At one point in my early twenties I lived in a small studio apartment. I was in the middle of final exams one day when I decided to take a little break to do some laundry. The building where I lived took up an entire block and was divided into three different addresses. The three buildings were connected from the underground garage and navigating that garage was an experience in mind control. I lived on the third floor and preferred to take the stairs to get to the laundry room which was located in the bowels of the parking garage. The thing with that garage is that it was very poorly lit with only the odd pocket of light here and there. Can you hear the music from some psychological thriller? That’s what I mean by an exercise in mind control. Between the lighting in that garage, the sounds that you heard while down there, the echo and the unbelievable number of twists and turns, blindspots and everything else that could possibly make it the scariest place to have to spend even ten seconds, you thought long and hard about when exactly you were going to schedule your laundry. There were four sets of machines for 220 apartments and often at least one set of machines was broken. No small wonder why.
It was early evening, I needed to get my nose out of my books and I had no choice, I needed clean clothes for work first thing the next morning. So off I went with my green garbage bag full of laundry and my broom. Taking the stairs just felt safer because you could sortof hear the basement before you got there. The elevator opened up into darkness in one of the many recesses of the garage and you had to walk a good 15 feet before reaching the light…and there were unknown corners and nooks and crannies within those 15 feet. I could hear that movie music before those elevator doors even opened. Forget it. The stairs were safer to me. So I took a deep breath and always wore quiet shoes to do my laundry. Down I went…
The laundry room was essentially two buildings over so it was quite a jaunt. Of course I always wished I could just walk outside and over to the third building but you needed a key to get in. You only had the key to the building you lived in. If you walked too fast, you couldn’t hear as well. So I had a perfect pace for the garage…not too slow, not too fast in my stealth rubber shoes. That day I made it to the laundry room and it was quiet. No machines running, which I always liked, not so much because it meant I could put my laundry in immediately, but because then I could hear what was going on just outside the laundry room. I’ve never done my laundry so quietly in my life. But first, before starting with getting a machine, I always had to check “the hole”. There was a panel in the wall that moved and was displaced just enough that someone hiding in there could see out perfectly well. Behind that panel was more than enough room for someone to hide. In fact two or three people could easily fit in there and it was in a dark part of the very small laundry room. This is where the broom comes in. I would move that panel with the end of my broom as I stood as far away as possible and then I’d shove the handle in there and swish it around until I was satisfied that it didn’t hit any human forms. Now I could get on with finding a machine.
I always very quietly chose a machine, put in my laundry and soap, then put my coins in the dispenser but I wouldn’t push them in right away. I would then gather up all my things and grab my broom. At the last minute, after first poking my head out into the garage to get a feel for it, I would push those coins in to start the machine and out I’d go like a bullet. Well that day, as I had my back to the door putting my laundry in, the superintendent’s wife showed up. I hadn’t heard her because not only was she the size of a mouse but she had also adopted the quiet as a mouse technique. She jumped out of her skin when she saw me there and then calmed down. We exchanged greetings and I continued with the gathering of my stuff. She had a very strong Vietnamese accent and barely spoke any English. Suddenly she screams out at the top of her lungs while she’s got her head in one of the dryers, “Whobody???? WHOBODY????”. I had no clue what she was doing but she’d scared me half to death. As I started to climb back down from the rafters, she continues, still with her head in the dryer and now with her arms flailing up and down like a bird trying to take off, “Whobody? Whobody? Whobody tayka my close????” Well as much as I couldn’t wait to get my ass out of there, with a line like that, I just had to stop and try to help. I look in the dryer and sure enough, it’s empty. I suggest that perhaps that wasn’t the dryer she had put them in and start looking in the other dryers then in the washers, to no avail. There were no clothes to be found. Often people would take your clothes out if they were done and they needed the dryer, but then they would just put them on top of the dryer. There were no clothes anywhere in the laundry room. She was absolutely beside herself. Not only could she barely afford to buy new ones but honestly, I couldn’t even imagine why anyone, nevermind whobody, would want to take her clothes. First of all she was the size of only about four other people on this planet and she wasn’t exactly dressed up in the latest fashions, ever. So this was a real mystery, it made no sense. I tried to nicely ask her if perhaps she thought she’d put a laundry in but hadn’t to which she replied, “Whobody? Whobody???”. I’m trying to maintain some sense of composure and I’m convinced it’s entirely possible that she never brought that laundry down. Afterall, her and her husband maintained all three buildings, worked night and day and lived two floors down from me which means they lived in the same 300 square foot apartment that I did. And, there were nine people living in there including both sets of grandparents and the children. If that had been my situation, I was sure that I would be confused about what I had and hadn’t done on a regular basis. But she was dead convinced she’d put a laundry in.
Thankfully for me, she was now on a mission to find her clothes so I had an escort out of that dungeon while she marched right out of the laundry room screaming “Whobody!!!” at every step all the way across the garage. If anyone was in there with any malicious intent, there is no way that they would’ve come anywhere near this now raving lunatic and god help them if she suspected that they were whobody. That’s when I realized that maybe if I whobodied my way across the garage everytime I needed to do the laundry, I could get there and back without a broom.