I don’t remember the last time I was in a laundromat. It had been raining for days and most everything I had was wet to some degree. I had some washing to do and plenty of things to dry. I knew I’d probably need quarters to run the machine. Luckily I had a couple of dollars worth in the ashtray of the truck.
I threw my dirty clothes and some wet towels, blankets, pillow cases, and shirts into the passenger seat of the truck and headed for town. It was still raining and there wasn’t much else to do, but maybe drink. I figured if I did the laundry in the morning, I’d still have the afternoon and if it was raining, maybe I’d have a beer.
Before I go any further, will someone out there please invent a washing machine, dryer and soap dispenser that allows you to swipe a credit or debit card in order to operate it. It turns out that to do laundry, you need more than a few quarters from the ashtray, you need to go to the bank and get a bag full.
Anyway, I guess going to the laundromat on a rainy day it something other people do as well. A lot of other people. They needed valet parking at this place. It turns out this was the only laundromat within probably a 50-mile radius.
It was too early to drink, or I certainly would have not have bothered to go in. It was eight o’clock in the morning, borderline drinking time for some people.
I gathered up my stuff from the passenger seat and headed in. There was quite a crowd, but my eyes were on the machines. I saw one, and only one, with the lid up. Unlike a toilet seat lid, this meant it was not in use.
I quickly made my way to the machine and dumped my arm load of clothes on top of the open machine, laying claim. Right away I could see I had too much for one load, but it was the only machine, so I’d have to choose what to wash and what to bring back out to the truck.
I stuffed what I needed to wash into the machine and closed the cover, that’s when I noticed the quarter slots – eight of them. It was two dollars for a tiny load of laundry. What a ripoff, I thought. I pulled my quarters out of my pocket and began to count. Luckily, I had nine quarters, one more than I needed.
It was then that I looked around the laundromat for the first time. I think I was the only guy. The place was crowed, awash in estrogen. A bunch of college-age girls were sitting on the clothes folding counter in the far corner laughing loudly about something. What I later learned to be several young mothers were hanging out on some chairs over by the wall engaged in rapid conversation. It seems when camping on a rainy day you leave the kids with dad and the moms gather at the laundromat for some girl talk. I think I saw one little kid the entire time I was there. There were some girls that looked to be pre-teens, and a number of just single women ranging from age 30 to, I’d guess, the one bent over in the back corner was about 80.
As I began to put my quarters into the slots, the woman using the machine next to me walked over and lifted the lid to her machine. Her wash had just finished. I must have done a double take as she looked just like someone from work. I was about to say something when she pulled a pair of pink bikini panties out of the washer and held them up with both hands as if inspecting or admiring them. She gave them a shake and a stretch and tossed them into a clothes basket at her feet. That stopped me cold. She looked at me and smiled.
“Jesus,” I thought, “this has got to be illegal somehow?”
I looked away without saying a word. I felt like a Peeping Tom. Was I some kind of a pervert?
I quickly shoved the tray with my eight quarters into the machine and marched out of the building. I think I was having trouble breathing.
I don’t remember the last time, if ever, a woman has held such a seductive pair of underwear up in front of me and handled them like that. I figured I’d better go sit in my truck and calm down.
I was watching my wrist watch waiting for my 30 minutes to be up. But I was also wondering what else she had in that washing machine. Those pink bikini panties were tattooed to my brain.
With five minutes still to go, I climbed out of the truck and with a mixture of hesitation and excitement, headed back into the laundromat.
My washing machine was on spin. That seemed good. The college-age girls were still over in the corner, now folding clothes. I think they had probably tried to wash and dry as much of their stuff as possible, because what they were wearing was just enough for them to get by without me being arrested.
The collection of young mothers had moved around the room. Some were working the washing machines, others the dryers or folding clothes. The pre teens were now giggling over on the chairs by the wall. She of the pink bikini panties was leaning seductively against the wall across from the dryers. All sorts of visions raced through my head. I had to look away.
