Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Quarter of Irony

An ongoing theme you may find here on my blog is what a hassle life in New York City is. Take laundry for example. Most urbanites have three options: 1) send it out if you can justify or afford it, 2) schlep it to the laundromat, or 3) if you are lucky enough to have a laundry room in your building, do it yourself down there. That's what I do. There are three machines and two dryers (don't ask me why, I ask myself every time I'm down there.) And each one takes $1.50 per load, in quarters only. With a growing family we have 4-6 loads per week so that comes out to $50-60 per month. In quarters only.

Quarters play a big part in my life here, being the currency of both laundry and parking. Parking in NYC is, you guessed it, a hassle. That is definitely a topic for another essay, perhaps a series. But between laundry and parking I find myself always desperate for quarters, hoarding them, saving them in a special pocket of my wallet separate from the other change. Rolls seem to disappear into thin air. And listen, obtaining a roll is no small feat. It involves loading the kids into the double stroller and heading out to a bank, waiting in line, sometimes two. Then inevitably the teller is put out at how many rolls I need and has to get the manager to come open a safe or vault or something so they can get more. Then one or both kids start fussing, needs a snack, dropped a toy, etc. Once I tried getting quarters at the customer service desk at the grocery store but it wasn't much easier, and it definitely took longer.

And don't even think for a second that it's an option to throw the kids in the car and just breeze through a bank drive-thru. This is NYC. Don't even think banks have parking lots, much less drive-thru's. No, any errands, from the post office to the library to the bank, are done on foot (or on public transportation but double strollers are not so welcome on buses.) See future article on parking. I just seem to always be in need of quarters, and never have enough to do laundry when I need to. One of the best gifts I received at the time of Ginger's birth was my Dad showing up with a huge pile of quarter rolls. Got me through a month without having to go to the bank.

So when our tax refund arrived I decided to finally get smart and take control of the quarter situation that plagues my life. I went to the bank and got $200 in quarters - that's 20 rolls. I was so happy and proud to have saved myself all the work and hassle of being constantly short on quarters. Now I could go months on that supply!

Then just last week there was a sign on the elevator door, informing tenants that the laundry room has installed a new "Smart Card" system - you use a refillable card, like a credit card, with the machines instead of quarters. No problem, I thought, I'll just put all my quarters in the machine that puts money on the Smart Card. But you guessed it, didn't you? I went down to check out the card machine and it only takes: bills.

So I'll be going back to the bank after all...

10 comments:

dave said...

ummm, at least they're still good for parking!

dävid said...

kari,

a very good read. for your next topical lament, re: parking, I suggest you do a little googling about one of my professors, don shoup.

he's somewhat of a demi-god in the world of parking. his most significant work is his book "the high cost of free parking."

love this blog already, looking forward to more good reads.

Kari (Disco Mom) said...

Awesome, david, will do. I'm not surprised in the least that there is a subcultural parking community, complete with experts and demi-gods. In urban communities parking can rule your life - where you go, how you schedule your life, how much time to allow for things, and the cost! If I want to go into Manhattan for something, it's automatically $30 just for tolls and parking. And that's before the cost of anything I might do like shopping, eating, entrance to anything, etc. So I stay home. Or walk around my neighborhood.

Jenny Hickman said...

Kari,
I loved this lament. It probably isn't funny at the time but you write about it with such humor. I feel for you. I can only imagine how many things I take for granting living in the mecha I do. I am five minutes from anything you can think of. REALLY - as me anything - five minutes! I am looking forward to more entries so I can live vicariously through you in your Urban world.
Jenny

Kari (Disco Mom) said...

Dave, yes, still good for parking. As you know, always needed. But with Ginger here now we very rarely venture out to places where I have to gamble on getting a meter spot. Too risky with two ticking time bombs in tow. So really we just rarely venture out, period.

Maren said...

Oh, yeah, man. I feel for you. I TOTALLY remember the days when quarters were worth so much more than 25¢. Someday you'll forgive the little card machine (after you've used up all those quarters on groceries). I hear you on the two time bombs as well. I finally mailed that package for you today. I know you think I have no excuse since my nice little friendly post office is but a stroller walk away and has plenty of parking. It's the carrying of the package with the two kids that gets me. Anyway, I know what you mean.

Therese said...

kari,

love your blog.

how do you do the laundry with your two? do you take them downstairs with you? or do you go when they're sleeping?

Kari (Disco Mom) said...

T-baby,
Yes, all of the above. I try to go while Ginger's sleeping and I give Hazel the option of coming or not. Sometimes she likes to go in the elevator and run around the basement; sometimes she's involved in playing or a show and wants to stay. No matter what I have to go down at least 3 times - beginning, switch loads, end - so if Ginger is awake I taker her with me. I put her in a sling or recently I borrowed a Bumbo chair from a friend and brought it down and put Ginger in it while I worked - that worked pretty well. It's a huge production and so if I'm doing laundry I don't try to accomplish anything else that day - if I do it's a bonus.

Therese said...

K-Money: do some in NYC have washer/dryer hookups in their actual apartments? or are we talking trump tower to get that?

Kari (Disco Mom) said...

Therese,
Apartments with washer/dryer do exist but you pay for it, either in terms of money, space, or location, and it can really limit your options. But they're out there. Several friends in my neighborhood have them in their apartments, but it's still a minority.

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