I should’ve stopped at the laundromat.
Not because I had some dirty clothes that I needed to wash. After all, I have a washer and dryer of my own at home.
But I still should’ve stopped.
As a visual storyteller, I’m always looking for spots that catch my attention, and this place did that. It was a great scene, loaded with character. A tiny, cinder block building with LAUNDROMAT spelled out in large, red plastic letters spanning the width of the building. Underneath the ten letter word there’s a big glass window that lets you peer into the place. A small wooden bench sits outside just in case you’d like a front seat to the traffic going by while the dryers do their thing.
It’s the type of setting that Joseph Mitchell would write about in one of his street life stories. Mitchell was a reporter for The New Yorker who searched out fascinating characters in interesting places.
After seeing the scene for months, I decided to take some wide angle photographs of the laundromat sign with a new lens that I had recently picked up. The golden hour would be perfect because each evening the sun sets just behind the building. The illuminated letters would stand out nicely against the sky. It would be quick and easy enough to grab a shot or two since I pass it each evening heading to the gym down the street.
But one particular day while driving past it, I noticed the place that was unchanged for decades had suddenly…changed. The large LAUNDROMAT letters were gone, lifted, like a stubborn stain. And with it, the potential picture that had been waiting for me disappeared, too. Losing those letters turned the scene that I couldn’t stop looking at into a boring, cinderblock rectangle.
It’s strange to think that ten plastic letters are making me reflect like they are, but maybe it’s a good reminder for a new year, an omen about missed opportunities. Because like clothes at the laundromat, time tumbles, too. So, this year, stop the car and get the shot, apply for the job that you think may be a bit of a reach, or become the boss or mentor you always wish you had.
Use your missed opportunity as a motivator to make a change. Just make sure you do it before the chance is gone for good.