Cambridge and Somerville actually have pretty much the same two housing choices as DC, but Stephanie and I were lucky enough to end up with both of them in one apartment. We lived in a 140-year old building that had been completely renovated about 10 years ago. The exterior had been restored to all of its historical glory, with all of the intervening ‘improvements’ being removed and all of the Victorian touches brought back. The interior was completed gutted and rebuilt into very modern condos: the layout, open; the appliance, stainless; the hallways and doors, ADA compliantly wide; the laundry, in the bathroom closet. Historically charming, and modernly stylish and convenient.
We knew our Somerville situation was a rare one, and that in our move to DC we’d have to choose one direction or another. The question was which one: charm or convenience? We tried convenience first, and it was impressive. Bright and airy spaces, with well-laid-out kitchens, everything looking and feeling bigger than it was, and all of the modern amenities. The problem was the places felt soulless. It felt like we’d be living in a Courtyard by Marriott, or in some cases a nightclub.
It turns out we want soul in our home. So, we turned out attention to historic charm. The thing that was hardest to give up was in-unit laundry. For a number of years now, both of us have been doing our laundry in that clean, well-maintained, new, private washer and dryer right off our own bathroom; and it was hard to imagine going back.
Some of the places we saw had way too much history and way too little charm. Others were simply beautiful, well-kept, unique places; and they even had laundry in the unit–but they were out of our price range. Finally, we found a place that was (almost) just right. A charming, quirky little place in a great neighborhood. Sure, the kitchen and bathroom are tiny, and the baseboards and floors don’t quite meet. But those things are more than made up for by the high ceilings, the big windows, the brick fireplace, and the leafy private patio.
About the laundry: coin operated in the building basement. But going down one flight of stairs to a washer and dryer we share with only 3 other people seemed acceptable.
The day we moved in, we met one of our neighbors. Strangely, in our very brief conversation, one of the things she happened to say, out of the blue was, ‘If the washer and dryer are broken, there’s a laundromat just around the corner.’ In the blur of moving in, we forgot about that in retrospect ominous tip, until earlier this week, that is, when Stephanie put a load of laundry in the washer, poured in the detergent, put the quarters we’d dutifully collected into the slots, and … nothing. There was a website posted for reporting problems. We lodged our complaint, and got an auto-reply saying that if we wanted to know the status of our issue we would have to call. We called, and were told that someone would get around to investigating our complaint in two to three days.
Since we didn’t think our detergent doused laundry could wait that long, and we kind of needed some of those clothes, we looked for alternatives. We briefly considered hiring someone else to clean our clothes, until the price made us gulp. That left us with the laundromat. Talk about soulless. How is it that relatively brief and what ought to be fairly innocuous exposure to a laundromat can have such a negative effect on your mood? And how is it that, in an industry that’s all about cleaning, even the better laundromats can feel so dingy?
The laundry got clean. But it cost us nearly as much money as if we’d paid someone else to do it, with the extra cost of a little bit of Stephanie’s soul.
We’re still glad we chose our charming little place. But we wonder, how exactly are we going to get our clothes clean from here on out?
- Do we suck it up and pay the price for someone else to do it?
- Do we gear ourselves up for spending one of our evenings to the purgatory that is the laundromat?
- Do we preemptively call for service on the washer and dryer in our building three days before we want to do laundry?