Laundromat Urbanism

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The growing pile of clothing stacked in mismatched plastic baskets on the southeast corner of the bedroom looked like something out of a delinquent student’s college dormitory. I’m not sure why I let my laundry reach such visually displeasing quantities, but did know there was enough there to require a solid day of washing in the single washer and drier that occupied the basement of our apartment building. And that’s if none of the other tenants in the five dwellings attached to our unit didn’t have the same idea. By the way, for all of you homeowners reading this right now, thinking, “See! See! This is why having a house is better,” I haven’t gotten to the good part yet.

“I’m gonna go to the laundromat tonight,” I texted my wife Amanda after I got out of work. I can’t recall the text back but it was something like, “Umm…OK?” I assume she was understandably puzzled by why I would choose to go to the laundromat when I could just get the laundry done over a few nights downstairs and still enjoy the comforts of home. But with multiple bins of dirty laundry staring me in the face, I just wanted to get it all done at once. So I stuffed my towers of textiles into my sub-compact car (this would have been quite the feat on bike) and drove the mile to the location appropriately named “Dirty Laundry.”

I had not visited a laundromat in probably a decade. I figured it wouldn’t be a quarters situation anymore, and thankfully I was right. But the dozen or so signs instructing how to acquire and purchase a payment card, how to use each machine, and where everything was had me pause for a moment, which probably prompted another customer to smile at me from the other side of the room and shout, “First time here?”

Relieved, I replied that it was. The nice woman dropped what she was doing and walked me through the process, even giving me tips on the best settings for the machines. “If you set the driers to high, you can have your clothes dry in 20 minutes, ‘cause they spin both ways, you see…”

I thanked the young woman and spoke with her intermittently while our respective clothes were churning in the machines. A couple of other people came in. We smiled and nodded, said “hi,” nothing too involved, just social pleasantries. In about an hour and a half, my laundry was done and I headed home. I had a very positive experience.

About a week and a half later, my wife was faced with the same dilemma of a growing pile of laundry. While previously skeptical, she asked, “You want to go to the laundromat with me?” With it being time to wash a few loads again myself, I said yes.

We piled our soiled clothes into the car and headed over to Dirty Laundry. This time the owner was there, diligently cleaning and occasionally striking up a conversation with other customers, most of whom she seemed to know. She connected with my wife and I, cheerfully welcoming us and asking if we lived in the area. We chatted with the owner several times during the visit, as she and my wife hit it off with some light conversation.

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