I came upon the storefront with my suitcase full of laundry. It took me a moment to make sure that this was in fact a laundry facility. The building’s panelling was yellowing from neglect and weather – no longer the pure white it once was. The building was divided in two. One half had the sign removed with only the faint burn of halogen bulbs on the aluminum edges of whatever sign was there before. The windows of that half were blocked by old yellowing newspapers to keep curious eyes out. It’s not the only building in the former city to look like a chipboard coffin.
The other half of the building was my destination. Not much of a sign to speak of, typical low cost signage advertising Pepsi. As I entered the laundromat a stench struck me still. Cigarettes mixed with bleach and detergent. I was surprised to see the pristine white, burnished chrome and digital lights of the various laundry machines.
I looked around the shop to figure out prices and to try to spy out the best washing machine. The floor was concrete, rough and cracked. No attempt to make it friendly. The walls were mostly white plywood. The paint, like the building’s siding was yellowing from neglect. Taped haphazardly were curled 8.5×11 paper signs in Times New Roman, all alerting the clientele of how busy the shop was, “We are too busy to unload your laundry to make your machine available for other customers. We charge $6 if you leave your washing machine.” Looking across the legion of machines I could only see a handful of customers.
Out of a corner poked a head, ragged and grey. She made eye contact with me and shook her head.
“Don’t put that in them machines. Won’t fit.” Pleasantries weren’t on her mind.
“How much is it for a wash?”
“Six… or $2.50. But you won’t fit all that in one machine so you might as well use the big one. Six. Put your jacket in there, too.” She said through a yellowing grin.
After I loaded up the machine I looked for chairs. Three mismatched chairs lined a wall next to an old tube television with CTV playing through snow. All of the other customers stared at their slick and shiny smartphones waiting for their dirty laundry to be clean.
A few of the large six dollar machines had been filled and started. After enough water had been poured into their containers the machines threw the water back and forth. Back and forth. Suddenly all of the washing machines began their sonic flight. Spinning so quickly and so loudly I almost hoped it was the sound of a plane taking off. I almost hoped that it might take me out of this former city.