Thursday, December 8, 2011


A laundromat is such a good civic business. I was a patron of these establishments well into my 30s. When we were finally in a place where we could have a washer/dryer, my first husband said he'd rather skip it; he didn't mind going to the laundromat.

The first one I frequented after college was in Midtown Atlanta and was frequented by transvestites. I was not familiar with this subculture and I enjoyed washing my clothes with these flambouyant, gentle folks. This prepared me for my laundromat in Brooklyn, which was a hub of activity, always. It was across from a subway stop in Park Slope and attracted all sorts of characters. I've always thought there is some irony to the commercials that feature laundromats as places to meet people to date. It makes sense, but laundromats always have a bit of danger about them. It's not a place I've ever gone looking for a date.

One memorable day after hiking in the rain for a few hours, I spent some time in a laundromat near Arcadia National Park in Maine with some male friends drying our clothes. My suitcase was in the trunk of the car, so we all wore my spare clothes while we waited for our own to dry. Definitely a flashback to Atlanta.

St. Joseph just opened a laundromat a few months ago, and I didn't think I'd ever use it. But our washer at work has been acting up, and while I'm waiting for the repairman, I needed to wash two loads of sheets and towels. So off I went to the laundromat.

It's a beautiful place-- all the shiny, new machines, super-efficient and quick (27 minute cycles!) and able to hold loads up to 30 lbs. The dryers are the same gigantic machines sunk into walls. There were two television sets playing bad reality talk shows, but the volume was quite low. This made it possible to listen to the Christmas music from a local station that was playing a mix of country and traditional favorites.

When "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg came over the speakers, I had to chuckle. At first I wasn't sure it was a Christmas song. It takes it's place with other hard-luck holiday songs, like "Christmas in Prison" by John Pryne, and "Merry Christmas from the Family" by Robert Earle Keene.

I love these songs, because they capture the kind of universal dinginess of Christmas which is thanks to the American consumerism that has devolved the holiday from oranges in stockings to blow-up Santas on the front lawn (why are they deflated during the day?). I'm as nostalgic as anyone for the giant light bulbs of my youth that would burn your hands when you accidentally brushed it trying to get a candy cane off the tree. But I didn't know I'd become nostalgic for the current mini-lights as they get overtaken by garish LED lights.

It was good to be in a laundromat a couple weeks before Christmas. A young dad came in with two giant hampers and started filling machines, and one other woman came in with her modest load and asked if I knew where the remote was for the television. Mostly we minded our own business, reading the recipes in Women's Day or watching the horror show on television. Or humming along to good old Dan Fogelberg.

If you haven't heard it in a while, click here. Just realize it might be a while before you can get it out of your head.   


Bobby Sauro said...

I love a blog about Laundromats! The upscale one in Midtown back in the day was called Suds N Duds (or something like that) and served beer. Although it never happened to me, I could have met a girl there AND had a first date over Suds while my Bon Jovi jeans dried.

Good to know they still build Laundromats. Every once in awhile you see a really old one that's in a house. Not sure how that happens.

Susan Sink said...

Bob, I was trying to remember the name of the one that served beer-- what a concept! I think they were popping up all over the place in Atlanta then... one in Decatur, too, if I remember correctly. And yes, I do think what surprised me is that there's a NEW laundromat in town. I also thought they'd stopped making them-- like pay phones!

There is one across the street from the monastery in Chicago and I used to go there while on retreat to get candy bars!