The Laundromat, The Airport, and Me

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On our first night in Freeport, I arrived in the evening after the entire site had been set up. The concessions and novelties tents were set up in their usual fashion on either side of the midway with the Merriconeag Waldorf School’s blue-gray buildings just up the hill. From the parking lot where we parked the vans, the blue and white Big Top tent overlooked the rest of the site behind the trailers in the back lot, parked in orderly rows. The narrow alleyways between the bunk trailers created shade for staff members to sit and read. It had been a long day, and I was tired after having bounced form Goodwill to thrift store all the way from the previous site in Newbury, Massachusetts. It had been a full day and as I dragged out the metal steps to my bunk from under trailer and unlocked the door, I wanted nothing more than to go to call it a night at 4:45 pm. Dinner also sounded like a good idea. The presenters brought pizza and beverages for the staff, a rainstorm rolled in, and everyone clustered inward from the blowing rain.

I got pizza sauce on the front of my shirt and when I went to change, I noted my dilemma. A t-shirt can only be worn so many times and it appeared that I had exhausted my supply. That early bedtime would have to wait. With a duffle bag full of dirty clothes and a pocket jangling with five dollars in quarters, five of us climbed into one of the pickup trucks to head into Freeport for a wild night of doing laundry at the 24-hour Laundromat at the other end of town.

Weeks ago, I drove to the Albany airport to pick up a new staff member. In a subsequently published post that documented the adventure, I described an airport as a great place to people-watch. The other good location that now comes to mind is a Laundromat, especially one on a Sunday evening. Laundromats are generic in design: a wall of front-loading dryers and two or three aisles of washers. A change machine bearing scars where someone attacked it with a screwdriver or hammer is bolted to the wall next to a vending machine for laundry bags and detergent.

Laundromats are the loneliest and most boring places on earth.

You will never see a celebrity in a Laundromat and presidential candidates never swing by to shake hands and kiss babies – it’s just everyday people (“Joe the Plumber”) separating and folding clothes and pumping in fistfuls of quarters. Unlike the airport, it is not a place of emotion, as laundry does not typically call for emotion; just enough brain capacity and focus to make sure you separate your whites from your darks. I put in my quarters, selected the warm wash button and planted myself in a chair for an hour and a half of mind-numbing boredom.

Considering the degree of activity and excitement to which I’ve accustomed myself, it’s going to be very hard to leave at the end of a season that is approaching all too rapidly. After Kennebunkport, we move to Revere, Massachusetts, and then work our way north and homeward stopping first in Montpelier and finally Greensboro. No one is ready for it. The lesson I learned while staring at the ceiling on Sunday evening is that sometimes life’s an airport; other times it’s a Laundromat, a metaphor that made complete sense to me at the time…

Evan Johnson, Communications Intern

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2 Responses to The Laundromat, The Airport, and Me

  1. deb heath-rogers says:

    Wonderful metaphor Evan – Sometime’s life’s an airport, other times it’s a laundromat. Can you share this with the troupers when they’re grieving in Greensboro, preparing to reintegrate to the life in the laundromat? Deb (Emma’s mom)

  2. War-Drobe says:

    I so hate it when circumstances dictate that jump day laundry, or any laundry for that matter, must happen at a laundromat. Although I’ve had a few entertaining adventures, when it’s happened. You do meet some… interesting folk there, sometimes.

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