The Laundromat Chronicles (Pt. 1)
From the day humans started caring about how clean their clothes were, we have had to wash them. From that need, laundromats eventually sprang up. And from that point on, weirdo's have been going to hang out at them. This is just a collection of a few stories from my days at the laundromat. There are some entertaining, some actually kind of neat, and some that are just downright disgusting. Whatever kind you prefer, I hope you enjoy this.
I'm Sure Your Wife Wouldn't Be Happy...
You've got to hand it to little old men. They can manage somehow to be both cute and completely pervy at the same time without even realizing it, or meaning to be.
This particular one actually happened at one of the nicer laundromats in town. I had put my wash in the large high-velocity dryer not ten minutes before this older gentleman put his own items into one of the smaller, stacked dryers right next to mine. Smaller, stacked dryers. Next to the large high-velocity ones.
The gray-haired old dear then proceeded to go back to his laundry baskets and the washers he had just been using, when he noticed he'd accidentally left a small, floral hand towel inside of one of his washers. Reaching in and fishing it out, he continued over to the dryers...
...where he went and opened mine, stuck his towel in, looked around for a second as if confused, and then went ahead and shut the door anyways. He turned the heat up to high (which shrinks my clothes), and pressed the start button to get it going again. Then he went over to his other dryer and watched things spin around for a little while.
I had been watching this out of the corner of my eye, and I looked over to check the time on my dryer when I finally realized that it was not only on high, but had an article of laundry in it that I did not recognize. I ripped my door open, pulled out the offensive towel, and stared at it as if I could make it disappear. About that time, the man walked back over and started looking at my dryer, just as confused.
"Is this yours?" I asked, as calmly as I could. After a lifetime of using public washing machines, I think you can understand (there are other stories I'll tell later in this hub) why I get a little stressed out about people messing with the machines I'm currently using.
"Yes, that's my dryer," he replied.
"Actually, sir, this one was mine, these are my clothes but your towel. Are these dryers yours?" I asked, pointing to the two next to it.
He took a few minutes to look at the two, at the contents of them, and then observed the vastly different contents of my own dryer. "Oh! I'm so sorry! I thought that was one of mine, I just threw it in there."
Okay, that would be fine with me... if it were the truth. But if you look at the sort of things he was washing (floral-print towels, floral-print sheets, plain colored clothing, nothing ostentatious) and the vast array of Victoria's Secret undies, brightly colored tank tops, superhero t-shirts, and pajamas stuffed in my dryer...well... Either he was on the right type of drugs or he needed to be.
"Oh, yeah, it happens," I managed to choke out, and actually chuckled. "Here you go."
"Boy that would've been embarassing if I'd taken your clothes home to my wife."
"Yeah, somehow I don't think some random woman's undies would've gone over too well. You'd probably be living on the couch."
I can't entirely remember what he said after that because he kind of mumbled, but I just did the smile-and-nod quite a bit. He still watched my dryer for a minute or two as I set it back on medium and let it run again.
Accident? Or good cover? You decide.... I really couldn't tell.
The Queen of Truck Driving
Occasionally you meet someone perfectly normal in a laundromat - it's not ALL crazies - who just needs someone else to talk to, a little girl time.
This isn't entirely one of those cases, but... in a way, it both is and isn't.
My usual table-seat was taken one day while the 'mat was busy, so I went over and sat at the regular chairs off by the floor-to-ceiling front windows that seem to come standard at all laundromats so that passers-by can watch you fold your lingerie. Minding my own business, even had my headphones in. This loud, tall, african-american woman in high heels, a skintight red dress that came halfway down her thighs, and a nice black jacket, walks in, shouting over her cell phone, loud enough for me to hear over my music. Nothing bad, just talking that loudly. Mind you this is the middle of winter in Missouri, everyone else is bundled up like it's the end of the world. Okay, maybe that was just me because I hate the cold.
She stuffs a small bag full of clothes into the nearest small washer, and looks at it like it's the most foreign thing in the world once she shuts the lid. Then she goes over and asks this poor old man, who looked like he was about to have a heart attack when some tall loud chick came up to him, what order you had to do things in on that machine, and why it asked for a dollar-fifty but only had three slots (this laundromat gives out dollar coins to use from its machines, she hadn't gone over there). He explained it, and she went over, got the correct change, got off the phone with whoever she was talking to, and started her wash. Then she comes over and sits next to me.
