…because I like the laundromat.
My first experience with coin-operated laundry was around 1980 at an apartment complex in Louisville, Kentucky where my best friend Robyn lived for a few years while we were growing up. At the time, Robyn and I spent most of our days glued to the TV watching our newly acquired VHS tape of the movie Xanadu. Occasionally, we would break from the roller-musical extravaganza and walk with Robyn’s Mom to help her carry their dirty clothes down the hall to the communal laundry room. This particular laundry room was wide open and big. It was essentially the size of a standard garage with a couple of washers and dryers lined up along one wall. There was a perfectly smooth, concrete floor with about 4 metal support columns peppered around the space. It didn’t take long for Robyn and I to figure out that there was usually no one in the laundry room and that the floor and poles would make for the most perfect private roller rink we could have ever imagined. And so we would load up Robyn’s “boom box” with about 12 D batteries, insert our prized Xanadu soundtrack cassette, lace up our skates and glide around the laundry room using the poles as props to grab and spin around. We would spend hours in that dank, dark, mildewy basement with the sounds of ELO and Olivia Newtown John intermingling with vibrating spin cycles and the thump of Levi’s tumbling in the dryers. In the early 80’s this was a 7-year-old girl’s paradise. Let me tell you, pretending I was O.N.J. and roller-skating around that room gave me a lifelong love and appreciation of coin operated laundry facilities. Now, every single time I walk into a laundromat the song “I’m Alive” by ELO starts playing in my head.
A few years later Robyn, her Mom and sister moved into a house and we bid our own private Xanadu adieu. My next laundromat experience wouldn’t be until I left home for college at Miami of Ohio in Oxford, Ohio in 1992. The coin operated laundry facilities in my freshman, college dorm were uninspiring but little did I know that my love affair with the laundromat would begin again when I moved off campus my sophomore year. It was then that I discovered the Locust Laundry and Car Wash on North Locust Street, Oxford, Ohio.
There were a couple of great things about the Locust Laundry and Car Wash. First of all, there were video games, great video games. So, while you were waiting you could take on your roommate and try your hand at Ms. Pacman or my favorite video game of all time, Galaga. I played so much Galaga by the time I graduated from Miami that I was conscious of trying to constantly improve my “hit/miss ratio” and I would get seriously pissed if I didn’t get the extra 10,000 points from the Challenging Stages. If the video games weren’t enough, you could hit up the self-service car wash that was attached to the laundromat and suds up and vacuum out the car while you waited for your towels to dry. What could be more efficient than getting your car and your clothes clean simultaneously? And then, to top it all off, next door to the laundromat was a smoke shop. So, if the video games or car wash weren’t enough to distract you, you could buy a pack of Camel Special Lights (my preferred smoke at the time) and puff away or if you were especially cool, you could buy a bag of Drum and roll your own damn cigarettes. Sometimes I would see people studying at the laundromat, but between Galaga, washing my car and smoking I never found the laundromat a very conducive environment for furthering my academic education.
All of these laundromat anecdotes leads me to a week ago when we were told by an expert that the biggest environmental concern in our home was our front loading washing machine. It is covered in mold; the drum, the gasket, the whole thing despite my efforts to keep the door open and wiping out the rubber gasket after each use. Over the past 5 years as I tried to conserve water and energy I have essentially been swaddling my family in clothing, towels and bedding that have been bathed in a moldy, bacterial cesspool. Not awesome. Our immediate reaction was to simply replace our washer but truthfully our washer is inconveniently located in our bathroom. It is a mini-washer due to the fact that a full size won’t fit in there and no, believe me, there just isn’t any other place the washer can easily be placed. So… we’ve been frequenting our local coin-operated laundry facilities and truthfully it’s been living up to my very high expectations. Our laundromat is located exactly one block from my house and at the end of a really lovely walk street. KOST 103.5 FM is always playing on the radio and at this time of year they only play holiday tunes and it’s just hard to be in a bad mood when you’re listening to Christmas songs. Additionally, my 5-year-old is totally into it. At this point he basically does the laundry and I just assist. For him putting quarters into the machines, pushing wet clothes around the place in a wheely cart and watching the gas-powered dryers fire up is all pure entertainment. Most of the time we just go home while we wait but we’ve found some fun distractions by racing up and down the walk street and visiting the art supply store next door. NO, we aren’t smoking or playing video games.
Most of my friends think I’m a little crazy for not wanting to immediately replace my washing machine, but for the time being I’m having fun spending a little time at the laundromat again. Also, I’m really hoping Mack will remember this time and that someday thoughts of the laundromat will conjure Christmas carols and a fond nostalgia for fluff and fold.