Vile laundromat behavior

May 6, 2024

Dell Franklin,


Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “The ballplayer’s Son” is currently on Amazon.

I haven’t been in a laundromat in over 35 years, and my memories of those days fill me with loathing. Being in a laundromat reminds me of my standing in the realm as a bottom feeder. I’ve come close to fights in laundromats. Decades back, when I was in my late 20s and a bartender in Manhattan Beach in one of the hottest bars in the state, and had no car, and lived in Hermosa Beach, I had to tote a duffle bag several blocks and then up a hill to an always crowded laundromat.

I once made this trek around midnight in hopes of having the damn place to myself, but was shocked when two women had every washer and dryer going but one washer. I quickly tossed my worthless togs and sheets and towels in it and grabbed a magazine I had no interest in and kept an eye on the dryers, waiting my turn. When one was available, one of the women quickly unloaded a washer and tossed her stuff in.

She was a hard looking old bat and we exchanged nasty looks. She had the power. Finally, my load finished and I quickly unloaded as a dryer opened and one of the women began withdrawing her load. She nodded at me, indicating she was sacrificing the dryer to a person with a desperate, malignant expression on his face, a person now capable of doing anything.

Just as I gathered my stuff, some guy came in from the street holding a sack of laundry and quickly moved to the dryer. He was a few dryers down from me. He looked like a guy with a desk job who jogged. I hurried down with my wretched load and informed him I’d just finished washing my clothes and was going to use the dryer.

“I was here first,” he said, a little testily.

“You didn’t wash your clothes here,” I countered. “I did.”

“That’s too bad,” he exclaimed, and started to shovel his load into the dryer.

I quickly slammed the dryer shut as the two women looked on in amusement, obviously enjoying a little spirited entertainment during their ongoing drudgery, for they had a heaping mountain of dirty clothes in various bulging sacks.

“You’re not putting your shit in that fucking dryer,” I growled.

“The hell I’m not,” he said.

“You put your shit in that fucking dryer, asshole,” I retorted, “and you’re going in there with it.”

He stood back and realized I was enraged to the point I might kill for the dryer. “You’re a goddam asshole!” he exclaimed.

“Yes I am,” I agreed. “When I’m in a goddam laundromat there’s no bigger asshole, and I’m dangerous.”

“Fuck you!” he squalled, and packed his load into his sack and stormed out while the old bags nodded at me with new respect as I stuffed my worthless beach bum junk in the dryer.

Anyway, a few months later I was behind the bar on a busy night and this guy who looked familiar came in and ordered a vodka tonic and I gave him a good drink because he looked like a good guy and thanked him for his dollar tip and, as he backed off, we both realized I was the asshole who ran him out of the laundromat. His face grew rigid. His eyes flared. I laughed and gave him the peace sign and stuffed his dollar in my jar and yelled over the busy crowd, “Peace, brother!”

He never came back.

Fifty years later

So now, over 50 years later, after 35 years of having my own washer and dryer, I am again faced with having to deal with a laundromat. I have been lucky. Over the years, Tag Morley, the local scrounger, found me two used washing machines and a dryer he’d somehow confiscated from cleanup jobs. The dryer still works but creaks and sounds near death. But now I have to collect my monthly load and put it in my car and drive six blocks to the laundromat and pay $6.50 to wash my clothes and towels and linen.

The week leading up to this chore began to grate on me. It meant I had to change my daily routine. It meant I had to enter a laundromat and try and act like a civilized human. I realize it is not a big deal. But everything’s a big deal when you’re an 80-year-old cantankerous bachelor and something minor or major is interfering with your agenda. I become tense. I become hasty. I become headstrong. I become frazzled. I want to get this shit over as soon as possible and get back to my agenda— driving to the 24th Street beach parking lot and reading and doing the New York Times Sunday Magazine crossword puzzle which I’ve never completed without cheating, though I’ve come close.

I realize just tossing my junk in a washing machine is a small inconvenience, but still, I have to go to the change machine and get quarters. I might get cheated. Then I have to shove the quarters in a slot. I have to go through a process I’m sure to bungle at this stage of my life.

Well, here’s what happened:

I pulled in at 8 in the morning, and the lone available parking slot was beside an old nondescript van and somebody was hanging half out and playing with a pit bull. I paused. The pit bull disappeared and the door closed. After I pulled in and got out of my car with my hamper and liquid detergent, I said, “Sorry!”

“It’s okay,” said an unhappy gruff voice.

I entered the laundromat. I got my change. So far so good. I piled my load into a washer and read the directions with my reading glasses, poured in the soap, selected the temperature, and began putting in quarters. Well, nothing happened. A light read—EMERGENCY GET HELP. I’d lost 50 cents. I cussed. Then I saw the person from the van enter. She was one of the hardest looking, ravaged human beings I’ve ever laid eyes on. Probably around 50. Ring in her nose. I took a chance and informed her of what had happened and asked her what I should do.

“I don’t work in this goddam place!” she snarled.

