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Laundry Runs: A True Connection

Sometimes being willing to ask for help opens the door to unexpected human connections, says Zach Miller.

By on June 21, 2024 | Comments

A few days ago, I did a late-night round of laundry at the Speed Queen Laundromat in Manitou Springs, Colorado. This particular laundromat is one of my favorites. It doesn’t have fancy machines that take credit cards, it’s not always very clean, and I doubt it has Wi-Fi.

You might be wondering why I like it so much. Well, it’s because the cultural experience is off the charts.

The Speed Queen in Manitou Springs is an absolute vibe, especially late at night. The cast of characters you’ll find in this place is a hoot. They are the sort that would leave some people Googling where to find the next closest laundromat. But I don’t mind this sort of scene. In fact, I quite like it.

Zach Miller in a laundromat

Zach Miller has developed a love for laundromats and the people he can meet there. All photos courtesy of Zach Miller

The day after my late-night laundering, I found myself on a run with my buddy Brandon Stapanowich. During our run, I gushed to Brandon about how much I love laundromats and how I have had some great human experiences at the local Speed Queen.

I told him about the time I didn’t have small enough bills for the change machine, and a woman went to her car and came back with a wad of cash for me. I told him about another time when I fed all my quarters into the washer, only to come up short and realize that I couldn’t get more because the change machine was out of service. Fortunately, a nice young man gave me a stack of quarters (which I paid him for), found me another one on the floor, and proceeded to show me how to use the Coke machine as a change machine, a trick he said he used to use when the machine was down.

Thinking about my laundromat experiences, I commented to Brandon about how it feels like these days, we don’t often ask each other for help. Instead, we Google, YouTube, and read reviews online. And while it’s nice to be independent, we miss out on the chance to have special human interactions.

Fortunately, there are still some places where they can happen, and the Speed Queen Laundromat in Manitou Springs is one of them.

Sunrise from a mountain

Asking for help can open the opportunity for genuine human connection.

A trailhead with no cell phone coverage is another one. Just the other day, I was finishing up an evening run on the west side of Pikes Peak in Colorado when a lady at the trailhead asked me for help. She had just finished a hike and couldn’t unlock her car. She believed her key fob to be dead and asked if I had a phone, as hers was without service. I had one, but like her, I hadn’t a lick of service either. That west-side trailhead is such a dead zone.

Fortunately, just as I tried to help, the key fob miraculously started working. We celebrated the small-but-big victory together, and she hopped in her car and drove off. Even though I hadn’t done anything more than be willing to help, like at the laundromat, it felt special to share that moment.

I don’t believe these sorts of experiences can only be had at laundromats or service-less trailheads. I think they can happen just about anywhere, especially in the spaces where we can relate to one another. Pretty much everyone knows what it feels like to be down on your luck: locked out of a car or a few quarters short of a load of laundry. So, naturally, when you know what it feels like to be in that position, it feels really good to help someone in that same spot.

Singletrack views

Human connection can be found anywhere, and running spaces provide great opportunities.

Much like the laundromat, sports like running also grant us a special opportunity to relate to one another. Runners know what it feels like to chase a goal, to be tired from a big week of training, to be upset about a poor performance, to be intimidated by a competitor, to be unsure of a training plan, or to suffer in a race. The list goes on. These are our shared experiences. They are our out-of-service change machines and dysfunctional key fobs.

We can view these experiences as burdens to be held inside and dealt with on our own (perhaps with the help of some Googling), or we can see them as an opportunity to reach out and connect with those around us. When I run out of quarters at the laundromat or have a breakdown in my bus, it’s not my natural instinct to ask for help. But when I do, it gives me a chance to have one of those nice, heart-warming moments.

And so, as much as running is a way to compete with one another, it is also a way to connect. It is our laundromat and our black-hole, no-service trailhead. It’s ripe with opportunities to engage. Don’t miss out on the magic of it just because you’re too proud to ask for change.

Call for Comments

  • Have you ever needed to ask for help and had the opportunity to connect because of it?
  • What prevents you from asking for help, whether in a race, at a trailhead or laundromat, or in life?
Zach Miller
Zach Miller lives in a school bus he outfitted himself. He competes for The North Face and Team Colorado. Additional sponsors/supporters include Clean-N-Jerky, GU Energy Labs, and Nathan Sports. Follow him on Instagram.