The Laundromat

Nothing is quite like a laundromat for the peculiar combination of arrogant bullying and pathetic illiteracy that they display. Printed and deployed for your attention, the signs bark out Orwellian messages like

SMILE: its fun to do laundry at ——

The signs are visually much as above, all bold and majuscule, full of unidiomatic cajoling and blunders.



Customer is responsible to clean up after themselves…

… from which the sociologist may conclude that laundromats have a boss-worker character, ‘the management’ (as the signs themselves proclaim) always presuming the customer to be an infant, a boob, a criminal, or merely insane.

For their part, the customers (or some of them) fight back with graffiti. This is especially true in unsupervised laundromats. And so the list of unacceptable dryer contents, posted in the local Chinatown laundromat, is now expanded by graffiti to include – besides wool and synthetic fabrics – “rubber nipples, shitty diapers, sexual devices, and nude pictures of your mother.”

There you have summed up the taboo subjects: the female body, feces, sex, and incest (implied). On public display as a sort of verbal raspberry, they are directed in defiance ultimately of the authority figure, the Laundromat Management. [- September 2000]

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