For a truly meditative, relaxing afternoon, give the nearby laundromat a try


April 08, 2007|By JANET GILBERT

Folks today are frequenting spas and massage therapists, signing up for seminars and self-help meetings, hiring personal trainers and nutritionists -- all searching for ways to reduce stress. The ironic thing is, some of these effective stress-busters can be mighty expensive, which in turn can cause stress. You will have put in some long hours at the office to earn that deep-tissue massage to relieve upper-back muscles that are in a knot because you spend so much time at the office.

Luckily, Janet's World has a nearly cost-free alternative. For a truly meditative afternoon, replete with relaxation, may I recommend the local laundromat.

Though many of us are privileged to own a washing machine and dryer, this is no reason not to visit the community laundromat -- especially when the laundromat can clean your clothes and clear your mind, too.

First, of course, you need to find something around the house that warrants a trip to the laundromat. For instance, see that quilted, ruffled bedspread with the matching throw pillows? Well, forget what the salesperson bragged and the manufacturer's handbook underscored about the capacity and power of your Superdomestic Washmaster 3000 Ultra Platinum model with 15 fabric settings and microsensitive water temperature regulator. Take it from me: Even if you manage to stuff your bed-in-a-bag in there, it's not going to come out fresh and fluffy. It's going to have a crimped look and crunchy texture in one corner, where the all-fabric bleach soaked in and never rinsed out. And it's going to be cleaner, and possibly paler, on one side than the other. Also, your house is probably going to rock off its foundation during the spin cycle.

And, boy, will you ever be in for a surprise when you take the balled-up mass out of your dryer. You will have transformed your designer bedroom linens into a visual aid for your child's report on Orbiting the Giant Hairball, a book by Gordon MacKenzie. Later, you can set it on your lawn in the hope that a passing pterodactyl will snatch it up for nest wadding.

You will have a much more peaceful experience if you take such items to your laundromat.

Here are some things you can do at a laundromat: the laundry. That is why it is so darn relaxing. You are stuck in a place that smells clean, one that constantly broadcasts a low-level, lulling, whirring sound intermittently punctuated by soft, rhythmic metallic clicks. I recommend you leave your cell phone, laptop, book, video games or other mental distractions at home -- just sit there and think about nothing in particular. Watch the wash go around and around like silent contained fireworks. If possible, don't talk to anyone.

Of course, if you, like me, have a face engineered to communicate "Tell me your problems," someone is going to come up to you and tell you his or her problems. Last week, in my case, it was the person who worked at the laundromat. She apparently had encountered problems collecting her disability insurance. Because I was hypnotized by the circling florals of my king-sized quilt, I found that I was able to listen empathetically and offer sage and remarkably detailed advice, though I know absolutely nothing about collecting disability insurance. After our brief consultation, it was time for me to move my things to a dryer, and this time I was treated to the vistas of my bedding flipping into astoundingly perfect yet fleeting abstract works of art.

So I am thinking about scheduling a weekly session at the laundromat. It costs less than $10. So fresh was my attitude, so cleansed was my psyche that my friends wondered whether I had been to an upscale spa. I could have led them to believe that, but I came clean instead.

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