Last week, my girlfriend and I needed to wash our comforters, which are too large for our washer and dryer. Fortunately, there’s a laundromat just down the street from our apartment, so we went there. One of the main reasons for our choice of apartments was having a washer and dryer, because it’s a huge hassle even to use on-site laundry machines. You can either waste hours vigilantly watching your clothes, or some back when they should be finishing to find that someone stole your Superman underwear. At least the thief didn’t put the cape in with your whites.
I brought $3.75 in quarters, thinking that would at least get the comforters started and I could put my $5 bill into a quarter machine when they needed to dry. It took some time to find out that I was rather incorrect.
Walking into the “business,” I noticed the complete lack of signs. As a business owner, I would have large signs saying things like “Dryers,” “Washers,” “Heavy Duty Washers,” “Scum of the Earth Stand Here,” etc. hanging from the ceiling. Instead, I had to take a moment to look for the various washers, trying to find which ones the comforters would fit into. Finally, I found a couple large, side-load washers and started to look for the price. I saw a little label on one machine that said, “Quarters Only,” so I knew they were at least fifty cents. Then I saw another label that said “18.” At first I didn’t think that could mean eighteen quarters, but I saw one machine that was labeled $5.50 on the other side of the laundry area (the ones next to it were “22″), so I guessed that must actually be $4.50. Quite a bit for a single wash… especially when using a machine that has green mold in between the plastic pieces that make up the window on the door.
I had to change my $5 bill into quarters and ask the person at the other end of the business (the dry-cleaning section) to swap two dimes and a nickel for a quarter. At last, I had enough money to feed two mold machines and get the washing started.
My girlfriend went across the street to a store, so I went with in order to use the ATM. The screen said, “I’m sorry, the time for you to remove your card has expired. The machine will now keep your card. Please talk to the financial service representative,” or something that basically told me someone has a far worse memory than I do. There’s no button that says, “Acknowledge the previous person just got owned by an ATM.” I resorted to hitting all of the buttons (well, I tried “cancel” first and it didn’t do anything). At some point, I entered the magical combination similar to the Konami code, and it went back to the regular screen, so I made my transaction. As I was finishing, I removed my card from the machine and a lady came over asking if I found a card at the machine. As much as I wanted to tell her, “Yes, and after I pushed some buttons, the machine started giving me lots of money,” I decided to tell her the truth. Damn you morals!
I went back to the laundromat while my girlfriend bought what she needed from the store. I exchanged one of the $20 at the counter for smaller bills to get quarters from the change machine. Finding a dryer that was large enough to fit both comforters in, I put them in and began the task of looking like an idiot, while trying to see if any machine in the vicinity had any kind of price listing. Of course they didn’t…
The machine had four white buttons that were labeled for each temperature setting, one red button with no label, and a red LED next to the temperature that had been selected. I put a quarter into the machine and it beeped. The LED didn’t change. The LCD that showed time on some of the machines that were running showed nothing. I kept feeding it quarters, thinking that the LED would turn green or the LCD would show numbers or the machine would beep differently. Since the machine was large enough to fit both comforters in, I figured the price had to be similar to the washing machines. $5.50 later, I decide the machine must be screwed up or something, so I hit the red button to cancel/stop and expect to have my money returned to me. The machine starts. Okay, so red means start in laundromat world. The LCD displayed 99:99, and I knew the comforters would be getting very, very dry.
Deciding to try to read during the wait, I found a seat and opened a book that I had brought with me. Barely a sentence into the novel, I found myself distracted by two of the “regulars” talking. One lady was saying something like this:
So then the cop pulled up next to me when I was walking home and he started asking me these questions. I told him, ‘I just want to eat my [fun word] burger, man.’ He kept acting like I had drugs on me or something, but I wasn’t high anymore. That’s just harassment!
And later the great pearl of wisdom:
You can’t trust your homeys, man. I [fun word] trusted mine and they took all my [special word] and sold it for [fun word] drugs.
The conversations continued like that between the two ladies and I had a difficult time reading with words like “idiot” and “useless” popping into my head regularly. There are some people who have genuinely hard circumstances and have to use the laundromat, but there are apparently quite a few who are willing to openly tell the world how they spend all their money on drugs and have to scrounge up the change to wash their clothes. Fortunately, they can always find ways of obtaining cigarettes and other necessities of life.
Somehow, I don’t think a moldy washing machine would clean off the dirty feeling I had from being in that place.