Our old condo had a coin-op laundry. $1/wash, $1/dry. Where “$1/dry” was a misnomer because all your four quarters really bought you was a thousand rotations of the cylinder — maybe an hour’s worth of lukewarm electric heat over your clothes. Or so it would seem. After a couple of weeks (maybe months) we figured out that all coin-op dryers were not in fact created equal. Washers, sure. But one of the two dryers definitely worked better than the other. At first we thought maybe it was a timing thing, like maybe one of them was just calibrated too short and ripped you off.
But on a lucky night (egads, a Friday, we’re such l0s3rz) when we scored them both at once, we loaded up both machines with clothes, loaded them both up with Washington heads, and jammed the levers in sync. Not that we were going to sit there and watch but there was a certain element of empiricism that must be satisfied here. We watched a Sopranos and checked out the dryers afterward, waiting out the last couple minutes. Sure enough, they both hummed their closing remarks at the same time. Or within seconds, “near enough” the same time. Certainly not disparate enough for us to pull one set our warm and dry while the other set was limp and damp. Oddly enough, it was the load of darks, the jeans and sweatshirts that were cozy.
Other factors were clearly at work here.
In the months that followed, we did everything we could to secure the “important” dryer. We’d run loads late at night. We’d yank other folks’ dry-but-untended garments from its gaping maw and litter them on the counters or (if the counters were already full) the floor. It wasn’t superstition. It couldn’t be. We’d seen it with our own eyes. When forced to use that other machine we reluctantly got out the wooden dryer rack, refusing — positively refusing — to spend the extra dollar for dry pants. At first it was the dollar but then it also became about the inconvenience in getting four quarters and how rude other folks could be in just leaving their clothes untended for any length of time.
Occupying the building’s most valuable asset. How dare they!
We couldn’t have been the only ones with these thoughts.
Everyone else paid the same $1 but for whatever reason, we were convinced that they swam in Eagle-backed, copper-cored nickel. Their pockets jingled at all times. What else were we to do?