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Laundromat Liaisons

"She met him down at the laundromat. Three a.m."
On a washing machine they sat, and talked 'till dawn."
Collin Raye

Laundromats are a convenient setting when the plot requires characters to meet and strike up a conversation. People don't generally like to leave their laundry unattended, so they have a couple hours of nothing to do but wait for the machines. They might as well pass the time by chatting with the person next to them on the bench. Romantic comedies often use this to set up a Meet Cute. It can also be played for the awkward, like an Uncomfortable Elevator Moment only stretched out to several minutes (on stage). Or it can be creepy: how is Alice to get out of this conversation without abandoning her laundry?

The audience doesn't learn anything about the characters from the fact of their being in a laundromat, but by the same token, characters who meet there could plausibly be anyone, from an Everyman type to a budding supervillain. Sometimes the writers play up characterization quirks in laundromat scenes, to compensate for the blandness. Or the characters might be down to their very last clean outfit, making them look like a Rummage Sale Reject or even someone wearing Improvised Clothes.

It's not uncommon for the characters to get a peek at each others' laundry, invoking tropes such as Black Bra And Panties.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Invoked and subverted in the "Marx and Engels" story in Put the Book Back on the Shelf; the guy tries to get a conversation started with a girl at the laundromat, and then asks her out, but she turns him down.

    Film 
  • Big Daddy: The main character has his laundry done by a professional laundry service. When he finds out where the Love Interest does her laundry, he takes a bundle of clean clothes to the laundromat in hope of invoking this trope.
  • Fire Birds: Preston and Guthrie catch up with each other at the laundromat and discuss why their previous relationship didn't work out.
  • 40 Days and 40 Nights: The main character meets his eventual girlfriend at the laundromat.
  • Forms the premise of The Laundromat: two lonely women regularly meet late at night in a laundromat to converse.
  • When Night Is Falling has a woman who teaches at a conservative Christian college meet a performer from a traveling performance-art circus at a laundromat. A clothing mixup brings the teacher to the circus for the next step in the courtship.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory: Most of the main characters live in the same apartment building; its laundry room frequently appears as a place for two of the characters to chat.
  • Caroline In The City: Dell and Charlie try to invoke this by going to a laundromat singles night.
  • Chappelle's Show spoofed this by using slow motion to turn an ordinary day at the laundromat into a sexually charged romantic encounter.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Love and Monsters", a character trying to learn about the Doctor sets up a 'chance' meeting with Jackie Tyler at the laundromat, or a laundrette as they are called in the UK.
  • Friends: One of the first times Ross and Rachel really started to bond was when he took her on her first trip to the laundromat.
  • On Happy Endings, Penny meets a guy at the laundromat. She went there in ratty old sweats, which were her last piece of clean clothing, and she assumed that was why he looked like a Rummage Sale Reject. It's only when she meets him later wearing the same type of clothes that she realizes she is dating a hipster.

    Music 
  • The premise of the Song Parody "Leader of the Laundromat" by The Detergents is the singer's tragic love with a washerwoman he met while she did his laundry for him at the laundromat she works for.
  • The a capella group The Bobs have a song about this, "Share a Load". Two people meet at the laundromat, and they end up sharing a washing machine because one of them has forgotten to bring soap and quarters. They fall in love because the forgetful one likes the things that the other person is washing (like Grateful Dead T-shirts).
  • "What the Heart Wants" by Collin Raye begins with, "She met him down at the laundromat. Three a.m. on a washing machine they sat, and talked 'til dawn." Their romance follows.
  • "Laundry Girl" by Ludo tells the tale of a romance between the narrator and the titular girl, who has "the cleanest dirty laundry that the laundromat had ever seen"

    Literature 
  • In the Ken Kesey novel Sometimes A Great Notion, a forbidden tryst in a laundromat is one of the only extraordinary acts of the normally mild-mannered and henpecked Real Estate Hotwire.

    Video Games 
  • Fahrenheit put a very dark twist on the whole "random people meeting in a laundromat" trope: two random people enter a laundromat, then one of them stabs the other to death, slits his own wrists, and bleeds to death.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Billy aka Dr. Horrible sees Penny every week at a laundromat and further gets to know her through conversations there.

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alternative title(s): Met At The Laundromat
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