grayscale photo of washing machine

My Beautiful Laundromat

It has been so long since I had my own washing machine and tumble drier that I have almost forgotten what it feels like to throw dirty clothes in the washer, forget about them, and have them dried and put away in a few hours, without the hassle of having to leave my own home. I have washed things by hand in the bath and dried them in the cupboard, but nothing ever feels or smells fresh that way. There is a laundromat near my apartment, but I walked in…and walked out pretty damn quickly. I think our things would be dirtier when they left.

The stench of unwashed bodies filled the place. I might not be a prissy princess, but I like clean things and ordered places. I suppose there is enough chaos in my life, enough filth and fear without being confronted with needless mess and dirt. Some filth does not wash off, no matter how many showers you might take. That kind of dirt is ingrained so deep, no scrubbing or magic stain remover is going to get that damned mark out. No, all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little monster, to paraphrase the Bard. I would turn the oceans to grimy puddles by dipping my hand into them. That dirt is there forever. I am tainted, smeared, mussed up, but at least I can do it in clean clothes and a freshly showered body.

I had been walking all the way up Russian Hill to a cutely named place in a naice area. The denizens sat there in bored pristine cleanliness. You see in a big city with tiny apartments, there is rarely enough room for a washing machine and tumble drier, or anywhere to put the outlets for them. As a result people have to visit laundromats who might otherwise never have to even think about whether or not these places exist. I am not one of those people. Sadly. It is my dream in life to be so successful I can own my own washing machine and tumble drier. Perhaps a Miele or a Panasonic. I look at them and long for their sleek stainless steel cleaning ways.

It was wash day yesterday. I packed up all our dirty clothes in a purple laundry bag, slung it over my shoulder and realized it was far far too heavy, but still, as always, too heavy doesn’t matter. The kid was busy sleeping, and I am an indulgent mother. As I stepped out the door I realized I didn’t have enough detergent or any drier sheets left. A girl must have her bounce, so hauled my washing and my filthy clothes to CVS and bought some supplies. I won’t sulk, but it is absolutely appalling how everything costs so much more nowadays. I came over all hot and sweaty passing the notes to the cashier, then one foot in front of the other, made my way out downhill. I had found a new laundromat to try out. It was a risk. I could have got there and been disgusted, but it was a risk worth taking, because it was far closer than my old haunt on Russian Hill, and not such a grueling walk.

The new place was housed in a sweet old brick building, which gave out severely New York vibes. To the left is a small café attached to the laundromat, so the washer can have coffee and something to eat while they wait for their things to be clean. Thanks to my allergies I can’t have a coffee in many places outside the house, but I have to say the drinks looked and smelt lovely. It is all industrial cool, stripped red brick walls, smelling of a lovely mix of baked goods, coffee, detergent and drier sheets. The crowd was older and a little hipper than the Russian Hill washers, but quiet and clean. Even better the washers were under $5, and the driers 25 cents for ten minutes. Heaven is a laundromat.

The wifi was fast, the seating was comfortable…it was just lovely. I was almost sad when the machines beeped to announce the whole lot needed to go into a drier. When a sock fell to the floor I didn’t want to cry in horror, but instead just threw it back into the machine. I sat there with a notebook, some editing I needed to do, and my headphones and just enjoyed being happy for a few moments.

Of course, my life being what it is, the day exploded into one thing after another that needed my attention. My life being what it is, a lot of the people I had to deal with were not helpful, or polite let alone kind…but unlike my usual lot in life, one person came through being a heroine. Thankfully I also have the best sister in the world, and the kindest most reasonable son a woman could ever wish for. I now also have clean clothes.

I packed my stuff back into the laundry bag and made it up the hill towards my apartment. Clean sheets on the bed. Clean clothes in cupboards. Clean pillowcases. Clean socks. Clean everything. It will never be clean enough, but at least I will be doing it all in my clean Velvet’s tee, and my clean sushi socks. At least I went to bed in sheets that smelt of bounce. At least I found the most beautiful laundromat in San Francisco.


  1. Alan Conrad

    Having read this, I am now on my way out again to a coin-operated laundromat. I might never have figured the machines out [you have to have exactly the right coins and put them in exactly the right slots] but for the help of a couple of regulars.

      1. Alan Conrad

        I’m currently living in airbnb’s – moving to another one this week, so I’m probably going to have to search for a new one. There aren’t as many as there used to be, at least in the Toronto region where I live.

        The old machine I was talking about reminded me of the ancient clanking computer in Cordwainer Smith’s 1960’s short story ‘Alpha Ralpha Boulevard, that despite almost no visitors still hands out enigmatic fortune predictions. It was that enigmatic.

      2. Alan Conrad

        Yes, to the machines. Re moving, it is out of necessity – I left an apt that was too expensive for me after the death of my wife, unaware of how difficult it can be now to get an apt on your own with only modest income – but I’ve been moving all my life, rented rooms to rented houses, over and over – so there may be something instinctual in it.

      3. Alan Conrad

        Thank you Detroit. But I don’t feel sorry for myself. Two of my three brothers are dead. Three of four male friends I had at end of high school are dead. My wife is gone. Meanwhile, until April, at 75 yrs old, I was running a mile twice a week. Now I’m in rehab for that – trying for a comeback. You yourself know how hard it is to live the life you want to live. I thank the world every morning to still be here, still writing, etc.

      4. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

        I never do get the impression you are anything other than stoic, but that said, I am so very sorry for all the loss in your life. Make sure you take good care of yourself and don’t push yourself too hard, Alan. The world certainly doesn’t like people who are not the absolute average, does it! There is a saying in Japanese, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” I have unfortunately found that to be true. I am certainly glad you are still here. Always nice to talk!
        Your pal,

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