I had to use a laundromat recently for the first time in maybe 50 years. I write that with humility; it just so happened that throughout my married life we have owned a washing machine and dryer. On Saturdays, we would do a load of wash so that we’d have clean clothes at the start of the work week. A washing machine was not considered excessive consumption. To balance things out in the major appliance category, we have never owned a microwave.

As I was saying, laundromats are the kind of place that inspires the imagination. It is usually one large square room the size of a medium warehouse, filled to the brim with washing machines and dryers, each machine fed by enormous amounts of quarters. I mean, you get $20 worth of quarters and you need to rent a Wells Fargo armored car or reinforce your pockets. Wouldn’t you have thought engineers would have figured out a way so you didn’t tear a hole in your pocket from all those coins?

In the old days you would use the time to catch up on that novel that’s been sitting on the bedside table, or the magazines stacked in the waiting room or the New York Times. However, on my recent visit, almost all the patrons were doing whatever people do on their smartphones. The ebb and flow of energy as the washers and dryers hummed along with their burdens, watched by us supplicants, the offspring of the original upright walkers who took their cloth to the riverside and smashed them with rocks as they talked among them, bringing the news of the day.

I mean, what you are doing is washing your clothes, your  sheets and blankets and your most intimate possessions that make up your entire life — take it easy there. In public, no less. I’m not caught up on the dating scene, but there was a time when laundromats were a good place to meet members of the opposite gender. Date night at the Laundromat, it was called, and I’ve been told that on those nights, the lights were dimmed and cheese and crackers and wine were available. A box of Tide and a chardonnay, please.

“Do you add bleach first?” was a good opening gambit. In those old Cecil B. DeMille movies that claimed to be historically accurate, the male lead often sees the romantic interest for the first time down by the river where the women of the village are doing laundry, pounding their clothes on massive boulders while fluttering their eyes at the men riding by on horses. Moses was found in the reeds in a place where the royal servants washed the royal clothes. Before the advent of the washing machine as we know it, there was the washboard, which later served as a musical instrument in Appalachia.

Back in the United Kingdom or not-so-Great Britain, washing clothes was done by washerwomen who spent all day toting water from the public pump to the house, bucket-load by bucket-load. That was done several times, so it was an all-day job.

Here in a typical laundromat, the wash cycle is about 30 minutes and an hour or so in the dryer is all it takes and this chore is over. The chardonnay? You can’t go wrong pairing it with a fitted sheet or a clean pair of plaid boxer shorts. Trust me.