Just being in the laundromat evokes a sense of poverty or misfortune; a feeling of transience. They are not fancy, shiny places. They are strictly about function sans form. The attendant is a cheerful older man who is busy repairing one of the aging machines and chatting with customers, while the patrons generally keep to themselves, avoiding eye contact and conversation with anyone other than the old man.
He came in just behind me. Just a guy, a bit older than myself, but I found myself making up a whole life story for him. Newly divorced (no wedding ring; kept asking the attendant how to work the machine and how much detergent to use). He tries to keep healthy (we both went next door to Subway where he ordered a flatbread sandwich and water). He has some money (iPhone) and is social (either surfed or talked on the iPhone the whole time in Subway). The wardrobe threw me a bit: almost exclusively black shirts, all hung neatly upon exiting the dryer. Gay? Bartender? New Yorker?
Moreover, I thought what would an observer think of me? What might I say to the passing stranger? No wedding ring (it was left behind on the bathroom counter), no makeup, hair in a ponytail. That blue tee shirt I wear to do housework. Worn out hausfrau? Single mom? I ordered a chicken/bacon/ranch and a Coke at Subway. Does that tell people I don't care about my health? Read a book. Am I an intellectual or one of those people who reads 18 Harlequin Romances a week? (I know I'm neither) I would be interested to know what vibe I give off but, of course, how would one ever answer that question? You can't ask your friends - their perceptions are skewed. You can't ask the stranger - they'll think you're a whack job. Or they might be one. How do you know what people think of you and, more importantly, do you care?