"Excuse me, do you know how long these washers take?" she asks.
I had my headphones on still, I barely heard any of that. I took my headphones off and said "I'm sorry?"
"Do you know how long the washers take? And where are the dryers?"
"Oh, well I don't know about those small ones, I usually wait until I have three or five loads and use the big ones, they only take sixteen minutes so... sixteen minutes at the most? And the dryers are any of the ones along the wall."
"Thank you, I wasn't sure because you know, every laundromat is different, and they all start looking like the same machines after a while. I travel a lot, I'm a truck driver," she started.
At first I wasn't really in the mood for company - she was interrupting a good book and a good song, not to mention sitting right next to me, and we were both a bit wide of hip. I'm kind of weirded out by physical contact from someone I'm not physical with, it's an odd quirk of mine, I know...
"Wow, that's awesome. I thought about doing that at one point, actually," I admitted. It was true, for a little while I thought that as soon as I was done with the pet store job, I was gonna get a trucking license, and travel the states and Canada, a true nomad. It was a romantic notion. I quickly squelched it once I realized I didn't want to have to deal with other truckers or those idiots on the road 24/7.
"Oh yeah? You know it's not easy, it's a man's world," she just kept on chatting. And chatting. And chatting. "But they respect it if you stay true to yourself, you stay true to being a woman. Look at me. I like to dress nicely, you know some of those trucking women, they try to be the guys, and it gets them nowhere but down. Guys don't like women trying to be them, guys want women to be women and men to be men. They respect me because I dress like I dress and I do like I do, and I can still drive, and you know when I first started out they gave me the toughest things to do. They really did. Because they didn't respect me yet. They'd give me the smallest spaces to back my truck up into, the hardest docks to pull in, and I'd just say 'sure'. And I'd do it. And they sure respect me now, no doubt about it. Because I'm real, and I'm true, and I'm not trying to be something I'm not, and I do my job just as well as they do. And they respect that I don't fake it."
We talked about men, and male-dominated fields, which she realized I understood once I mentioned I'd worked at an auto shop. "Oh yeah, you know what I'm saying then!" Oh yes I did. I worked at that auto shop for a year and a half. Men are pigs. We talked about how hard it was to find a decent man, and her ex-husband who was a no-good lying you-know-what, who cheated on her, and then moved in with the girl, and that girl stole from him and lied to him too, because that's what evil people do, and when he found out, he had a heart attack and that girl who he HAD to be with wasn't around to find him anymore, and that's karma. I mentioned I had found a great guy, who didn't mind that I was a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of gal. She and I agreed that was an important part of a relationship, accepting each other like that.
She went on about this guy they had her training - he'd been a construction worker, or a warehouse guy, or something, and he was well into middle-age, so he didn't think he had to take orders from a woman, he thought he knew his stuff. Then she told me about how he got the expensive ticket in New York City for driving down a no-truck street because the GPS told him to and she had told him from day one NOT to use the GPS system inside the city because it didn't care if it wasn't a truck route or not. "What were you THINKING?" "Well the GPS said - " "I'm sorry what? The what? That thing I told you not to use because of this very reason?" "Uhh...."
We talked the whole time she did her fancy laundry, guys, physical relations, kids, jobs (I was working two at the time, both retail, so I was working six or seven days, she'd been on the road over a week with her trainee), life, karma. Some deep stuff.
Overall... one of my best experiences in a laundromat. Whoever she is and wherever she is, I hope she's still having fun and doing what she does best. Great woman, and I wish her the best.
Round and Round We Go
It will never cease to amaze me how many people stand at the front-load washers or dryers and continuously watch their articles spin. People watch their clothes spin, I watch people watching their clothes spin and wait for them to realize how oddly everyone else is looking at them.
The Red October
I'm not actually sure if it was October, but it was fall sort of weather one day when I went to the old laundromat down on Fifth Street. It had always been a less hospitable place than I would've liked to have been in, but at the time, I was still fairly new to the area, and didn't know where any other 'mats were. I'd had all sorts of really weird, creepy things happen to me in that laundromat, though, and this one was quite possibly the worst.
