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Friday, June 18, 2010

Today At The Laundromat ...

Right after I signed the lease on my new apartment (about two weeks ago), I purchased a stackable washer and dryer. The apartment is small, but there was a linen closet outside of the bathroom that would be an easy hook-up for a washer/dryer unit. And my landlady said I could.

So I shopped around a little, made my purchase, and scheduled delivery. Then came the snags ... the "easy" hook-up wasn't going to be that easy, and the installation tech couldn't get back to me for two days. And my supply of clean "delicates" was reaching critical mass.

Solution ... a trip to the laundromat.

I made this decision with trepidation ... I'd been to a laundromat or two in my time, and I know the playing field can be dicey. See, I live in a fairly big suburb of a good-sized metropolitan area, but we don't have any fancy laundromats. And I was hoping to make this a one-time thing.

I remember in the late '80s or early '90s when the news used to do soft segments on new trends and they mentioned the "laundrobar" ... a place that was a hybrid of a full-service laundry and a bar/club establishment. I guess they had been around in Europe ... Scandinavia especially ... for years with great success. I wish me and my dirty clothes could be in an episode of "I Love the '80s" and dance and drink those stains away.

Instead, about four blocks from my new dwelling is a laundromat/dry cleaner hybrid. The enterprise is part of a long storefront of been-around businesses ... it looks like an abandoned safehouse where no one ever felt safe. Bricks are falling out of the facade and the windows are beige and filmy from constant humidity. It's way too far from the nearest police precinct house.

the dry cleaners is closed, the laundromat side stays open 24/7. I went Friday right after work ... I figured most people would be out with family and friends and the place would be pretty much deserted. My two huge laundry baskets and I had some company ... a bedraggled mother with two kids who kept running down the aisles with those wheeled wire clothes bins, a big burly dude trying to force and area rug into one of three industrial-size commercial washer units in the back, and two elderly couples who both looked like they, like myself, waited until their supply of clean clothes ran low before shlepping out to do laundry ... all four of them sat amidst piles of folded and unfolded items casually watching their remaining garments spinning lazily in nearby dryer units.

They place was fairly big inside, so I easily found a bank of four adjoining washers, sorted my items, loaded the machines with clothes, money, and detergent, and then sat down to admire my surroundings. The place was just dull ... dull wallpaper ... dull peeling floor tiles ... dingy overhead fluorescents ... dull brown and tan plastic seats and benches.

And it was not the cleanest place ... I had tucked a small pack of multi-purpose wipes in one of my laundry baskets, so I wiped my chair down before I sat (I had also pre-emptively wiped down the four dryers I was using). One of the senior women looked at me like I was a snob or something ... I just hoped the bacteria on her and her husband's chair didn't send them to an early grave.

She eventually lost interest, talking to the other couple and deftly avoiding one or both of the rampaging boys ... their mother sat clueless reading a well-viewed magazine at least five years out of date.

For the next two hours I was held hostage by things that washed, whirled, spun, chugged, and agitated. I went through the old magazines myself looking for something to read ... twice. I watched the burly guy wrestle his washed rug into his car. I watched the odd people that came in ... seemingly from nowhere ... to play one of three ancient arcade games or buy a soda or candy bar from the vending machines, and made up life stories for them in my head. I routinely gazed at the two security cameras and wondered if anyone ever watched the tapes (probably if there was an act of vandalism or death from boredom) or if some poor bastard from a small security company actually had this scene as one of many live feeds from area shops ... and if there was someone watching, did he or she feel as sorry for me being stuck doing laundry on a Friday night.

I got up several times to check on and then silently malign the dryers for their pricey demands and meager output of actual heat. I even intended on using the restroom once, but not all the multi-wipes in the world could have made that happen. Words like "cholera" and "plague" kept coming to mind, as well as old comedies that used the line "Calcutta in the summertime."

When I was finally finished ... a few things were a bit damp, but I had reached a limit ... I directly to a drive through for a fresh six pack. It was Friday night, dammit!

POINT OF RANT: Multi-wipes ... never leave home without them!!

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