Hansen: Laundromat keeps us honest

The Christmas lights are fastened to the walls with duct tape.

The air is hot from the dryers, so before long everyone has a sheen of sweat, adding to the discomfort.

People just want to finish and go home, assuming there is a home.

The Coast Hiway Laundromat is like any other, but a laundromat rarely reflects its community, and certainly not here.

It's stuck in some odd time warp because it doesn't have to change. It just makes change, and then only sometimes because the machine breaks.

There are fake, dusty roses in arrangements with American flags that are left over from the Fourth of July or Memorial Day or Presidents Day — it's unclear.

On the walls, there are swap meet-like pictures for sale, their plastic frames covered with cardboard. One is a Bengal tiger running through snow.

A loud, fuzzy TV seems stuck on commercials.

People just tune everything out; they have to. There are other worries.

Most are renters. A few just want to get their laundry done in one fell swoop, wasting as little time as possible.

There are the regulars who know which machines to avoid.

Sometimes there is the occasional comforter, a nice one with high thread count.

There is really nothing to do while you wait but think. A few people read books or magazines or discarded newspapers.

There is a video game in the corner called "Multi Video System," but it's questionable whether it works.

You can try your luck at the machine selling lottery scratchers. It seems popular.

There's a coin-operated vibrating chair called "The Back Rubber," but it doesn't look very enticing. Most people just sit in it without paying because the leg rest sticks out, making it kind of like a La-Z-Boy.

If you want fresh air away from that uniquely laundromat smell, you can sit outside on Coast Highway, which is a whole different orientation.

Outside, it's the ocean, breezy and salty. Inside, the salt drips from your face.

Outside, there are muted Range Rovers. Inside, the colors tend to bleed.

Outside, the clothes are dry-clean only. Inside, the clothes never quite get clean.

No, our laundromat does not reflect its community. There will always be dichotomies, and not just rich and poor.

Back inside, on the bulletin board — there are always bulletin boards in laundromats — are carefully drawn ads in Spanish, advertising $500 rooms for rent in Aliso Viejo and Laguna Hills. All tout "by the bus stop" as an amenity.

There is free yoga and a garage for rent for $200.

Next to the bulletin board is the base remains of an old pay phone, with only the wires sticking out and painted over.

This laundromat claims to be "Laguna's finest wash and fold."

One wonders exactly what that means.

Does it mean it will wash away our stains that cannot be cleaned?

Will it brighten that part of a community that most needs to heal?

Can it soften the hard edges of our disparate reality?

It's a reality that can be found any day of the week along Coast Highway, nestled between the local, hand-crafted coffeehouse and the gourmet smoothie shop.

It's a laundromat of humanity, trying to break the spin cycle.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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