Laundry in the basement has its ups and downs

For much of my adult life I lived in a house, a ranch house with laundry facilities within easy reach. If I had a load of laundry, I took a few steps, loaded the machine, and walked away. My biggest problem was getting so involved in other activities that I'd forget I'd started laundry, only to discover it days later, damp and smelling musty.

Recently though, I took a new job in a new city. And until I found permanent housing, I lived in a fourth-floor apartment with no elevator. The laundry was in the basement. Doing a load of laundry was not the simple task that it had been. And after a week and a half in my new environment, it was definitely time to do some laundry.

Because of the large number of steps involved (76, to be exact), I planned this activity carefully. First I'd take the laundry down and put it in the washer. Then I'd go outside, sit on the steps of the building, and read. When the washer was finished, I'd only have to take a few steps to switch the load from washer to dryer. What a great plan! I'd complete a task, enjoy a good book and great weather, and keep my steps to a minimum.

I took my laundry basket down the steps and loaded the washer. But instead of going outside, I decided I was hungry. I went back upstairs to eat.

After about 30 minutes I went back down to put my clean clothes in the dryer. But a few things couldn't go in the dryer, so I took them back up to the apartment to dry. So instead of my original plan of down once, up once (152 steps), I was up to 304 steps.

Once upstairs, I decided that it was still early - I could throw another load in the washer while the original load was drying. That meant 76 more steps, 380 total. I would then revert to my original plan and read my book outside. With loads washing and drying, I went up one flight to the front door - two doors, actually, each requiring a key. I checked just to make sure: I had my book, my cellphone, my reading glasses ... but not my key.

I knew the landlord lived somewhere two buildings down. Since I had no key and there were two locked doors to get back into the building, I propped them open and went down to the landlord's building. But since I didn't know which apartment was hers, I didn't know which one to buzz. I tried No. 1. Since she's the landlord, logic said she'd have the first apartment. She didn't, though.

I returned to my building to try to find someone at home to ask about the landlord's apartment number or her phone number. I thought I'd heard someone in apartment No. 3 (third floor), so back I went to check it out (38 steps). Yes, Mr. No. 3 was there, but he didn't have the landlord's number. He was relatively sure, however, that she lived in apartment No. 2.

Back down the 38 steps I went. I propped open the two doors of my building, walked down two buildings, and buzzed apartment No. 2. Yes! The landlord was at home. She came over to my apartment and let me in (up 57 steps). Keeping a smiling face, I looked around the apartment. No key.

I became frantic. Had I left the key in the laundry room? I ran down 76 steps to look. No key! I was now up to 589 steps, my laundry was not finished, and I still hadn't found my key. Thinking that maybe the key had fallen into the washer, I stopped the washer and pulled everything out, hoping the key was there. It was not.

Process of elimination said the key had to be in the apartment, so I dragged myself up the 76 steps yet again. Success! The key was in the bathroom. I must have put it there when I'd brought up those few items to dry.

I was extremely happy to have found my key, but I still had two loads of laundry in the dryers.

So down the 76 steps I went. One load was dry, but the other was not. Up the 76 with the first load, down the 76 to get the second load. It was still not quite dry, but by this time the clothes could have been dripping wet and I would not have cared. Up the 76 with the final load. That's a total of two hours and 969 steps. I can probably round that number to an even 1,000, as I'm relatively sure I made a few trips from the first floor to the basement in those harried minutes when I discovered that I was missing the key.

It was a simple task, two loads of laundry, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Little had I known that a career move could have such a life-changing effect on my laundry.

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