Wearing a tie-dyed shirt and ball cap with the brim turned back, Jason Bajoras prepared to fold the clothes he'd just extracted from a dryer. It's a routine he goes through once a week at Central Square Laundry, 3361 Fehling Road in Granite City.
"I usually hang out about two-and-a-half to three hours," said Bajoras, 31, of Granite City, who works in IT support. "Usually, I come here on a weekend, but today is my day off. I figured I'll get it done today."
It was shortly after 4 p.m. on a Wednesday. The sound of water sloshing in machines and clothes flopping in stainless steel dryers filled the background.
Nearby, Danny Shrum, of Madison, waited for his clothes to dry. A retired laborer, Shrum, 53, wore slightly faded jeans and a black T-shirt. Sometimes, after he puts his clothes in the washer, "I go over to my sister's and take care of her dog," Shrum explained. "It's all right, washing clothes."
John Sevier, 69, has owned the laundry for five years. Margaret Fisk, 66, is his helper. After Fisk leaves around 7 p.m., Sevier stays until 1 a.m. or so. Sometime in the night, he shows up to check things over.
Sevier mostly washes clothes for various businesses and industries. As Bajoras and Schrum waited for clothes to dry, Sevier removed heavy orange uniforms from a washer and plopped them in a dryer.
Near the back, Fisk ironed a shirt for a customer. It was covered with Route 66 signs and pictures of old Cadillacs and Lincolns. She keeps the money she makes ironing. "John's a really nice guy," Fisk said.
Sometimes, Sevier helps customers who don't have a car, she said.
"They'll dry it and fold it," said Steve Serrano, 42, a pipefitter. "They're good, loving people. They even give me a ride home."
In fact, when Serrano was finished, Sevier offered to shuttle his customer home.
"My policy," Sevier said, "is to make people happy."