Maybe it makes me a little odd – but I enjoy sitting in the laundromat.
There is something nice about the low whirling purr of washing machines and dryers as they tumble clothing in the tubs and drums, and then add the homey scent of detergent, and the laundromat is a place that both sounds and smells nice (at least, the ones I have been to).
Growing up, my family never needed to visit a laundromat – living with a big family meant that my mother always made sure we had a washing machine in the house.
Having at least 10 people in one household means that the loads of laundry are endless and visiting a laundromat could add up to quite a solid expense.
It was cheaper to just have our own family washing machine.
But at one point in my childhood, when my family moved from Blountstown to Madison County, we had a momentary lapse when we didn’t have a washing machine, and we made our first trek to the laundromat.
This was a small laundromat that was squeezed into a small little shared structure – on the right side of the strip, the laundromat sat and on the left, there was a locally owned pizzeria.
We carried our baskets and baskets and baskets (again, over 10 people in one house generates a lot of dirty laundry) into this small, tile-floored laundromat and while it wasn’t love at first sight or anything quite that romantic…there was an immediate sense of comfort.
While waiting for our laundry to wash, I remember playing a few hands of cards (something my mother absolutely loves) and talking with my mom; I can’t remember what we said and so it must not have been crucially important, but it was a nice, comforting visit between a mother and her growing-up daughter.
Shortly after that visit, we got our washing machine in working order and we didn’t need to make any trek back to the laundromat.
A few years ago, I took a trip with my brothers and some of our friends to Hot Springs, Arkansas.
While we were there, we ran into the problem of needing to wash clothes – or be raggedy tourists.
We found another small coin laundry and stopped in to wash our clothes. There was more card playing, some book reading, and casual visiting with some friends who would eventually become in-laws (seems the trip to Arkansas made my brother fall madly in love with one of the girls who had gone with us. They got married two years ago).
Visiting a laundromat was the uneventful aspect of a long vacation, but it is still one of the fonder moments of that trip for me.
Maybe it’s these memories in a laundromat that endears me to the little neighborhood hubs that coin laundries can be.
Recently, I needed to visit Quincy’s little laundromat on Jefferson Street, and after I had lugged my single basket of laundry (now, I’m not washing clothes for more than 10 people) into the washer, I settled into a corner chair and pulled my book out of my purse.
I only got a few pages in when a shifting movement caught my attention – a little boy sat a few chairs down, watching me with the sort of unashamed openness that only children possess.
His parents were folding laundry at a nearby table, and I gave the little guy (couldn’t be more than seven-years-old) a friendly wave and a smile.
He kept staring – at least until his mother came up and tugged him away.
There were other people there too…a young couple with a baby, and the parents took turns folding laundry and bouncing their infant; a mother and grandmother duo surrounded by at least four young, adorable kids; two young guys trying to figure out how the washing machines work; and the young, smartly-dressed woman in her slacks and heels, folding laundry while talking to a phone call on her earbuds.
The coin laundry accumulates people, just as much as it accumulates dust bunnies, spilled detergent, and lost socks.
Maybe that’s, really, why I enjoy laundromats so much.
There are no politics and problems to be solved in a laundromat – just people and their laundry, all gathered together to exist quietly in a shared, public space.
And, of course, there is the low, whirling purr of washing machines and dryers, and the homey scent of detergent surrounding it all.
Ashley Hunter – firstname.lastname@example.org