The Joys Of Modern Life

41. Laundromats By Joseph Gallivan

"POR FAVOR, no zapatos en las secadoras" (Please do not put sneakers in the dryers). Sign at Laundromax, Miami Beach.

What if they built a laundromat for the 21st century. Would you go? Would you go if you knew they had a bank of 55 dryers down one side? Washers in three sizes - double loaders, giant, and super giant, the latter big enough to contain a nuclear family? A children's play area with slide and tricycles, large plastic tables for fluff'n'folding in every aisle, and clean chrome baskets with hanger rails so you can roll your wash around without fear of shedding items?

Well they have, and I found it in Florida. The fact that it's huge and lit like a car showroom is only part of the attraction. Everything has been done to simplify washing. Cash has been banished. There's no fumbling for coins here - the washers, dryers and soap machines only accept pre- paid smart cards. Then there's the staff. Under the strip lights that burn until 11 every night, the young "assistants" wear co-ordinated tracksuit tops and busy themselves with service washes. They smile. They offer help. I've even seen them run to the garage for a packet of cigarettes for a pensioner - so long as she didn't try and smoke inside.

Laundromats, like most services for the underclass, normally exude a stygian chic. They are staffed by old dears like Dot from EastEnders, who make your clothes run and smell of fags, and filled with malfunctioning machines - change-makers that regurgitate bank notes, washers with pools of black water beneath them ready for you to drop something, dryers blackened with chewing gum. They remind you you're a loser for not owning a washing machine, a low-caste status akin to being a pedestrian.

But at Laundromax there are several rows of bucket seats, perfect for watching the eight separately programmed televisions that hang above the washers. If you are worried about missing an instalment of your favourite telenovela or car-chase compilation programme, just ask for the universal remote control. Neighbours exchange smiles and nods at each other's viewing habits - a far cry from the howling that usually accompanies public channel surfing. Truly this is a place with liberty and justice, and television, for all. This is better than staying in. Laundromax makes people nice. A woollen-hatted homie shares his soap with a stranger. A Cuban toddler walks all over someone's sheets and is greeted with indulgent smiles.

Now I'm back in Brooklyn, things are noticeably less glamorous. There are so many laundromats here, they have to compete - not with better service, but different service. One gives free soap on Tuesdays. Another serves free coffee, another orders in pizza.

It's all a bit crummy, serving only to highlight the fast-track ideology of Laundromax. There, you don't just go to get your skivvies greyed.

You go for a dip in the future.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory