A Return To The Laundromat


Everyone has spent time in a laundromat, probably more than they would like to admit. It is a necessary, yet solitary activity. But it could be quite pleasant and serene as you are serenaded by the low hum of the machines. You can sit back, read a book and have a few moments of Zen. I know, because I used to be the “laundromat guy” in our family.
Recently, our fairly new washing machine went on the fritz, necessitating a step back to a simpler time, a return to the laundromat and a quest for quarters.

As newlyweds and working professionals in a rental apartment, we shared the necessary household responsibilities of cleaning, shopping and laundry. I took on the role of food shopping and laundry.

I enjoyed my time in the laundromat. Unlike washing and drying clothes at home, which restricts you to one load at a time, the laundromat provides numerous washers and dryers. In the time that it takes you to do one load, you can do multiples.

Living in Uniondale, my chosen laundromat was in a shopping center, right next to a little local bar. After loading the clothes in the washer, I’d set my watch alarm for 30 minutes, then head next door for a few cold ones. They knew I was the “laundromat guy,” so when my alarm went off, they’d keep my spot at the bar open until I got everything in the dryers and returned. I always thought having a bar with washers and dryers available would be a gold mine.

As a semi-regular, I knew the “rules of the laundromat” and heeded them. I may have left the clothes unattended while they were washing or drying, but I never left them in a finished machine. I had respect for my fellow launderers because life in the public laundromat is not for the faint of heart. There are laundromat bullies everywhere that prey on the weak, especially men on their own. Some women will eat you alive in the laundromat.

Once, when returning to move the clothes into the dryer, all the dryers were in use. I noticed two of them had clothes in them and were no longer spinning. After checking and determining the clothes were still damp, I questioned the few people sitting in the chairs if the clothes belonged to them, but had no takers. Being a student of the rules of the laundromat, I did the only thing I could do in that situation; I removed the abandoned clothes from the dryers and began loading my clothes.
As I was finishing up, a woman walked into the laundromat and began freaking out. She flared her nostrils and began approaching me, shouting, “How dare you take my clothes out of the dryer.” This prompted the others at the laundromat to take cover.

A lesser man might have acquiesced in that situation, but right is right and I was in the right. Maybe it was the alcohol, but I gathered up my courage, stood right in her face and said, “You weren’t here when the dryer stopped and all the dryers are being used. My mother told me that I should take the clothes out of the dryer, that it wasn’t fair to the others waiting. You weren’t here and I needed the dryers, end of story.”

That seemed to stun the woman, stopping her in her tracks. As I began to load quarters into the machines, she continued to jabber on and on about the injustice to no one in particular. I smiled at her as I headed back to the bar, tipped my baseball hat to her and said, “Ma’am.” I made it known to her and the others in the laundromat that there was a new Sheriff in town.

Although I didn’t wear my badge or spurs this week at the laundromat, I enjoyed the trip back in time. The machines are more modern and efficient and once I figured out what buttons needed to be pushed and what dials needed to be turned, things went smoothly. A woman even remarked that I “folded very well.”

I assume the repair man will show up one day soon and fix our washer, ending my recent dalliance with the past. But until then, I’m still the sheriff around these parts, so you better mind your manners and the rules of the laundromat.

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