Saturday, February 27, 2010

The utopian laundromat

This morning as I was getting ready to go out, I noticed the beeping of the washing machine downstairs. The washer is shared by me and by the married couple who live below me. I shouldn't complain about having to share a washer with just one other apartment, but I still groaned to myself, because usually when I hear that sound it means the washer will be occupied for the rest of the day. And suddenly I remembered a dream I had last night. A dream inspired by a general desire for more convenient laundering for everyone.

I dreamed that I was over at MIT for some reason, at night, when I noticed a neon sign peeking out from behind another building. The sign said "Utopian Laundromat."

I went toward it, abandoning whatever chore had brought me to the school. I was curious. What is a utopian laundromat? It sounds like an oxymoron.

The laundromat was near the student union. It comprised a series of private rooms organized around a large central courtyard. Each room was quite spacious and included a desk, a well-stocked bookcase, a computer, an HDTV, a sofa, a bed, a private bath, and other amenities, including the defining appliances: a washer and dryer. Every room had a glass wall overlooking the courtyard, so I could see most of the occupants. They were studying, socializing, and doing other tasks while their clothes washed and tumbled dry.

I didn't really feel like talking to anyone, but I had to find out more. After I questioned him, a student passing by told me that any of these rooms could be reserved, by an individual or by a small group, for as long a period as was needed.

Later on, I visited one of the rooms and found out more. A student doing his laundry said there were only 10 rooms, but that usually you could get a reservation with no problem — you just had to set it up a couple of weeks in advance. He said that the longest he'd made a reservation for was eight hours. He wasn't sure if you could reserve for a period of days, but it sounded like it was possible.

I concluded that this truly was the most utopian style of laundry facility out there, if you can't do it at home.

I think I dreamt this because I've been reading a lot about Jonestown lately, and the word "utopia" comes up frequently in that context.

Also, a book I read recently mentioned the Jonestown laundry facility, referring to it as the "laundromat," which immediately jumped out at me as a mild copyediting error. The word "Laundromat" is trademarked, and — at least when I was a copy editor — using the term in the generic sense is considered a mistake, one that my dream apparently was guilty of as well.

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Copyright 2009-2010 by Sasha Sark. Please don't reuse without permission.
"West African Dark Blue Cloth" image is displayed courtesy of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University.