Laundromat Memories

When I was 10 we didn’t have a washing machine or dryer.

We would actually wash our clothes in the bathtub, and then wring them out. Depending on the time of year the clothes line really wasn’t an option, so my sister and I would take trash bags full of wet clothes to the laundromat and bring them there to dry.

It was always hot and nasty in that place.

Once there was a big fat guy wearing a short sleeve white shirt that was glistening with sweat. He was fanning his face with a Sunset magazine and shouted out, “It’s a goddamn sweat-box in here!”

There was a radio that played through a couple spider-web covered speakers on the corners of the ceiling. The sound mix was half static, half AM Gold. Neil Diamond and his ilk singing through the electric crackles.

There was a cast of unusual regulars that would come in each weekend. A big lady who wore a yellow and orange sun dress and played solitaire over and over again on the table while her clothes spun around. “I don’t have a 6 of clubs, so I use THIS!” she told me as she showed me a coupon for a Wendy’s hamburger.

Ron came in every Saturday. I knew his name was Ron, not because I ever spoke to him, because I was scared of him, but the owner that hung out at the place would say, “That Ron’s a big burnout. I don’t know what’s wrong with him!” every time he left.

Ron would come in without any laundry.

Ron would walk up to the coffee vending machine.

This was a beat up yellow and brown and orange colored thing that had a dial in the front that you would turn to select what type of coffee you wanted. Then you’d put in your quarter and it’d come out in a paper cup with a 4 cards from a poker hand on the outside of it. The bottom of the cup would have the 5th card. I presume somewhere folks would gamble with these, but I never understood how.

Ron would walk up to the coffee vending machine.

Ron would turn the dial all the way to the left to BLACK COFFEE and buy it. You’d hear the machine doing it’s thing and he’d take the cup out and put it by the counter next to the giant grungy laundry sink.

Ron would then turn the dial one notch to the right and order BLACK COFFEE WITH SUGAR. You’d hear the machine doing it’s thing and he’d take the cup out and put it by the counter next to the giant grungy laundry sink

Ron would then turn the dial one notch to the right and order COFFEE WITH CREAM. You’d hear the machine doing it’s thing and he’d take the cup out and put it by the counter next to the giant grungy laundry sink

Ron would then turn the dial one notch to the right and order COFFEE WITH CREAM AND SUGAR. You’d hear the machine doing it’s thing and he’d take the cup out and put it by the counter next to the giant grungy laundry sink

Ron would then turn the dial one notch to the right and order HOT CHOCOLATE. You’d hear the machine doing it’s thing and he’d take the cup out and put it by the counter next to the giant grungy laundry sink

Ron would then turn the dial one notch to the right and order CHICKEN SOUP. You’d hear the machine doing it’s thing and he’d take the cup out and put it by the counter next to the giant grungy laundry sink.

All six cups full of everything the coffee vending machine had to offer were sitting in a neat row on the counter.

Ron would then carefully dump half of each cup out into the laundry sink.

Ron would then turn on the laundry sink faucet and top off each cup with cold water, putting each cup back in their place on the row.

Ron looked at the cups. Took a deep breath, then grabbed the BLACK COFFEE and drank it in one gulp.

He put the empty cup down and grabbed the BLACK COFFEE WITH SUGAR and drank it in one gulp.

He put the empty cup down and grabbed the COFFEE WITH CREAM and drank it in one gulp.

He put the empty cup down and grabbed the COFFEE WITH CREAM AND SUGAR and drank it in one gulp.

He put the empty cup down and grabbed the HOT CHOCOLATE and drank it in one gulp.

He put the empty cup down and grabbed the CHICKEN SOUP and drank it in one gulp.

Ron would throw the cups away and salute the owner and say, “Thank you, sir! Have a great day!”

And then when Ron left, the owner would say, “That Ron’s a big burnout. I don’t know what’s wrong with him!”

The big lady in the sun dress put the Wendy’s coupon on top of the seven of hearts.

I lost a sock.

Air Supply sang a duet with the static.

Later that year we moved to a house that had a washing machine.