My machine stopped and I opened it up. That was when I realized that I had mixed my colors, leaving me with some pink socks, and I had forgotten to add detergent. Here I was, the only guy in the place and I had everything screwed up. All the guys that aren’t stuck in a tent somewhere with screaming kids must be bellied up to a bar laughing over a beer, I thought. I was feeling very inadequate. I can do laundry. I do it at home. It must have been those pink bikini panties, images of which were lighting up my thoughts like Time Square.
I didn’t have a basket. Again, I bundled my laundry in my arms, now even wetter than before, and walked over to the dryers. My heart skipped a beat and I may have blushed. The only dryer available was right in front of Miss Pink Bikini Panties. I fumbled for the latch with my arms full of clothes and dropped a pair of blue boxer shorts on the floor. God! I was humiliated. Getting the door open I quickly tossed everything inside, and snatched the underwear off the floor throwing it inside and slamming the door.
I looked at her and she smiled again. I was hating this laundromat and loving it at the same time. With only one quarter remaining, I had to go over to the dollar bill changer for more. I figured I’d start with four quarters. Each quarter was good for six minutes of hot air. As the machine sucked in my dollar bill I glanced over at my dryer. There pinned up against the glass were my blue boxer shorts. Oh God, could it get any worse?
Grabbing my quarters I quickly retraced my steps to the dryer and dropped them in the slot starting everything tumbling. I turned and nodded at Miss Pink Bikini Panties and she said hi. I then happened to glance back at my dryer and in the machine next to mine saw the pink bikini panties tumble past the glass window. I think I began to sweat. I marched out of that place double time and planted myself back in my truck.
“What a jerk you are,” I said to myself. “You’re acting like a child.”
I was, and now I was feeling bad about myself. In my mind I recreated everything that had happen from the time I first walked into the laundromat. I was acting like a teenager. Determined to suck it up, I got out of the truck, took a deep breath, and marched back into the laundromat.
The college-age girls had left. That was both a good and bad thing, I wasn’t sure. Miss Pink Bikini Panties was over at the folding table. She did look remarkably like someone from work. I figured it would be best if I steered a wide path around the folding table. I walked over to my dryer and leaned against the opposite wall. One of the young mothers came over and put her laundry into the dryer vacated by you know who. Out of the corner of my eye I watched as she tossed things into the dryer. I still had about 10 minutes left on mine.
Oh good Lord, I thought as she finished and closed the dryer door. This time no women’s underwear! I looked at her and at the dryer twice, maybe three times, or four, it could have been five times. No underwear? Not even a bra? Maybe she didn’t wear… Again I ran from the laundromat as if my hair was on fire and jumped back in my truck.
What did that mean? What was I supposed to think? Should I be thinking about this at all?
It was still raining and I was a mess. What’s up with laundromats anyway? They rob you of your dignity, expose you to a room full of perverts and leave you an emotional wreck, but at the same time, I was coming to realize, laundromats could be pretty exciting. I had been alone in the rain in my tent far too long. I couldn’t wait for the bars to open.
Back inside, my clothes were done and for the most part dry, although in some cases not completely. But there was no way I was staying in that den of iniquity a moment longer. Again, I had no basket, so a gathered up my stuff and made my way to the folding counter. There I dropped everything and started to sort though my semi-dry clothes. For 25 cents you could by a plastic laundry bag. I had a quarter left. I dropped it in the slot and became the proud owner of a cheap, one-time use only, green mesh, plastic bag that probably cost two cents to make.
As I began folding my clothes the pre teen girls began to move closer. They were giggling and pushing one another. They took up a position behind me to my right and there they stayed giggling away. Juveniles with nothing better to do than hang around a laundromat I mumbled to myself.
Was it me, or every time I picked up a pair or my boxer shorts to fold did their giggling get louder? I was getting a little embarrassed. Maybe they should set an age limit for laundromat admittance of 18 or 21-years old and check ID’s at the door. What a cheap thrill, I thought. I wanted to turn around and say, “Grow up girls,” but thought better and just rushed though things not bothering to fold the final few items, just throwing them in the bag.
It was still early, but when the bars opened for lunch, I was at the door waiting. I had something to eat as well while I was there.
Washing, drying, detergent, fabric softener and laundry bag, six dollars. Pink bikini panties, or none at all, priceless.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.