laundry day.

9 January 2009

I’ve a confession to make: I have a tortured relationship with laundromats. Now this may sound odd to those of you who have never had to use a laundromat’s services, either in childhood or that bizarre world called college. I, however, have a long history, though an intermittent one, with these venerable institutions. When I was but a wee lad, I would often accompany my harried mother to do our laundry (A washer and dryer is one of those things that perhaps people don’t appreciate unless you’ve gone without one for some time). This laundromat is vivid in my mind, behind the ‘Mother Goose’ children’s nursery on Highway 441 on the way to my grandparent’s house, next to the Pizza Hut. The building was, in its former glory as a bar, where my parents met. Somewhat surreal, but that is the cheif fact I associate with the place, the way it looked with a bar, my mother 20 years old getting hit on by my father. Although, knowing my mother, she probably was the one hitting on him. 

So this laundromat was like any other laundromat, smelling of lint and heated clothes, with the drone of a television that no one could change the channel of, soda machines and arcade games all crammed together. I remember it being disorderly and dirty. I loathed it, everything about it. There wasn’t any order, no system, lint everywhere, people’s clothes, even their underclothes, spread about for all to see. I, being strangely modest about such things, was mortified. Coupled with the interminable time it took to do an entire family’s laundry, I didn’t enjoy the place. Especially since we never had quarters for me to play Galaga or Pac Man, and even if we did, I always died by level two (especially on Pac Man).

At the same time, I remember thinking that it was stupid to have such feelings about a laundromat; after all, where else are these people supposed to do their laundry? Now, unsurprisingly, time goes a bit more quickly, since I take a book or two and my mind is taken away. But I still have to fight down these feelings of unease with people who would do laundry in public, who would need to use a laundromat. I’m uncomfortable realizing that I judge people on nothing more than their need for clean laundry, on the fact that they don’t own a washer or dryer. Perhaps it’s because of my childhood associations of having little to no money, that I don’t like being reminded that I know what it feels like to watch your mother pawn her wedding ring for money as you sit in the car, that most of your father’s friends always seem to be drinking and sloppy, just like all the people at the laundromat are messy and loud and immodest. Maybe it’s that.

It’s a bit different now, though. Going to the college laundromat down the street from my company subsidized housing, I sit and read, and watch over the pages of my book. I see people, and I wonder about their stories, this one a medical student, that one an immigrant business owner perhaps, speaking Farsi into his cellphone. Those ones sorority sisters, their Greek letters across the rear of their velvet track pants. Old men that make their way to the corner to wash their sheets, and their old white faded shirts and dickies work pants, all of us mingle together, the unwashed and the privileged, all reduced to watching the spinning clothes, on every side. But in our lives of sequestration, it is somehow reassuring to know that we all have to see each other every now and then. And when I see that little girl unsteadily making her way around the washing machines and dryers, helping her father one article of clothing at a time, I wonder what she’ll remember of the laundromat, and hope that it’s a warm glowing feeling, and perhaps that the strange, quiet man in a corner smiled at her over the top of his book and that she smiled back. Probably not, but it makes me smile to ponder it.

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4 Responses to “laundry day.”

  1. justjera Says:

    I also wrote a story entitled Laundry Day. I remember going to the laundromat with my mother and thought it a treat because there was a color tv there – remember watching the Flintstones.

  2. etrodrig Says:

    First off, I finally read this entry! I clicked on it so many times to read but never did because I got distracted. Secondly, I am one of those people who have never used a laundromat, but I kind of want to now just to know the experience. I use to hang out with Jesse at the dry cleaner she worked at in Summerville…that was always fun. You seen the strangest people come through to pick up or drop off their clothes.

  3. Clegg Says:

    I like to stare at people doing their laundry and make up stories for them also. It’s not that I don’t have a book or some thank you notes to occupy my time, but why deal with that when there is a woman stuffing 4 comforters into the 75 cent machine? Doesn’t she know to use the high-capacity $1.50 turbo washer? Are you even supposed to wash comforters?

    The top shelf dryers are stressful because no matter how careful I am, some underwear always manages to escape from the pack and end up on the floor. I don’t notice it until the 2 Mexican men seated behind me have already had a chance to smile and say something foul en espagnol. All those French classes for nothing.

    With regards to laudromat lit., may I suggest The Secret Lemonade Drinker by Guy Bellamy and Corduroy by Don Freeman. (the little bear who liked to watch all the colors spinning together) Or was that Paddington? Crazy bears. I should get my own blog- whoops.

  4. Erin Says:

    I really like this post. It’s very honest and I learned some new things about an old friend. Thanks for posting.


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