In any given laundromat, in any college town you care to visit in the United States, you will discover through adept people-watching that there are a variety of humanoid fauna who frequent such locations, and they can generally be categorized with vague taxonomies.

The first creature you will find is the oblivious college freshman and first-time doer of his own laundry. He can be identified by the superabundance of pink and grey in the clothes which he brings out of the machine. He buys his detergent in powder form from the wall vendor, wasting his already-too-limited quarters, and he dedicates another three dollars of coin to buying an overpriced bottle of soda and a pack of Skittles. He will belatedly realize that he did not bring enough coin to finish drying his clothes, and later that evening they will be hung back up in his dormitory closet, still quite damp and probably mildewing over the following week. The RA will pay him a visit, investigating the ungodly reek, and notice the stack of unwashed dishes in the sink he shared with his beleaguered but docile sophomore roommate. They will be written up for it, but they won't actually do anything about it.


The second local species occur in groups usually consisting of two to six members. The alpha female of the group will find her attention persistently divided between six unevenly-timed washing machines and four shrieking toddlers. At some point, one of them will climb into the rolling laundry baskets, and on the attempt to climb back out, he will fall and chip a tooth on the bleach-speckled linoleum floor. The alpha will not waste limited coin on vended snacks, but her subordinates will protest with ever-increasing volume at this gross deprivation of caffeinated sweets. All other laundromat denizens will make a concentrated effort to ignore this entire species, but they will complain into their smartphones and over Facebook when they get home later. In seven years, they themselves will be the targets of similar comments.


The third type of creature is the most enigmatic: he arrives quickly, offloads his six weeks of unwashed clothes into two machines, regardless of colour (most of which has already bled out of the cloth, anyway), and disappears for twenty-eight minutes. He returns, loads everything into a single oversize dryer, leaves again for an hour to play Diablo III on his home PC, a six minute walk away. He returns, collects his belongings in haste, and departs a final time, sometimes minus a sock or two. He is not a social creature, and he will only use the most remote machines, away from the main traffic lanes within the laundromat. He pays the machines in dollar coins instead of quarters, and he always over-dries his jeans, cursing quietly to himself when the overheated zippers, buttons, and rivets sting his skin during the end of the process.


There are other, less common sorts; some younger folk watch the talk shows on the muted television, occasionally snickering at closed captions which do not appear to be in any western language. Others sit on the corners of fold-out card tables, playing handheld Nintendo games and adamantly avoiding eye contact with anybody. Still others flip through ancient periodicals and missing persons pages which lay in a rumpled stack near the coin machines. Most are in their pyjamas, or winter coats kept zipped to the neck despite the swelter of the enclosed space, having run out of shirts that don't smell like spilled beer and somebody else's vomit.

They are all, without exception, incredibly bored, tired, annoyed, lonely, and eager to be elsewhere, anywhere at all but here. They always are, and a strange compassion and stress-induced camaraderie develops among them: small stacks of quarters spontaneously appear on the edges of folding tables, as people exit with their finished washing. Nearly-finished bottles of detergent are set out for anybody to claim. Dropped socks are rushed outside to nearly-departed baskets. Twelve-packs of soda are hauled in from the trunks of cars, when the soda machine's dubious oasis runs dry of even vitamin water and month-old ginger ale. Vicious glares are directed at presumptuous and impatient newbies who make the mistake of shifting somebody else's laundry out of the way, to steal a couple extra dryer minutes.

Here in the laundromat, we purge the sins of the past month of all-nighters, parties, hunting trips, and evenings at the gym, so that we can go back into the world and sin some more.

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