I am not a loser of things. I’m not buying new sunglasses every week to replace a pair that has vanished; I know where my wallet is at all times; and in the fifteen years that I’ve owned a cell phone, I’ve only had one mishap. I lost it yes, but it wasn’t a careless situation. [It fell out of my bag onto the seat of a cab…in the dark…while I was moving from one sublet to another.] It was a one-time thing. For some people I know, it’s every week that they’re calling some lost and found, in a perpetual state of panic over their newest ‘something missing’. This is not me…
So last night was laundry night. After almost a month of my dirty things piling up, and a few sink-washes of socks and undies, it was a behemoth weeknight chore, let me tell you. Thankfully, the laundromat is just down the street. Still, getting out of my apartment, through the mudroom door, the front door, and the gate, with a giant, overstuffed bag on each shoulder and a bottle of laundry detergent in hand, required a careful shimmy. (Thankfully I’m garden level and I don’t have to deal with stairs.)
Once at the laundromat, everything was fine—bags down, washers secured, whites, lights, and darks each separated and on their way to Tide fresh. Within minutes of getting there, I was good to go– home, to eat a quick dinner before turning around again to transfer everything to the dryers. So I’m ready to leave except… I can’t find my keys. I pat myself down like an overzealous TSA agent, front, back, up and down, once, twice, and then a third time. And then I start to panic. Where are my keys? I start pacing, moving bags of other people’s clean clothing, retracing my steps over steps I hadn’t even taken. I ask the attendants: “Have you seen any keys?” They shake their heads, and a surge of heat comes over me– that sick feeling. And I think: I must have left them in the gate— the gate that leads to the mudroom door, that leads to the apartment door, both of which, on this occasion, I’ve left unlocked. My mind is racing like a hamster going mad on a toy wheel. If I have in fact done this– left them in the gate I mean– and the wrong kind of someone saw them there, they could have very easily gotten in…gotten in and by this time be robbing me. So I dash out of the laundromat, and jog (in the rain) down the block. And then I start to wonder: What if they’re not in the gate? Crazed at this point, I then begin to think: If they aren’t in the gate someone must have taken them. Of course! Someone must have been watching me, waiting for me to make this stupid mistake, and they have already robbed my apartment. (Or they’re going to come back in the middle of the night to break in and rob me then.)
I arrive at my building and turn my eyes to the gate. No keys. I do my best to peak in through the closed blinds, and seeing that there’s no movement, I figure I’m safe– no robber. (This doesn’t of course mean that there won’t be one later, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t still need to get in.) The stupid part of this scenario (as far as I know at this point) is that no one besides me has a set of my keys except for my super who lives 40 minutes away and who I will not bother at nine o’clock at night. The tricky part, is that the only way to get past the gate without a key (or a locksmith) is to climb over it, but, it is of course, a gate that is not meant to be climbed. The space between the top of it and the underside of the floor above, is hardly big enough for a small child to fit through, not to mention, there are pointed spokes at the top of it. There’s no way.
So I head back to the laundromat and do another sweep, in search of my keys. Nothing. And then I think: Maybe they keys are in the pocket of the duffle bag, inside the wash. The machines are still spinning, and of course, they can’t be opened mid-cycle. So I wait. And I wait. And I start thinking that maybe they aren’t in there after all and someone is breaking in. So I run back to my apartment. And this time, I try to climb the gate. Not happening.
So back to the laundromat, spin cycle now, I’m on my toes. The keys have got to be inside. They must be. I have even convinced myself that I hear them jingling through the machine door. I start to pace again. And finally the washers stop.
I pull the mess of clothes out from each machine. No keys. I pick each individual piece of laundry– each sock, each shirt, each pillowcase, each dish towel– and shake it out before tossing it into the dryer. And again, no keys. And I tell myself then and there, that I am going to have to climb the gate, even if I risk poking an eye out. So I ask the laundromat attendant if he has a ladder. If I position a ladder up to the gate, I might be able to climb over backwards and make it through. And I’ll do it, even if there is a risk of serious injury.
And then, as I have just about lost all hope, the attendant calls over to me: “Miss! Are these your keys?”
And they there were…in his hand…picked up from out of the detergent compartment on top of the machine– that just so happened to be missing a cover. Of course.
“Thank you!” I exclaim with relief. I give him the ladder back, take the keys, collect my clothes and go home, making a mental note all the way of the precautionary to-do’s I must take care of asap. And I ask myself once inside the comfort of my gate and two doors, as I laugh recapping each moment of mounting panic: “Why did that have to happen?”
Maybe, one, so that maybe some day when I live in a house with my very own washer and dryer, I won’t take them for granted. And two, I guess a regular night of laundry just wouldn’t have been any fun.