There is one thing that is at least equally as frightening as the forest. The element of horror emanating from this place is a lot different from the forest though, because while the forest is natural, trollish, beautiful and makes you feel like you should be howling at the moon or exorcising old ghosts this place is different, different because it is essentially human. Within this place lies a human horror. It is a sad monument of dirt, misery, pain and loneliness.
The place I speak of is the public laundry room, of course.
I live in a large apartment building. Here we have people of all shapes, sizes and of all status. We have the yuppies, the students, the poor. We have single, middle aged men and women. We have people who have roots in other countries and people who have hardly ever ventured outside this city. We have the dreary, the perky, the happy, the sad. We have young women and men just starting their careers, we have angry Russian women, we have smiling Latins and even an Icelander.
When you first enter the room it looks common enough. There are several washing machines, dryers and drying cabinets. There are even manglers, benches and large tables where you can stand to fold your laundry. When you come in you notice a board with dates and time. You soon realize that all you need to do is put your “plop” in the right place and you will have booked a machine for a certain time at a certain date.
Perfect. Ideal. What else do we need?
The place doesn’t get to you right away but there is a strange feeling at the pit of your stomach. And the feeling is telling you to go, to run, to never come back. But you brush it off as ridiculous. It’s just a laundry room. It’s a nice place where you can meet your neighbors and wash your clothes, nothing more.
Then you notice that one sock is missing. You hold on to the single one in hope that the other will re-appear but in no way do you associate this with the laundry room. Socks disappear. It’s in the nature of the universe (and socks). It’s a cliché and a well known fact. Socks disappear and never two of the same pair, always just one so you have the one left.
And you go back.
But this time someone is using your machines. The machines you have booked are busy with someone else’s towel (notice I didn’t write towels!). You check the time and date but it’s correct. Some bastard has invaded on your time.
But it’s no big deal. It won’t make the universe implode and you won’t loose your job because of it. All you need to do is wait. So irritably you do so. You wait. You stare evilly at the neighbor who dared to invade your time with the precious machines.
And that’s where it starts. It has invaded your soul. It has become a part of you and there is no turning back. There is nowhere to hide. All you can do is yield to the fact because when you do realize, it is too late.
The place brings out the worst in everybody. You find your jeans missing, your padlocks cut open with a bolt clipper and you find that someone has gone through your underwear, your shirts, your pants, your towels and they have taken the strangest things.
And of course you blame the neighbors. You look around and you see the angry Russian woman twaddling with a Polish woman while she angrily beats a towel with her hand and she looks like she is spanking a child. You wonder if they are responsible. Or perhaps it was the yuppie. The yuppie who comes trailblazing in there wearing trainers and tennis shoes that cost a fortune. Perhaps that’s how he manages to always dress so nice?
Of course you never see any of them wearing your favorite jeans. You never see them wearing your missing shirt, or washing your favorite towel. You never know who stole those things. Who went through your things. You never know.
And you find yourself becoming exceedingly hostile towards the place, the evil of the laundry room grows within you. After a while it consumes you. Still you try to put on a happy face, you smile as you go in there and when the nice little old lady starts telling you her life story you stand there, clutching your laundry bag and you listen politely. You nod in the right places, you pat her shoulder when she looks like she’s going to cry and you try to ignore the irrational feeling that the room is laughing at the both of you.
You try to smile when a half crazed man comes up to you asking if he can borrow detergents. The look in his eyes tells you that he is likely to do whatever it takes to get the detergent so you better say yes. So hurriedly you hand it over to the man sighs heavily and thanks you as if you just saved his life.
There is a reason Stephen King wrote the short story, The Mangler. There is a reason you feel like you could do anything at all if you just didn’t have to wash your clothes in that particular place. There is a reason for the sign with the strange rules. But it is only some of these rules that are reinforced, for example have you ever seen a child playing in a public laundry room? But complain about someone going over onto your time, or about someone steeling your machines for the entire duration of your time and the supervisor just shrugs his shoulders (if you manage to find him to complain!) and says there is little he can do about it.
This is a force made up of human contempt, misery and emotion. It is a force we deal with without realizing. It gnaws at us and makes us even more miserable, feeding its vampiric tendencies. It is a force to be reckoned with and yet it is a force we choose to ignore, live with, suffer through. We choose to ignore it. We rage amongst ourselves, we complain to loved ones but we do nothing to make it a happier place, to clear out this force of evil. We endure…
…but at least our clothes are clean.