Jennifer Vogel of City Pages has a great little gem, a "human interest" story, about a laundromat that I have spent many an hour in myself. It speaks to the human condition, to poverty, anomie and the loss of control over our time and the circumstances of our lives:
As I fold my laundry, I glance at the pile belonging to a triangle-shaped Mexican woman. I know as well as anybody that you're not supposed to look. But one of the few, guilty pleasures of the laundromat is getting to see people's underthings. Her clothing is all velour, I notice. Velour pants, velour tops, velour lingerie. Even velour socks. I glance at her high-heeled flip-flops and then at a miniskirt that's slit practically up to her waist.
Our eyes meet and she smiles as if to say, My life is a million times more sensual than yours. And I think, Well, hell, she's probably right. The woman shoves her fuzzy duds into a laundry bag and departs. Next goes the camo guy and the woman with the tight jeans.
When, finally, it's my turn, I feel as gleeful as a parolee. It's a tremendous relief that matters not one bit to the revolving cast of characters at the Vend-a-Wash. Nothing has changed or will change. An American Indian woman paces wildly, waving her tattooed arms in the air. "I lost my cigs," she says. "Has anybody seen my cigs?"
The dryers at the Vend-a-Wash on Chicago and Lake go round and round.