Thoughts From a Laundromat

I exploded my washing machine.

Well, not exploded. But I tried to wash a new comforter and apparently it was too much for my washing machine to handle. It overflowed — I just like to say that it exploded because it makes the story more interesting.

I mopped up and extracted the now extremely soaked, detergent-ridden comforter, loaded it into a bag and thought to myself, Well, this will be interesting.

I’ve been to the laundromat near my house approximately two other times in my life. Both times were when I was a small child and I was with my mom, and it was because she was dropping off clothes at the dry cleaners attached to the laundromat. But we never did laundry there.

Laundromats seem like places for big events to happen. It’s such a common setting for scenes in movies and television. In pretty much any semi-historical movie, you’ll see people in the laundromat reacting to the Kennedy assassination or the Apollo 11 launch or the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It’s almost equivalent to those other scenes in historical movies where people gather on the street and look in the windows of a store that sells television, and they’re all playing the same thing.

But it also seems like a place for a good sci-fi to start. “I was in the laundromat watching the news and waiting for my last load to finish, when all of the sudden the signal went fuzzy and I saw some sort of light break through the clouds in the sky” — I don’t know, something like that.

But laundromats have become quite obsolete, haven’t they? At least in suburban areas like mine. These movies that I watch, make it seem like the laundromat was just a common space — a place where everyone came to do their laundry, working around each other, focused on getting their own laundry done and getting out of there without causing a fuss. And that’s what we all did.

It wasn’t very crowded. There were only two other people using machines when I went there. There was a couple, who, after putting in their load of whites, left and came back with takeout to eat at one of the folding tables. There was another man probably in his twenties who was alone, constantly stepping outside to take smoking breaks.

Maybe these movies that I watch have given laundromats a sense of nostalgia and even romance. It seems like the perfect place for something extraordinary to happen when and where you least expect it. Because they’re so normal.

But the truth was, nothing extraordinary happened. I washed the detergent out of my comforter and it took two cycles to get almost (not really) completely dry. Then I went home. I didn’t talk to anyone. The T.V. never went fuzzy. It played the same football game the entire time.

But even though nothing happened in that laundromat, I could feel my imagination coming alive.


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