At The Laundrette

I used to look forward to my trips to the laundrette, even if I waited until it was absolutely necessary to make my visit. I’d bring my journal, whatever book I was reading at the time and maybe my sketchbook, savouring those twenty minutes of waiting, whirring, washing.

I always wanted to have the option of an activity, setting a loose intention to make it a productive visit this time while almost always instead gazing through the huge glass windows onto the street outside, people watching, and imagining how these buildings, cars and roads would have looked generations ago.

I loved the airport or train-station-like quality the laundrette had, a quiet and solitary version of those transient places. Time stood still.

I wondered what tales this place could tell, of the routines of people it would have come to know, the conversations it had heard, the funny stories, tough talks and tellings-off; the details of it’s customers daily lives, and the chores that hold our little worlds together.

I wondered whether it had observed moments of real happiness, sudden bursts of inspiration, pleasure, prayer, pain. Or maybe this laundrette, I fantasised, had witnessed the chance encounters of long lost friends, beheld actual miracles, or had been the opening scene for a whirlwind, real life romance.

It certainly knew my story, or this chapter of it in Kemptown for the ten months I had lived there.

I wondered who had brought and gifted the books that also waited on the shelf-like seats (outdated recipe books and novels), and why they’d chosen to leave them (if they had), and whether anyone ever picked them up, and where the original owners were now.

I wondered whether everyone thought about these things in the laundrette.

I would get to meet people in there only occasionally, and rarely saw the same person twice. Sometimes I’d find a family there, as if in some foreign land, a place they’d passed but never ventured into until now, with their own machine broken at home now urgently washing school uniforms and P.E. kits.

There were people who never spoke or looked up, elderly visitors I chatted with, and people who popped in and out but never stopped. I wondered what was happening in their day to make them too busy to stay.

I never made a friend in the laundrette, but in a way it had become like a friend, familiar, homely, and growing on me. In this new town, the laundrette and my visits to it were a place I would go not only out of necessity, but to take that sometimes needed space and time out to reflect on life and watch the world go by.