Quiet Desperation

Farewell to laundromats is a wash come true


I just washed a load of colors and had a particularly gruesome flashback to a time when I didn’t own a washing machine.

I didn’t own a washing machine until I was 33. I depended upon the ones in my apartment buildings or public laundromats.

Whenever laundromats are shown in films (“Shopgirl,” “The Blind Side,” “Sling Blade”) they are almost always sad-looking places with sad-looking people in them.

I went to Yelp to see if things have changed, at least in Denver, and the Top Ten look nothing like the ones I went to in West Los Angeles, that had a lost-and-found of 40 or 50 unmatched socks, a few peach-colored brassieres, and kitchen towels with pictures of spices on them.

In college, I did my laundry once every two weeks, and I always went at odd hours, to avoid people. However, it meant that others who did their laundry at odd hours to avoid people would be there too. We never spoke. Maybe we nodded to each other, and that was it.

I do not underestimate my washing machine. It is more dependable than I am. It has a lot of different settings on it, but I think it’s just an illusion, and every setting actually performs identically.

How does a box of water know if something is permanent press or not?

The answer is: It doesn’t, but it sounds reassuring.

When I went to laundromats, I had to sit there and wait. It was two hours of sitting there, and I usually took a book. The time wasn’t misused, but I would rather have been reading the book in my own home.

I was always on the lookout for nefarious types. Los Angeles has a few. However, my relentless self-preservation disallowed the possibility that I might meet someone who would become famous someday.

Here is an imagined conversation.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hello,” I said.

“I’m writing a song. I need a word that rhymes with `mire.’”


“Perfect. `And our love become a funeral pyre.’ Thanks, man.”

“Shouldn’t it be `becomes a funeral pyre’?”

“Uh, no, man.”

The lighting in the laundromats I went to was always very unflattering. Maybe that has changed too. It made everything and everyone look worse. As if David Lynch was behind it.

My first apartment building, on Sawtelle in West Los Angeles, had two washing machines and two dryers. It was always a matter of luck whether they were in use or not.

Sometimes loads would be left in them long after clothes were washed or dried, and that led to: 1. apologies, or 2. disputes. Generally, disputes.

I bought my first washing machine when I bought my first house. It was a major purchase. And I bought a matching dryer.

Everything changed. I was on my own. I could light my laundry area anyway I wanted to, and not wear pants if I wanted to.

It also meant I didn’t have to have a jar of quarters.

It meant something else too: I was, finally, an adult. Having a washer and a dryer of my own officially ended my youth.

My advice to anyone who wants to stay forever young: don’t invest in major appliances.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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