2013.08.14 Life in the ‘laundrymat’


from Feb. 2, 1994

I read an article about how people these days are trying to do too much—they’re always busy, always trying to cram one more thing into their days. They are over-scheduled, but still, they stuff lessons, classes, social engagements, volunteering, recreational activities into their family life. The consequences, the article implies, are not good.

I am not the sort of person the article is addressing. I am not an energetic, over-ambitious sort; I maintain a fairly balanced life with adequate time for just goofing off. (“Lazy,” my husband would say.) But I know intimately what that article is talking about and I have a broken washing machine to prove it.

For years, I have overstuffed clothes into my washer. Not every load, but whenever the laundry got ahead of me, I filled that washer beyond its capacity in an attempt to catch up more quickly. I lived with the ensuing wrinkled clothes; clothes that didn’t quite look as clean as they might have, had I washed them in a normal size load; the clothes that came out wetter and took longer to dry.

All that overstuffing, I figure, got the better of my washer. Now, my machine emits a peculiar burned rubber smell and I’m doing my wash at the laundrymat. (I now know that the word is really Laundromat and it is a trademark, but I grew up saying and spelling it laundrymat and old habits die hard.)

I have grown to love washing clothes at the laundrymat. A week’s worth of laundry can be completed in less than two hours and it’s all taken care of at once. Morenci’s laundrymat, particularly on “no smoking Thursdays,” is a pleasant place to clean your clothes. Throughout the years, I have had eras during which I logged many laundrymat hours. My teen years, with my two older sisters gone, was one of those eras: I became the family laundress. It was not my happiest era.

Every weekend, I overloaded our two-wheeled shopping cart with plastic bags of sorted (and sordid) laundry. With the help of one of my brothers, I carried it down five flights of stairs, and wheeled three blocks to the local laundrymat.

Once there, I overstuffed the washing machines, compressing seven loads into six so I’d have a bit more spending money. If I were lucky enough to land enough washers at once for all the loads of laundry, I would be free to head down to Joe’s Bakery on the corner for a slice of Sicilian pizza or a cannoli or an Italian ice. Joe served some mighty fine pizza and the slices from the middle of the rectangular pie were the biggest and the best.

I was momentarily a happy teenager overstuffed with pizza. Happy, until I had to fight the other patrons for the limited number of dryers. Still, it beat doing the laundry in the basement of my 50 family apartment building. The three washers and two dryers provided by the landlord just did not cut the mustard sandwich for my family’s laundry needs.

I feel like I’m in Laundrymat Heaven in Morenci. I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait for a dryer. And if I remember not to overstuff the washers, I have great success in getting my clothes clean.

My favorite periodical, The Tightwad Gazette, had an interesting idea in a recent issue. Their recommendation: buy less clothing and do the wash daily.

Daily? I don’t know about that. That’s too much washing to stuff into a week. I’d soon feel like my life was going through the spin cycle.