For some, it is a weekly trek. For others, it’s a monthly one. I’m talking about time spent at a local laundromat. Whatever preconceived ideas one may have of them, I can guarantee those thoughts are probably wrong.
While completing construction on our house, it became necessary to find such a place since we wouldn’t be out of the RV for at least two months. Left with no choice, I found one not too far away located in a strip mall flanked by a feed store on one side and a Mexican restaurant on the other. I entered with a measure of trepidation only to be pleasantly surprised. The place was spotless, maintained by a crew of ladies who greeted me warmly as I walked through the door. The walls were lined with at least 100 washers and 100 dyers, most of them moving and shaking at full tilt. An abundant number of roller wire baskets languished to assist moving wet clothes to the dryer. This became my home away from home for at least ninety minutes for the next two months.
It didn’t take long to realize life in a laundromat offers a slice of life often overlooked. There seemed to be a predisposed routine and order easily overlooked if one didn’t stop to appreciate it. It must be noted laundromats are a constant hum of activity; a symphony of sorts. There is the constant drone of dryers, the perpetual jangle of change machines spitting out quarters and the monotonous vibration of washers furiously wringing out any and all moisture during the spin cycle. Oddly enough, I have yet to visit a laundromat without at least one TV hanging on a wall tuned to either a soap opera or political talk show with no sound emanating whatsoever.
Through trial and error, I discovered weekday afternoons belonged to the moms. Generally, they arrived in groups of two or more with children in tow. Those were the noisiest times as children, finished with their snacks and sodas, began bouncing off the walls, racing around the linoleum floor, even using those rolling wire baskets to do so. Sundays belonged mainly to the men. I can only surmise they needed a respite from those same children bouncing off the walls at home. In any case. the atmosphere seemed quieter although the melodic symphony of the machines remained.
What I found interesting after all this time was there seemed to be a general rule of thumb concerning accepted protocol which showed surprising results.
- Women arrived with their laundry in proper containers, usually separated into whites or colors.
- Depending on their marital status, it was a hit or miss how the men brought in their laundry. If they were married, they came prepared. If they were single or divorced or unmarried, everything arrived in a single garbage bag which would be summarily dumped into one washing machine.
- If there happened to be a group of three or more men, it took all of them to feed the quarters into the washing machine. I don’t know why…it just did.
- Women were able to complete several tasks at a time. Feed the laundry, corral their child, separate the whites and dole out snacks all without breaking a sweat. They could also fold clothes with one hand.
- I caught men more than women watching a TV they couldn’t hear or, if they were solo, intently watching their clothes in the dryer. Again, I don’t know…they just did.
- Men do know what those dyer sheets are for…who knew?
- I was pleasantly surprised to learn men folded their clothes as well, if not better, than many of the ladies. (Garbage bag men not included.) I watched many of these gentlemen snap a crease into their jeans that would have made a retired sergeant proud. Socks carefully paired together; underwear gingerly flattened; t-shirts and button downs hung carefully.
Today, my last day, there was an aberration in the force. A young man took his position next to his mother directly in front of me as I was finishing up. Imagine my astonishment when he proceeded to roll a random pair of jeans into a makeshift log, INSIDE OUT. His mother missed this obvious transgression or I’m sure she would have boxed his ears. I hurried out before she discovered her son’s faux pas.
Our gas line is being installed next week. Our washing machine and dryer will be brought from storage. I will be able to do laundry any time I want in the comfort of my home. Waiting for the rinse cycle to complete, I can mosey into the kitchen and fix a sandwich. That heavy gallon of laundry detergent will remain on a shelf, conveniently near the slop sink. I won’t be weighed down with $12.00 of quarters. I can close the door to make the drone of the dryer inaudible….
I’m going to miss that laundromat.