In which I am bemused by urban priorities

My local launderette (ummm… is that “laundromat”, in American?) has just closed down. Apparently, their rent went up, and they would have needed new equipment, and they’d been in business thirty years, so, rather than face the hassle, the owner decided to hang up his… errr… whatever launderette owners hang up when they retire… some sort of sponge, maybe? Anyway, it’s all closed up now, and when it reopens, it’s going to be an estate agency.

“No problem,” says I to myself. “I used to pass a launderette on North Parade every day, back when I worked for FoetidGoatMolesting Applications Ltd., I’ll use that instead.”

“Hmmm,” says I to myself, moments later. “I’d better check it’s still there, before I need to do my next load of laundry.”

So, off I go to North Parade, and guess what? No launderette. Big wooden things inform me that what used to be a launderette is soon to reopen. As a hairdresser.

So there I am, standing on North Parade, and passers by can hear this sound like THWACK! [sub]eep![/sub] THWACK! [sub]eep![/sub] THWACK! [sub]eep![/sub], which is me cudgelling my brain, trying to remember where, in Oxford, there is another launderette within reasonable walking distance.

“South Parade,” I decide, eventually. So, from North Parade, I head off north towards South Parade. (Look, there’s a perfectly sensible explanation…)

Northwards I trek. The deciduous trees are replaced by hardy conifers, which thin out as I reach the empty tundra on which the noble reindeer browse, before I come to the awesome frozen beauty of the ice fields themselves… what? Oh, it’s about three quarters of a mile, I just put that bit in to raise the tone a little.

Yes, praise be to the clean underwear gods, there is a launderette on South Parade.

But the whole experience set me to musing. Surely, at a given time t, there is a number n of people who want to buy a house, and a number m of people who need clean pants, and, in any sanely ordered world, m>n ? Or hairdressing: is that not also, when all is said and done, a less compelling, a less pressing need than that for simple cleanliness of person? Or any of the other businesses I passed on my long and lonely quest for coin-operated toploaders - it is easier for me to get authentic Peruvian wooden pan-pipes, genuine Lebanese cuisine, or organic wholemeal focaccia bread than it is to get my undies washed.

I mean. Well. I mean. It’s Oxford, for flip’s sake. It’s swarming with students, they can’t all rely on Mumsy and Pater to send the au pair down from Godalming to pick up their laundry. And there are lots of people - like me! - paying exorbitant rents for microscopic flats, where you can only fit a washing machine in if you don’t mind one of your children having to sleep in it. My point… I had a point when I started this, where is it? Oh, here it is… my point is that a launderette is a practical business venture. There is a market for the service. So where, I ask you, is the service? It’s on South Parade, between the Vietnamese restaurant and the Wiccan Wholemeal Plumbing Accessories shop, that’s where it is.

Hence, I am moved to apostrophize, nay, to objurgate and castigate, my fellow Oxonians. Get your damn priorities straight. Amidst the daily quest for GM-free nostril pluckers, lanzonia-flavoured decaffeinated mineral water and Fair Traded emu burgers, let us not lose sight of the homelier necessities of life, such as clean knickers. Thank you for your attention.

If I were a rating man, I’d rigorously rate this rant writ large with writhing rapture. Almost up to the humorous quality of the bicycle rant (in one part).

A laundro-suggestion: mayhap the colleges have their own laundry rooms that the students use? That was certainly the case in Cambridge.

Other than that I can only suggest that you get the Lux out. And start wearing those underpants both ways round and inside-out.


I feel your pain, particularly since I used to live in Oxford. Mercifully, I was in Headington, which has a perfectly serviceable little laundrette hidden away just off the London Road (Windmill Road, perhaps?).

What you doing in Oxford then? Presumably not a student!

Perhaps this is fate telling you to stop working for promised-but-infrequently-delivered paychecks and open your own Washing Facility.

It is possible, even in the face of the remorseless advance of Modern Technology, to wash Knickers, aka Underpants or Jockey Shorts at home. The recipe is as follows:

  1. Scour Oxford for bits of dry wood.

  2. Build large fire in garden (using foraged wood).

  3. Place Giant Vat on fire and fill with water.

  4. Boil water and add 96 Persil Performance Tablets (Biological Action).

  5. Put on Gas Mask.

  6. Remove soiled Knickers from sealed container (marked Hazardous Waste) using Special Gloves.

  7. Fill giant Vat with Knickers.

  8. Notify neighbours of intentions (to facilitate orderly evacuation of immediate vicinity).

  9. Stand well back and boil for 7 days (including Bank Holidays where applicable) stirring frequently .

  10. Remove Knickers and strain.

  11. Place in oven to dry (Gas Mark 3).

This is the procedure followed by people who live in rural areas of England where all Laundrettes have had their licenses withdrawn indefinitely because of thus far unspecified ‘Operational Irregularities’.

kabbes, I know nothing of the laundrological practices of Oxford students, though I’m sure they’re as foul and Satanic as any other practices at these decrepit and decadent Southern Universities. Yours sincerely, S Wright, MA (Edinburgh).

scottmcg, Headington’s a little too far to walk with a full load of laundry… I work in web development, having been lured south by FoetidGoatMolesting Applications, only to leave them (at the point of a boot) and find another job at SyphiliticDonkeyRaping Systems. For some reason, I’m finding it hard to get a new job - they say something about “bad attitude”, but I know it’s an Atheist Jewish Freemason Conspiracy, oh yes. For this reason, Homebrew’s suggestion sounds like a good one - the worst I would have to worry about is large men with baseball bats coming round to pinch the takings, that’s positively fun compared to dealing with my current clients - but I can’t implement it. I’m a humane man at heart, and if I went to the bank for a development loan, I think the manager would hurt himself quite badly, laughing. So that’s out.