“Okay. Fine. Sorry.”

She eyed me up. “There’s a phone number to call,” she snapped.

“Do you know where that phone number is?” I asked politely.

“It’s on the window,” she snapped.

“What window?”

“The window up front.” She was piling dried clothes on a table and appearing homicidal.

I walked over and saw the phone number and called it and told a man who answered of my problem with my washer. He wanted to know how much money I’d lost. I told him.

“I want to reimburse you.”

“No need,”

“Yes. I have to reimburse you.”


“Somebody should be in there to reimburse you,” he explained.

“I don’t see anybody.”

I peered around, holding my flip phone away from myself. I am not used to cell phones. This particular phone was given to me by my sister who insisted I never go anywhere without it. All I can do is answer it and dial. I struggle with that. I asked the hard-bitten woman if there was somebody around to pay me my 50 cents.

“I don’t fucking work here!” she snarled. Then, pointing said, “That one.”

I spotted a little Mexican woman in the far corner washing several loads. Evidently she’d just entered. By then I’d lost the voice on my phone and redialed and the voice came back and asked why I’d cut him off and I said I didn’t know why and realized I was close to having a complete meltdown and might need help. Then the voice on the phone asked me if I’d spotted the little round woman. I told him I had.

“Hand her your phone,” he said. “Please.”

I handed the little woman the phone. She talked in Spanish, handed me back my phone and 50 cents.

“Muchas gracias,” I said.

“De nada.” She smiled.

Back on the phone, the voice apologized for his vile machine and asked me to try another. I went through the process. I had already lost 3 cups of detergent. Oh well. I sent a quarter in the machine and saw that I was in business. It took a while to shove in all the quarters and endure the process but I got it going.

I was hyperventilating by this time. I had to get the hell out of that goddam laundromat. But I felt bad about inconveniencing the bitter woman and retrieved two dog biscuits from my car and reentered the hated laundromat and plunked them down on her table of clothes and said, “For your dog.”

She wouldn’t look at me. “Thanks,” she muttered, sounding as if she was being tortured.

Fortunately, later on, when I retrieved my laundry, the witch was gone. I was further cheered when my dryer didn’t quit. Still, at least half of my day was ruined and I was a long time in recovery.


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From past experience… getting your load stolen from the dryer is even worse than having to go there in the first place .

“Old man yells at sky.”

As opposed to young man groveling in the dirt?

As the late/great, Bill Denneen, used to say to wannabe environmentalists: “If you’re not line-drying your laundry, you haven’t even started.”

May I suggest this simple hack: AT HOME, 5-gallon bucket, hose in sun (for hot water). Put, like, 2 pairs of shorts, OR 2/3 t-shirts, OR a couple pairs of work pants, OR a few pairs of socks, at a time (especially with the socks, ONLY socks when doing that [they’re so gross that you don’t want them anywhere near your other laundry]), fill bucket halfway with hose water, a tiny bit of soap, let soak for however long you want, swish around with a stick a couple times, pull clothes out, dump water (on plants), clothes back in for rinse (if needed), then line dry.

I do that for about 80-percent of my laundry and it works great. So quick. So easy. In fact, there are 2 pairs of socks in there right now from yesterday. I’ll be pulling those out later and hanging them in the sun, and probably add something else, because it’s a nice sunny day, which means practically unlimited hot water from the hose. Might as well put SOMETHING in, right? A pair of sweat pants, maybe?

Much easier (and cheaper) than getting to, and dealing with, a laundromat.

Then, the rare time when I need to do a full load (for bedding, or whatev), I use my kick-ass, 30-year-old washer, and, of course, line dry.

By the way, Dell, as someone that practically grew up IN King Harbor, I dig your South Bay roots. If I ever run into you at Schooners, we’ll definitely chat that up.

I loved Bill Deneen. He was an amazing man.

Anyway, great story Dell. I have similar stories. When I was in college and didn’t have a car I had to stuff my clothes into a backpack and bike to the laundromat where you never knew what would happen.

That seems like so much laundry soap.

Del, you always bring back some sort of memory out of the blue. My laundromat story. 1971 in SF had a black bug with a free Angela Davis sticker on it. SF cop in his cool black leather jacket and a real police hat not the woosy wanna be baseball star one nowadays starts giving me the third degree trying to bust me on anything. Couldn’t get me. thanks Del

craigslist my friend. got an Italian all in one, be it old, a gem of a machine, Luxury I might add; being a laundromat slave to the scum lord of my apts bidding; 30 dollars. 30 dollars for a 1k unit and the kindest darn people who sold it to me, helped me with my infant son at foot, load it too. My sympathy, as a gentleman of 80, for the displeasure of the local rip off laundromat. Craigslist is a bastion of local compassion, generally speaking. Fear and loathing in laundromats. I enjoyed this read per usual.

Pickle ball is also a joke, and to build new courts for a minority well to do population of a very obvious demographic is sinful. Par with golf. Golf has to be the most Downfall of an empire endeavour next to pickleball.