At Soap's laundromat in College Park, there are a variety of diversions to entertain you while your dirty socks turn clean.

Watch one of two color TV sets, play one of 14 video games, order a slice of pizza and a glass of lemonade in the restaurant-lounge, or talk to a stranger; there are usually lots and lots of strangers at Soap's, many of them University of Maryland students, but families also come en masse.

"I have seen all of the 75 washers being used," said Jason Yasner, a Soap's attendant who works the night shift. "The first Sunday after Christmas break, it was outrageous! I felt like running out into the parking lot and throwing up my hands."

Normally, the busiest times are "Saturdays, Sundays, Monday nights -- and any federal holiday," said general manager Elizabeth Foster. "People come and bring their kids. I've heard parents say that their kids tell them, 'We want to go to Soap's. "

Indeed, Soap's, at 7125 Baltimore Ave., is one of a kind. The idea was borrowed from similar laundries in North Carolina and brought here by the Greenwood Group, which once owned the Chuck E. Cheese's pizza palaces.

"It's a place where you don't just sit and watch your laundry go around in circles," a Soap's manager said when the laundromat opened last March.

On one recent night, people walked back and forth from the restaurant-lounge to the spacious room containing the washers. Other folks stuffed wet clothes into the 50 dryers that are divided between two rooms. Music from radio station WHFS-FM sliced through conversations and the rumble of machines.

All of the rooms at Soap's are carpeted, a durable gray-plaid rug that absorbs spills as well as the noise of busy feet. On this night a little boy put it to the test, running from one room to another and back.

In the restaurant's lounge area, which looks like a living room, a woman sat on one of the sofas and watched "WKRP in Cincinnati" on television. A man sat on the other sofa and read a book.

Bryan Stone, a Georgetown University graduate student, stepped out of the video room after playing his last game of Trion and took a seat at the food bar at the other end of the restaurant to wait for his clothes to dry.

"I come here mainly because of the atmosphere. It's one of the nicest laundromats around . . . " Stone said. "Besides, I'm a sucker for a video game; Trion gets all my money."

He said he visits Soap's twice a week: "One trip for the basketball clothes and one for the work clothes."

A small yellow pony that rocks back and forth for 25 cents a ride stood motionless and alone. Nearby, four Tau Epsilon Phi men sat at one of the six umbrella tables and played a game of Spades.

"Two of us came to wash clothes and two came to play cards," said one of the men, Stuart Ash. "The tables here are great for cards," he said, laughing.

Some nights, attendant Yasner, a University of Maryland sophomore, entertains the crowd with a little dance. "When some good music comes on I've been known to act out a song," is the way he puts it.

"I've noticed guys picking up girls here and girls picking up guys, but it doesn't happen as often as you'd think," said Karen Burkett, a fellow night shift attendant and Maryland student.

At Soap's, the attendants can count on more than the machines to go in cycles.

"Every night people leave clothes here," said Yasner, adding incredulously that "they never come back for them."

So with all of the people coming and going, do weird things sometimes happen?

"A better question is: Have we had a day when something weird didn't happen?" said Yasner. "You could make a soap opera about this place."

"We had a woman who came in here talking about seeing UFOs," recalled Burkett.

"We had a woman who walked around carrying this huge keyboard strapped across her chest," said Yasner.

"We have this guy who comes in and gets on his knees in front of the machine and does a ritual before washing his clothes," added Burkett.

And they agree there are others who aren't fit for an article in a family newspaper.

Foster's contribution: "There's a guy who comes in here and washes his money -- the change and the bills."

Has she bothered to ask him why?

"No," she said quickly. "I just stay away from him."