Johnny America


Let­ters from the Laundromat


Picture of a washing machine, bubbling over

In my hard­scrab­ble younger years, the laun­dro­mat was a nec­es­sary but even then, most­ly plea­sur­able des­ti­na­tion. Now that I’m mid­dle aged and mid­dle class with a pri­vate laun­dry room of my own, it has evolved in­to an oc­ca­sion­al treat— some­thing on the or­der of a Caramel Mac­chi­a­to that I re­al­ly shouldn’t or duck­ing out of work to catch a mat­inée.

Bring a note­book and you’ll find you can write sev­er­al hun­dred con­sid­ered words over the du­ra­tion of a vis­it. If you’re an am­a­teur doo­dler like I am, a cou­ple of wash loads al­lows just enough time to ren­der a thor­ough if un­ac­com­plished draw­ing of the bro­ken so­da machine. 

Though many laun­dro­mats of­fer wifi these days, cel­lu­lar phones and lap­tops are sure to zap the sim­ple plea­sure of un­struc­tured time found float­ing in the air like so many jet­ti­soned dry­er sheets. Flip­ping through the end­less boun­ty of the Internet’s dai­ly moral out­rages, you’ll miss the chance to chal­lenge the high score on the Ms. Pac­man game, or to find your­self roped in­to the age-old de­bate of whether or not a hot­dog is a sand­wich with a cou­ple shar­ing a bot­tle of wine and slices of gas-sta­tion cheddar.

You nev­er can tell what you’ll see dur­ing the Spin cy­cle of the in­dus­tri­al Whirlpool front-loader. The last time I went, I saw a would-be co­me­di­an test­ing it­er­a­tions of a sin­gle corny set­up: “I like my women like I like my jokes… black,” “I like my women like I like my jokes… a lit­tle ju­ve­nile for my age,” “I like my women like I like my jokes… short.” I’m not sure I’d pay to watch her do stand-up at a club, but it was worth my $2.25 in quar­ters, and the ham­per full of clean clothes sweet­ened the deal.

Filed under Commentary on September 4th, 2020

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