On laundromats, longing and lost opportunities

My fears were unfounded. I knew it the moment we drove into the campsite, which was nothing like the campsite I had imagined.

In my imagination I had seen cars, tents and caravans dotted cheek by jowl within a large hollowed area near a main road somewhere. But the Blanket Bay campsite on the southernmost point of the Great Ocean Road region in Cape Otway is designed to keep people far enough apart with large swathes of eucalypts and cascading casuarinas to give the illusion of being secluded in the bush.

Our particular spot overlooked the sea, which you reached via a series of stone steps carved into the sandy slope. The waves thundered at night, as if we were in a gale and louder than I remember from other trips to the beach.

But the weather held out for us during our two day stay and although it was cold, the sun shone for much of our first full day and made walking along the beach and other walks through the bush almost overheated. Especially with thermals underneath.


The washing machine hose had snapped from its body the day before we went camping and flooded the laundry. Fortunately my daughter heard the unaccountable rush of water and I got to the taps before it had lapped into the kitchen and onto the parquetry.

As a consequence we’ve been without a washing machine for over a week now and the dirty clothes are piling up.

I’ve spent some time trying to locate a person who can locate the missing hose for a Kleenmaid washing machine, given Kleenmaid have gone out of business, and then fit it. He’s coming early next week, and in the meantime I will make at least one trip to the Laundromat.

I have not set foot inside a Laundromat since I was a young woman in the days when every weekend I took my pile of clothes in a basket or a bag along with my stash of coins and container of soap powder for a weekly wash.

Sometimes it was just a matter of loading up one of the machines with the dirty clothes then taking off to the shops to do whatever task I allocated myself in the thirty minutes or so it took to complete the load.

Other times I sat and waited.

It was on one such visit to the Laundromat on Kooyong Road in Caulfield near where I shared an upstairs apartment with my younger sister, during what I think of these days as my promiscuous year, where I encountered some of my deepest longings.

The Laundromat was, as you can imagine, a row of machines on one side, fitted into the wall front loaders and on the other wall even larger driers.

On this day a young man came in to do his washing. He sat with a book in his hands  and as he shuffled the pages I wondered whether he might be the one.

But we did not lock eyes when he caught me looking in his direction and I soon abandoned all hope of connecting with him.

There was someone out there I knew who would be a kindred spirit.  Someone who would think like me. Someone right for me. If only we could connect.

It was an odd thought and yet it formed the basis of my optimistic stance on most things these days. Whenever things feel bad I tell myself something good will happen.

I tell myself things will not always be this bad, but the series of events in recent weeks including the dishwasher and another failed opportunity to get my manuscript into publication  leaves me longing all over again.

Better to long for things I say, than to sulk.

The impulse to sulk is to slip into a state of mind that says I’ll never get this book into print.

And I found the man whom I eventually married all those years ago and although the fantasy of stars in my eyes and a sensation of love at first sight never happened, enough good rolled in thereafter to qualify as a good enough life.


At the end of our camping trip as we pulled out onto the main road I turned back to watch the retreating trees under which we had sheltered for two nights and thought to myself I can do this again and next time I will not be so fearful.

4 thoughts on “On laundromats, longing and lost opportunities”

  1. I have absolutely no experiences with laundromats. There was one on the corner of Burns Street, an Easyclean. I just checked Google Earth and it’s still there and apparently open for business. (At least it was when the photos were taken.) God alone knows how many times I walked past it but never once, not once, did I ever think to go inside. I always thought of laundromats as an American thing but I could never quite get my head around the fact so many people didn’t own washing machines. I mean this was America for Christ’s sake! But they cropped up in films and TV shows all the time and were just accepted as the norm.

    As far as sulking goes well, there’s a word I’ve not heard in many a year. It’s definitively a word I associate with childhood. God alone knows the last time I ever sulked! It will have been many years ago. And I was a sulky child, petulant, and was often told off for it. I’ve just finished reading ‘The Clown’ by Heinrich Boll. In it a twenty-seven-year-old is having what can probably best be described as a pity party for one. During the evening his elderly father arrives and makes the following observation: ‘“It probably sounds foolish,” he said, “if I make a solemn pronouncement, but do you know what’s the matter with you? You lack the very thing that makes a man a man: the ability to accept a situation.”’ True up to a point. A bit like the old Serenity Prayer:

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    As a child probably the thing I hated most was the lack of control I had. I still lack control over a great many things but it bothers me less now I’ve stopped trying to affect change where change is clearly unwelcome.

  2. There goes that old serenity prayer again, Jim. A good prayer, I know, and wise, but I hated it as a child after my mother joined Al Anon, for partners and family of alcoholics and we were forever hearing about her detachment.
    I’ve never been good at detachment, but hopefully I don’t sulk too much as an alternative. Interesting quote on what men need to be able to do. Men and women perhaps, the stuff of accepting our limitations. A sobering thought.
    As for Laundromats, I’m so glad they exist. I’d have been lost without one last weekend. Fortunately the machine’s fixed now. Thanks, Jim.

  3. Yes, I believe that something good will always happen, but I would never describe myself as an optimist. I have just spent 2 weeks holidaying with an old friend who I have always regarded as a much more intelligent and organised person than myself but her ability to go from 0-100 on the panic/everyone’s-out-to-get-me meter, at a moments notice, was very disconcerting and wearying. Nothing went wrong but I felt that it was my job to constantly keep things in perspective.
    Goodness know how she would behave if her washing machine breaks down.

    1. Sounds like it wasn’t the easiest of two weeks, Karen, though I suppose there’s something about spending that long in close quarters with any friend, no matter how attached that lends itself to degrees of frustration. Especially when said friend is prone to over reaction. I hope you can settle bak into your own space now free from those impingements. Thanks, Karen.

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