "At least they pay me. My husband and kids don’t," said Mary Ann, adding that men aren’t the only ones who need help. "I do laundry for wives and college students, too," she said. "Girls in college don’t do their laundry because they’re princesses."

The most extreme example was a student whose mother went to the Laundromat for her every week, then drove five hours to return the clean clothes to her daughter at college and pick up the next load of dirty laundry. "I told this mother that she was out of her mind," Mary Ann recalled. "I asked her to give me her daughter’s name because I wanted to make sure that none of my sons ever marries her."

Then there were two guys who came into the Laundromat so they could have cocktails. "They would sit in the back and mix drinks," Mary Ann said. "They drank vodka and Hawaiian Punch. I told them they couldn’t stay here unless they had clothes to wash, so the next time they came in with vodka, Hawaiian Punch and a basket of laundry. At least these guys were clean."

The biggest problem Mary Ann has encountered at the Laundromat is what she calls the Mystery of the Missing Sock. It’s a subject that was made famous about 40 years ago by Erma Bombeck, but it still, according to Mary Ann, is baffling. "No one knows where the mates go," she said. "A lot of my customers claim the dryers eat them, but I am not taking responsibility."

When my clothes were dry, Mary Ann gave me a lesson in folding, which she said is the hardest part of doing laundry. "Underwear is the worst for most people," she said. As for socks, or at least those that are still in pairs, "Don’t put the top of one inside the top of the other because you’ll wear out the elastic," advised Mary Ann, who sent me on my way with a big smile and a basket and a bag full of perfectly folded clothes.

My wife was impressed, although I admitted that I had some help. Still, she won’t mind if this time, I air the family’s clean laundry.

Copyright 2007 by Jerry Zezima

Saturday, May 5, 2007

"Moving Pains"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

As loving and devoted parents who would do anything for our two daughters except pay their cell phone bills, my wife and I can honestly say that over the years, we have had many moving experiences with our children. The latest one occurred recently when we had to help our younger daughter, Lauren, move into a new apartment.

I am at the age, which is listed on my driver’s license as "old enough to know better," where I shouldn’t be lifting anything heavier than a bottle of beer. That’s what I needed after lifting a couch, a couple of bureaus, a bedspring, a mattress, a kitchen table, a hutch and other massive items that collectively weighed as much as either my car or Luciano Pavarotti, whichever is more.

My wife, Sue, who is exactly my age and half my size but is in much better shape, which isn’t saying much because some dead people are in better shape than I am, contributed muscles that get a regular workout from picking up after me.

Lauren was moving because one of her neighbors, a real creep, had given her so much trouble over the past several months that she decided to transfer to another apartment in the complex. Unfortunately, her new place is not far enough away from her old place to have justified renting a truck, which would have made moving the heavy stuff easier, but it’s not close enough to have significantly cut down the number of steps Sue and I had to take while hauling all of Lauren’s worldly possessions.

We stuffed a lot of stuff, which is why it’s called stuff, into the back of my SUV and drove it diagonally across the parking lot, from Apartment No. 66 to Apartment No. 12, where we unstuffed it and, speaking of steps, carried it upstairs.

I forgot to mention, possibly because of a ruptured blood vessel in my head, that Lauren’s old apartment was on the first floor and that her new apartment is on the second floor. This added the maximum amount of exertion to the move. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

In fact, it reminded me of two of the worst moves of my life:

1. The time we moved from an apartment to a condominium that was exactly 23 feet from the back door of the apartment. I must have made a thousand trips back and forth, once just to get a cookie jar. It would have been easier to pack up and move to California.

2. Any time we moved our daughters into and out of college. Four years per girl and two moves per year for each one meant we had to move them 16 times. They both had enough stuff to fill the Taj Mahal. One time, the elevators weren’t working. Every time, I was elected to carry the big stuff. I’m lucky I wasn’t hospitalized, which almost happened anyway after I got the tuition bills.

This latest move, which came less than a year after we moved Lauren out of the house and into her old apartment, had the worst elements of both. What Sue and I couldn’t cram into my car, we carried, slowly and awkwardly, across the parking lot and up the stairs of Lauren’s new place. Once, while lugging a huge box containing cups, saucers and plates, I tripped on the steps and banged my knee. It began to bleed. At least I didn’t fall down the stairs and break my neck.

While carrying a bedspring with Sue, I also sliced my finger. The only thing that held it on was one of Lauren’s Hello Kitty Band-Aids. Sue suffered her share of scrapes and bruises, too. Fortunately, we had help from Mike and Heather, who live next to the jerk who was bothering Lauren, and from Lauren’s friend Stephanie and her boyfriend, also named Mike. Lauren pitched in, too, although mostly she supervised. She was very good at it.

It took 10 hours, from 1 in the afternoon until 11 at night, to move Lauren in, but it was well worth it because her new apartment is bigger and nicer than her old one. It also overlooks the water. Best of all, the cuts and bruises have healed and the aches and pains are gone. And Lauren is very happy.

As for her creepy former neighbor, I have filed a formal complaint against him in the hope that he will be evicted. If he needs help moving, he better not call me.

Copyright 2007 by Jerry Zezima