This obviously rednecked-hillbilly type, complete with the bad t-shirt, shaved head, missing tooth, and farmer's tan, watched me one day as I was doing my laundry. He started getting loud and talking to everyone, a more southern-Missouri drawl present in his speech. This is what Missourians, I have come to find out, have termed a "hoosier." Contrary to the belief that it is a strictly Indiana-based term, Missouri picked it up and took it in the wrong direction. It now means hick, or trash, within the confines of this state, and is quite derogatory. He lived up to it.
I tried to keep my headphones on, listening to music, or at least pretending to, but I was getting a headache from how loud I had to keep it in order to drown him out as he was talking to random people all around me. Anybody directly around me, at that. I saw him eye me at least once, and just rolled my eyes. First of all, he was an idiot. Secondly, he was old enough to be my father, or my father's slightly younger brother. He wasn't a spring chicken. And third, you could smell him. Uck.
So finally I just have to get up and go get my stuff out of the washer, which he is conveniently standing next to and leaning on the one beside it.
"Well hey there. You've got red hair, I like redheads. Is it natural?" he wiggled his eyebrows at me.
Okay, last time I checked, someone asking THAT question and wiggling their eyebrows meant that they wanted to check to see if the carpet matched the drapes, if you know what I mean. What. The. Twizzler? Are you SERIOUS?
I gave him a disgusted look, and didn't answer.
He leered, grinning at me like a pedophile at kids playing in the water hose nearly naked and soaked down. "I'm a natural redhead, y'know," he said, and made a 'coy' face, pursing his lips together and running a hand over his bald head.
"Yeah, whatever," I replied, stuffing my clothes into the cart. I rolled over to the other side of the laundromat and put my stuff in a dryer far away from him.
At least he didn't follow, but I still saw him walking around and looking over at me periodically. I didn't even fold my clothes, I just stuffed them in my bag and ran to my car as soon as it was done.
The Old and the Sleazy
Even in the nicer laundromats, sometimes, there are pervs.
A perfectly harmless looking seventy- or eighty-something year old man walked into the nice laundromat I go to now. He walked just fine up to the washer. He put his clothes in without any assistance.
I was at my usual table seat, where there are two little stools and a small table to put your things on (not really big enough for folding), and there's a tv there, but it doesn't work - that's why I sit there, because that one's never on, thank goodness.
I had already put my things in the washer, so I was sitting there, a rolling basket taking up space that would be for the person beside me so as to block morons from sitting down where I had my stuff spread all over the table. I like to work when I go to the laundromat, I was busy writing - I was in my creative zone. For anyone who writes, you know what it is to be in the zone. And you know how it feels when someone invades your zone.
He didn't care about the basket, or my purse being right there. He sat down next to me.
"I've gotta sit, nobody's sitting here right?"
I just sort of glared at him. He didn't notice, or care. He just smiled at me. And then watched as I gathered all my things from around him, moved to get my stuff out of the washer, and sure enough, he watched me fold my bra and set it to the side of my other clothes before I threw the things I can dry into the dryer.
Dirty old bat.
Needless to say, I didn't sit back down next to him. I moved over to the next table, and, glaring at him, put my purse AND everything else on the chair, AND made sure my bra was covered up by a shirt I can't dry in the basket.
Next time I saw him, he was looking at some other older lady's unmentionables as she folded them, blissfully unaware.
Not Safe At Home
That's right. There's even a small public laundry facility in my own apartment complex. Why don't I use it?
My mother came up the stairs one day after doing laundry.
Mom: "I am never doing laundry here again. We're going back to the 'mat. You were right."
Me: "Oookay.... Do I wanna know?"
Mom: "I put the laundry in the washer, started it, and sat out on the front step to the laundry room. Another guy went past me with a basket of clothes, and I just happened to look back because I couldn't remember if I'd put detergent in. And he just lifted up the lid and started going through our clothes! Just like that!"
Me: "I told you! People are sick! You always have to be able to see your machines!"
Mom: "You're right. Anyways, he didn't get anything, I don't think, but I went over there and slammed the door on his hands."
Me: "Good! What did he do?"
Mom: "He said 'oh, sorry' with a thick accent and ran off, didn't even put his clothes in another washer or anything, he was just looking for stuff!"
And THAT is why I don't do my laundry at a place with no chairs, where I can't see it in the machines.
The End of Part One
Regardless of experience, good or bad, I will still be going to laundromats. So I may have some stories for you in the future.
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