The scene: a wooden bench at the Laundry Cafe here in London. My wife and I are here doing laundry. I'm tapping this out on my BlackBerry. Why? Please read on...
Sad news from our basement this week: Our dryer stopped drying. We knew this day was coming, as it had been slowly losing steam over the past number of months. The standard 40 or 50-minute cycle had crept up to 60, 70 and then 80 - the most the poor dial could support.
Eventually, even 80 minutes was insufficient. And we kept adding time. And adding, and... When we hit two-plus hours per load, we knew it was time.
So off we went in search of something newer, something capable of swallowing the clothes of three growing kids, their parents and the dog (he has a hoodie. With a maple leaf on it.) Something manufactured after the Paleozoic Era that used less energy than Hoover Dam could crank out would be a bonus as well.
We found a lovely red set that seems to fit the bill. I hate to admit how excited we are at our impending ability to do copious amounts of laundry. Of course, our new wondermachines arrive on Friday. So Debbie and I looked at the mountain of dirty clothes that blocked the light down the middle of the laundry room and decided a trip to the laundromat was in order.
I must admit I'm enjoying being here. There's a cross section of humanity that provides endless opportunity to observe - the middle-aged guy who played pinball until the machine went dark, the near-shaven-headed dude in cargo shorts who can't tell the difference between whites and colors, the bored 12-year-old boy whose scowling, cornerback-esque mother dragged him here against his will, the modern-day Cheech and Chong wannabes who seem fascinated by the unique facets on a Canadian quarter coin, the sad-faced, long-haired woman using the payphone who doesn't seem to have smiled in years, who wears a windbreaker on a warm, humid night and who wears a weight on her shoulders that can't be seen, but can be clearly felt.
By the yellowed old newspaper articles on the wall, this place has been around for at least 20 years. It looks it, wearing its age with a quiet sense of pride. The multicolored brown tiled floor is a relic of the 70s. The hastily painted blue wooden magazine rack clings to dog eared copies of magazines that are probably out of print. The sofa in the corner is just dirty enough to make you think twice about sitting in it. The gray/white plastic on most of the commercial-grade machines has faded to a pale yellow. Thankfully, the dark green, bright yellow/orange and red walls perk up the mood.
Life happens here in all its mundane, forgettable glory. Yet I find myself not wanting to forget what it's like to be here, to observe strangers trying to mind their own business, to spend quiet time with my wife in a place few would ever think to go on a date. Yet a date, strange as it may seem, is what this evening has turned out to be, and as the last dryer finishes its last tumble and the last house fly continues to buzz around my ankles, Debbie's already gotten more than enough change for a return trip. The pile on our basement floor demands it, and I'm only too happy to spend another evening here drinking it all in.
Your turn: Finding magic in an unexpected place. Please discuss.