When I was in fourth grade, (pre-cable/post dinosaurs) our teacher decided it would be fun to have us dream up our dream jobs. This sounded like a terrific waste of time in my 10-year-old opinion but seeing as the alternative was likely clapping erasers or operating something called a ditto machine, I sat down at my typewriter (millennial translation: laptop without screen) and got to work.
Then I wrote something like…
“When I grow up, I want to be a laundry lady. I want to wash other people’s dirty clothes, dry them and fold them so they are nice like the corners of a hospital bed.”
So I guess I should explain that, because I was an only child and because both my parents worked a lot, I spent a lot of time living in a dream world.
Sometimes I was the Queen of Sheba. Other times I was Lesley of the Laundromat, talking to imaginary customers, putting on pots of imaginary coffee, stuffing the detergent receptacle on my mother’s washing machine full of quarters, resulting in a lofty repair bill and undoubtedly some lingering questions as to the state of her daughter’s executive functioning skills.
Just for your reference, Lesley’s Laundromat offered dry cleaning as well, which basically consisted of me taking all of my mother’s good work suits and hanging them in the shower to “steam”. Let me assure you, her pinstripe blazers with the shoulder pads never looked so hydrated.
The problem with this whole dream job assignment was that we were supposed to interview someone in the community with our chosen profession, and given that our small town greatly lacked facilities (think one general store that also rented movies in a questionably shady backroom and the local vet), my assignment came to a grinding quarters stuck in the detergent receptacle and I ended up having to choose something else.
Fast forward 30-something years and I’m standing in the Wilton Laundromat, trying to figure out in the name of pinstripe blazers with shoulder pads what the 10-year-old version of myself was ever thinking.
This is a hard job. There is nothing romantic in the slightest, and honestly, anyone who washes other people’s dirty clothes and dries them and folds them so they are nice like the corners of a hospital bed, deserves if not to be treated like the Queen of Sheba, at least to be treated to a decent cup of coffee.
“I’m headed to Starbucks,” I tell (we’ll call her) ‘Laura’ of the Wilton Laundromat. “Can I bring anything back for you?”
No one should have to function decaffeinated, and for all you non-coffee drinkers out there, just know you could be doing things twice as fast and with as little efficiency as a typewriter if you just stopped being so goddamn herbal and heroic and succumbed to a life of addiction like the rest of us.
Nah, I don’t have issues or anything, or eight loads of laundry taking up four extra large machines on this fine Tuesday afternoon/evening.
So this is the juncture I find myself. Maybe you’ve been here too (not the laundromat specifically) but in life where you just sort of give up trying. Or at least give up on using a washing machine that refuses to produce any suds or fill with more than a gallon of water so all of your laundry comes out feeling like it took a bath in salad dressing. And then you put it in the dryer, because you think, It couldn’t get much worse, right? But you’d be so very wrong because your dryer actually forgot it has a ‘stop’ button, and so unless you remember you are indeed drying a load of delicates, the poor bastard will just keep going at it for a good 16 hours, making you question whether those are indeed your underwear or if you possibly gained 10-15 pounds since six o’clock that morning … hypothetically speaking of course.
Everything in our home, appliances included, works to perfection and we are, as always, satisfied customers/renters. (That’s what I’m supposed to say, right?)
So, thus, I’m schlepping out to the laundromat. There are worse things I suppose … like watching your 2-year-old enact what my husband and I have recently coined ‘the silent tantrum,’ which basically consists of him lying prostrate on the floor, then rolling across the living room in protest of being denied a third bowl of icescreamwithsprinklesandeminemies. Or like listening to something called “Low” by T-Pain and Flo Rida on repeat until, finally, I grabbed Alexa and threw her into the washing machine on the salad dressing cycle, because I stopped drinking and newsflash: this is a hard job, too.
Okay, fine. I didn’t do it — but I so wanted to. So now the smell of hot water hitting Tide is like a shot of Bourbon for me, a sweet escape from the hours I spent questioning why it was I ever agreed to purchase a Lululemon crop top in a light shade of lavender so my 11-year-old could wear it under a baggy sweatshirt only to reveal what I am confident looks like something out of an Aerosmith video by the time A Period rolls around.
Or have you ever taken your 2-year-old to the dentist? Let’s just say there’s some shit you don’t come back from. Truly, it’s a small miracle the poor hygienist still has all her teeth, because not for anything, my son sure can throw a punch… (see: toddlers you don’t want to meet in dark alleys).
I bring ‘Laura’ of the Wilton Laundromat her coffee and head home with my 80 pounds of laundry only to be met with an extremely urgent series of missed voicemails that go something like this…
“Um, hello??? Where are you??? I’m literally looking for my Lululemon top and it’s nowhere and I need it … like, now … as in, like five minutes ago…”
“Do you think this is funny? I seriously need it and Dad said you went to the laundromat? Why would you do that? Is that even a real place? I think he’s lying. Call me back!”
“Mom… if you have my Lululemon top at this laundry place, I’m seriously gonna lose it because I don’t have anything else that goes with the Lululemon shorts. And don’t say, ‘Just wear a t-shirt,’ because I can’t just wear any t-shirt with these shorts. I need a very specific top … that top … the Lululemon one…”
That same one she spilled the equivalent of a jar’s worth of pasta sauce on. She’s 11 and in an Aerosmith video. These things happen and really, at the end of the day, it all comes out in the wash I guess, at least at the laundromat.
Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.