Your plan, Nostradamus, though ingenious, falls at the first hurdle. If I go around collecting bits of wood, they will be pinched and carved into South American nose flutes faster than you can say Indigenous Ethnic Folkways. I could (and, by any musical standard, should) burn the nose flutes, but I could never afford enough of them to boil all my underwear. Have you seen the price of nose flutes these days??

Steve, (may I call you Steve?), I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your posts and wish you would post more often. You’re almost as good as Nostradamus. :slight_smile:

Oh, I forgot to ask, what is a nose flute? Is it a flute in the shape of a nose or is it a flute that you play by blowing into it with your nose? I think I shudder at either thought.

jazzmine, with lines like that, you can call me anything you like… In the true Straight Dope spirit of providing invaluable information, I give you the modern nose flute and a more traditional version. Local (Oxford) custom demands that it’s played in a pedestrian precinct, preferably while standing in front of an ATM so that nobody can use it.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled vileness. I’ve been applying Lateral Thinking to my problem, inspired by a thread on peculiar Japanese sexual practices (I won’t post a link, somebody’s mother might be reading). My problem, reduced to its basics, is to obtain clean underwear. To do this, I could wash the existing stock, or I could buy new (clean) undies. The second option sounds expensive - but my dazzling insight, prompted by said thread on perversions, is that this option may, in fact, be self-financing, in that, after I’ve worn a new pair of pants, they become, by definition, used, and there is apparently a thriving market for such articles…

You and I, gentle reader, may think of these used underwear sales (insofar as we contemplate them at all) in terms of lacy things worn by clean and fragrant young maidens… but you and I are (relatively) normal, and I doubt we appreciate the, errrr, diversity of these special tastes. It may well be that my greying and capacious Y-fronts are just the thing to set some nameless pervert’s heart a-flutter. I can certainly guarantee “used”, anyway, likewise “soiled” and “odorous”. Indeed, my worn knickers may serve as the quintessence or definition of these and similar terms… hang on a sec, I feel an advertising slogan coming on… They’re The Pants That “PUNGENT” Was Invented For!

What do you think? 50p extra for the ones with perished elastic, while stocks last.

…and you thought a spit valve was nasty…

Unbelievably, the latter. And yes, it is possible to play two at once.

Oops; obviously I opened this thread before the last two posts.

Damn quickreply window.

*at a given time t, there is a number n of people who want to buy a house, and a number m of people who need clean pants, and, in any sanely ordered world, m>n ? Or hairdressing: is that not also, when all is said and done, a less compelling, a less pressing need than that for simple cleanliness of person? *

Yes, m>n. But m$<n$ (maybe some mathematician can insert the “belonging to” symbol - not my line). Anyway, when the property bubble bursts, the laundrettes will be back. Same problem here during property bubbles - every useful retail outlet shuts down.

Aha! I have an idea.

  1. Go to estate agents’ office
  2. Express interest in viewing a property
  3. Make appointment with estate agent to view property
  4. Take laundry and washing powder with you to viewing
  5. If there is a washing machine in the property (and there bloody well ought to be, in a owner occupied residence in Oxford), quietly put your laudry and powder in, and set it going.
  6. When challenged on this by estate agent, deny all knowledge. Maintain brass neck. If the estate agent really wants the sale, they’ll let you do a little laundry at seller’s expense.
  7. NB If the sellers are present in the property, do not attempt steps 5 or 6.
  8. Bish bosh, job’s a good 'un.
  9. You need a lot of estate agents’ offices for this. You probably won’t get away with it twice with the same firm.

Also, you need to make an house appointment that is at least 2 hours and eight minutes long.

Tansu, that’s a terribly short-term solution. As you say, I’d have to hit a different firm each time; that means, at an average rate of laundry, and using all the estate agents within practical distance, I’d only be able to keep it up until…

Pauses, flips through Thomson Local Directory, does sums on back of envelope.

… errr… around the middle of August… August 2015, that is.

By which time, as Hemlock points out, the Invisible Hand and the Magic of the Marketplace should have sorted things out.

Hmmm. This requires further thought.

As there are only 2 estate agents within the whole of Oxford, may I suggest that you really should wash your pants more often

[sub]that’s UK pants, as in underpants, not US pants.[/sub]

Egads. I walk past four separate offices just going from my place to the bus station - are all of them run by just two firms? Blimey.

The scrum of wide-eyed girls in cashmere jumpers, all stubbing their Gitanes out in the Fray Bentos pie-tin and fumbling for small change at the Eurowash on Farncombe Street of a Saturday afternoon says you’re wrong.

And that would be up from Godalming, you grimy Northern oik…


I assume that’s still English, but damned if I know what you’re saying.