By Carl Scharwath
There are so many happy times and memories in a young person’s life.
A first love, first kiss, first car, high school, and college graduations and the most transformative-your very own home. Your first place represents freedom, now you can do whatever you love with no parental restrictions and even perhaps get into a little trouble. The downside? Ok there are a few, like the end of the month that seems to arrive in an ever-increasing speed and your rent is due. Cooking and eating lots of junk food, waking up for work after an alcohol infused evening with friends and my least favorite, the laundry.
During my first few years of renting, I was not blessed with a laundry room at my apartment complex, so doing the laundry became a pilgrimage. The odyssey of finding one close by that was clean and not filled to capacity was my anxious moment as I stared at the huge plastic bag at my feet. The bag larger than it seemed just yesterday awaited its delivery down the steep stairs to an old truck I prayed started every day. Once outside the sidewalk overgrown with weeds brushed against my heavy bag as I navigated this drunken forest.
The truck wheezed and coughed itself ready as my journey to a laundromat was underway. This was before the days of MapQuest and GPS, so my only compass was what a friend of a friend told me, and I had hastily written down on the back of a magazine subscription card. Ten minutes of apprehensive driving and the promised land was just up ahead. Well maybe not a true promised land but a blighted, seen better days strip mall lined with some commerce and some empty storefronts.
The stark fluorescent lights welcomed me, and the washing machines and dryers hummed in a tired mechanical symphony. Looking around there was only one person seated and he seemed to be staring out the storefront window. I subconsciously thought of that Edward Hopper painting and realized I was now also an actor in this theatrical landscape. The only thing missing was the director of what I should do next?
Following the script, the first action was to reach in the pocket and take out the quarters I had saved during the week. Yes, I planned ahead in case the change maker was broken and I would have to spend more time panicking to find change. As I loaded the clothes into the washer, I felt a sense of accomplishment and in about 1 hour or so this mundane task would be complete.
Now the next decisions had to be made. Do I wait here and read, try to start a conversation with a stranger who seemed lost in his own thoughts or do something fun? Next store was a video arcade and I always considered myself a pinball wizard with all the time I had spent cajoling a metal ball across a maze of lights and sounds. I was confident my wash would spin and clean without my presence.
My return to the laundromat had a theatrical change. Now there were two moms with their children running around laughing and screaming. My head was already filled with the sounds and blinking lights of the pinball machines so the quite whirring of the machines would not soothe me. Now I was greeted with a few children opening and slamming shut the washing machine doors. I was grateful that my machine worked, and the cycle was done as I quickly loaded the dryer.
The drying cycle did not take long, and as I removed my clothes and began to fold them, something caught my eye. Standing vertical against a fabric board was a hose with a silver connection. It looked like something out of a 1950’s science fiction novel, some kind of human or maybe alien breathing tube. Upon my inspection, I came to realize this was a steamer and would take my normally wrinkled clothes to a crisp finish.
Leaving the laundromat, I promised myself the next visit I would stay and be part of the parade of humanity. I would have a conversation with a stranger, look to help someone and become a good neighbor in this 1-hour weekly community. Afterall we all share this time together, have the same problems, the same struggles and maybe have some good news to share.
Maybe we just need someone to listen to us? I now want to be there for them with apathy and friendship.
Carl Scharwath, has appeared globally with 170+ journals selecting his poetry, short stories, interviews, essays, plays or art. Two poetry books Journey to Become Forgotten (Kind of a Hurricane Press) and Abandoned (Scars Tv) have been published. His new book “The Playground of Destiny” (Impspired Press 8/21) features short stories, poems and photography. His first photography book was published by Praxis in Africa. His photography was also exhibited in the Mount Dora Center for The Arts and Leesburg Center for The Arts galleries. Carl is the art editor for Minute Magazine (USA,) has a monthly interview column with ILA Magazine, a competitive runner, and a 2nd degree black- belt in Taekwondo.