I have no idea how I became a connoisseur of laundromats. Somewhere between reading the inflated expectations of Yelp reviewers and reflections on my own misery while waiting for my load to dry, I realized I had a gift. Or a burden, maybe? One of these.
I don’t need a lot from a laundromat. I need clean clothes. I need to clean them in an atmosphere that is not one of crushing despair. I need to not be stabbed. All else is gravy.
Most laundromats are places you would hang yourself in. I can’t tell if the qualities that bring to mind Bukowski poems or abandoned motels are there by design or a haphazard and ignorant necessity. Ostensibly it’s one part thrift and three parts neglect.
Oh but such sweet neglect! Witness the laundromat with almost no chairs with fluorescent light bouncing off walls painted in blinding primaries! A staff member stalks past in a fugue, so deep in a pit and saturated with the excesses of artificial fragrances that they no longer know any way out. They stare out at the world through lids that barely open, making change grumpily with fingers dried and split from constant contact with cheap detergent.
All of this is possibly designed. “Do not linger here. Do not enjoy yourself. Get up and move on.” – like a bus terminal or a McDonalds in same. However a bus terminal though marks an entrance to a city, one that someone somewhere thought should have at least a gesture towards grandeur no matter how pathetically minimal. McDonalds makes an attempt at standardization that renders them welcoming for long enough to shove a Big Mac in your mouth.
Not so for most laundromats. Although this past weekend I found my favorite laundromat ever. Let me now list why.
- It is old, but not in a decrepit or sad way. On the contrary, it’s more than a little charming. The machines are ancient and the driers have knobs.
- The back wall is lined with photos and notes from the proprietress, who was unbelievably nice and guided me to a seat after making change out of a tupperware container.
- She was also extremely patient with all my questions (“this knob thing doesn’t tell me how long I get for a quarter…”)
- The plants and bouquet of fresh flowers seem as though they actually belong there as opposed to being window dressing on a gulag.
- Likewise there are no attempts at using dollar store decorations to gussy the place up (and in turn actually make it more depressing).
- The wood paneling has obviously been here for decades but never caught fire or clumsily been painted over.
- No attempt was made to cover up the exterior siding placed above the driers or use an acoustic tile drop ceiling to cover how irregular the actual ceiling is.
- There is one TV and it is neither tuned to Fox News nor is it painfully loud. The lady working here actually turned it to the Champions League final for me without asking.
- The seating (well, seat) is next to an ample window that fills the room with light and makes the fluorescents something of an afterthought.
- The signs telling me not to do stupid things are small, infrequent and not themselves stupid. I once utilized the services of a laundromat that had signs prohibiting cellphone use as they “interfered with the machines.” Nothing that dumb here.
- You don’t actually feel as though someone will steal your clothes if you run around the corner for an errand.
- I kept accidentally triggering the motion sensor that alerts the proprietress whenever someone comes in. We had a laugh about it as I was packing up to leave. This is the first time I have ever heard laughter in a laundromat.
- This is a room that does not feel as though someone died in it or will die shortly. In fact it just feels like a close friend’s garage I happen to be borrowing. If it had a couch I would not be scared to sit on it.
In closing: I have found my favorite laundromat of all time. No I won’t tell you where it is – I don’t want it to get crowded.