When I moved to a little apartment in Austin, it was necessary to use a local laundromat. I tried several before settling on one where I felt relatively comfortable. I wasn’t there to make friends, just to wash/dry/fold my clothes. To pass the time I would take a book to read and a little notebook.
After punching the quarters into the washing machine(s), I would sit down and open the notepad. I dated my first entry and called it : “The Laundromat Chronicles.” I wrote why I was there, what was happening in my life, and my impressions of the people around me. Every week for nearly two years, I read and filled little notebooks. Sometimes I would write letters, but I faithfully chronicled the laundromat patrons’ actions and words first. If something was wrong or exciting in my life, I would jot that down as well. Once in a while I would run a quick errand as the clothes tumbled dry. Even though I seldom saw repetitious customers, none of my stuff was ever stolen. These were hardworking people who had the necessity of the public laundering in common.
Babies were held, fed, changed. No one let their baby crawl on the floor. Toddlers wandered around with a bottle or pacifier or toy. Older kids pushed the carts or sat in them. Sometimes there wasn’t a cart available when my clothes were dry, so I just folded the clothes as I pulled them out of the dryer and dropped them into the basket at my feet.
As a daughter and a mother, I remember having to use a laundromat during a couple of hurricanes and when one of my dryers went caput, although transporting several loads of wet clothes, sheets, and towels is a drag. Laundromats are really the way to go, real time-savers. You get all your laundry done in under two hours, as opposed to having to use one washing machine and dryer and taking all day at home.
One thing differed from the earlier times and those Austin years (1995-1997). Hispanic men were there alone or with another man (brother or buddy?). They were either illegals or divorced. I do not know why, but I really enjoyed seeing them do domestic stuff that they never had to do before.
After Danny whisked me away to Felton, CA, I still had to use a laundromat. His small but cozy cabin among the redwoods did not contain a washer/dryer. He said he would get me a pair, but I said I did not mind going to the laundromat every week. His construction clothes got pretty dirty.
The Felton laundromat was different. There were hanging baskets to relieve the starkness. I did see the same people most weeks, but they already knew each other and I did not mind keeping to myself. I detailed our newlywed life in more laundromat chronicle notebooks, but often those around me were a little odd and deserved to be entered onto a page. One older lady tried to steal Danny’s hat while I went across the street to the store. I found it in her basket and asked for it back. She said it “accidently” got there.(frown) Weird. She was a housekeeper or a daycare worker, it seemed, for the clothes she washed could not have belonged to her. Another time, she tried to take one of Danny’s sweatshirts and I saw her go through another person’s dryer. I had to tell the manager/owner, who was a very nice fellow. I did not see her again after that. People with local bed-and-breakfasts would come in and wash huge loads of linens. In the summer there were fans blowing; in the winter there were heaters. Whenever a unit broke down, the owner was right there fixing it, although he did not dress like a handyman.
After nearly a year my laundromat days came to an abrupt end, when a funky long-haired/bearded older homeless guy came in and began to strip. He took off everything but his grungy underwear and put it all in the washing machine, then sat down to wait. There was only one other person around and I was hoping my clothes would be finished before his. When Danny got home, I told him what happened that day. He said, “That’s it, you’re getting your own washer and dryer.” Everytime something strange happened on laundry day I would let Danny know of my “adventure,” but this had been the last straw. We went out that weekend and bought a new washer and dryer, which he installed.
Soooo, that was the end of “The Laundromat Chronicles.” Now all I have to do is edit them into a real book. No names will be changed to protect the innocent, because I have no idea who all those strangers briefly entering my life were. It’s probably best that way, don’t ya think?
P.S. If you ever travel to San Francisco, you really should go down to Santa Cruz and Felton. There are so many great tummy-tempting and unique restaurants, as well as the boardwalk, beach, and redwoods. The wines are fabulous, too. A real tourist paradise.