It’s Thursday, 7:45pm, and I’m in the Laundromat, waiting. I just put two loads into two washers. Each will take 30 minutes. One is an industrial-size machine for heavy things like the large quilt I’d brought, and the other is the next largest size. I didn’t take the time to separate anything by color today… it’s all washing in cold water, anyway.
I don’t think this will be the last time I’m here. We’re getting a washer and dryer for the house, but I’ll likely continue to use public machines for things like the big, heavy quilt.
We’ve been doing our laundry in this public Laundromat for the last few months, since our apartment complex tore down their large one in order to re-build. It’s a spacious, staffed Laundromat, and it hasn’t been unpleasant. Laundry isn’t a chore that I dislike in the first place, but also, it turns out that the business of doing laundry in a Laundromat appeals to me on several levels.
I find the layers of white noise in the Laundromat to be soothing. There’s the murmur of the T.V. in the corner, swishing water and turning dryers, clothes spinning and tumbling, the faint clanging of metal on metal and the opening and closing of machine doors. There’s the casino-like sound of change machines and vending machines, video games, traffic on the street outside, the air conditioner and ceiling fans. There’s the sound of random human interaction like people talking to each other and on the phone, phones ringing, children playing and babies making their baby sounds. There are people singing and laughing. Altogether, the sounds in the Laundromat create a unique and comforting acoustic mosaic.
At this very moment, a Mom and her young daughter – the daughter looks to be 10-11 years old – are folding clothes together and singing “These Boots are Made for Walking,” and I can’t stop smiling. They’ve created a bubble around themselves with music, bonding happily and lovingly over a common chore. They’re enjoying themselves, and that joy is infectious.
In the company of strangers doing their laundry, I’m filled with a sense of connectedness. We’re people brought under this roof by the basic need to clean our clothing, bedding, towels, etc. This is a place of purpose: we’re here to ensure our personal comfort and health, and I know that every person in the room is going to leave this place feeling a sense of accomplishment. There’s something fantastically special about knowing this.
The Laundromat draws in all walks of life, yet the space emphasizes our sameness, and I love that. There’s no rich or poor here. The need to do laundry is a great common denominator, and there’s an unexpected intimacy in doing laundry with strangers. When we come to the Laundromat on a Saturday or Sunday, especially, I often see many people wearing clothing that has obviously been designated for Laundry Day. It’s like we’re all in a big house, padding around in our jammies. It makes for a pleasant non-interactive interaction with folks. Somehow, I feel a profound sense of kinship with humanity in the public Laundromat, and that, in a world that can be so venomous, is a blessing.
I’ll close on that note, because my time is up.
Postscript: Happy Friday!