In a strip mall in a medium-size California desert town is a laundromat called Launderland.
It must have been a beauty, state-of-the-art, in its heyday, but now, like the majority of laundromats across the United States where I’ve washed and dried my clothes, it’s shabby and run-down. The walls are dingy, and the floors seem grimy, especially in the corners. Chunks of tile are missing. The overhead fluorescent lights are at the same time too bright and depressingly dim. The burnt orange color of the benches is faded, and the matching color on the counters is almost entirely gone, rubbed away by decades of hands folding underpants and trousers, t-shirts, nightgowns and blue jeans upon them.
The doors unlock automatically at 6am, and I try to arrive as early as possible on Monday mornings in order to avoid crowds of other patrons and the inanely chattering television which is switched on by an attendant who magically appears mid-morning. While I’m alone, after my clothes are spinning in machines, after I’ve used the restroom (a bare cubicle housing nothing but a toilet and an industrial toilet paper roll holder chained to the wall) and washed my hands and brushed my teeth in the sink outside and next to the restroom (the sink where only the cold faucet works, near which there are paper towels but no soap), after I’ve completed my tasks of hygiene, I look around and find evidence of Launderland’s former glory.
Oh, how this place must have shined four decades ago. It must have been so clean, so modern. Now it’s shabby and sad, but when I look closely, I see hints of what it once was.