Airing My Dirty Laundry

If there’s one thing that I miss more than anything else about college, it’s the meal plan… really, what beats the convenience of having thousands of dollars, courtesy of huge loans that you’ll have to pay back later, that allow you to eat all kinds of nutritious and delicious food at any time of the day or night? Sounds good, doesn’t it? I sure think so, but unfortunately, at Wake Forest, that’s not even close to what we had.

Instead, our meal plan paid for overpriced food that was either much too greasy, indigestible, or in much too small of a portion at our campus “restaurants” that were never, ever open past 9 at night or most any weekend. And let me tell you, nothing beats paying $8 for a can of shaving cream at the campus sundry shop! Ah, those were the days!

OK, so maybe the food thing wasn’t so great, but there were other things that were at least semi-decent. For instance, my senior year I lived on the first floor of a building where the laundry room was just half a flight of stairs down. The building was fairly small so there were only two washers and two dryers for all of us, but then again, college students aren’t exactly known for their impeccable cleanliness. I, for one, was downright slovenly and lazy most of the time, and usually gauged when I needed to wash my clothes based on how bad they stunk.

I have changed my ways, though, now that I have to work for a living. I do have a habit, though, of letting my laundry pile up and doing it all in one big chunk, which is probably not the best way of going about it. My mother has repeatedly told me that I should do smaller loads more frequently; that way, I don’t run out of clothes, and I don’t end up smelling like I sleep in a gym locker room.

So you can imagine my delight when, after living in this building for months, I learned that there’s a laundry room downstairs. Ordinarily I have to go about 4 blocks to the laundromat to get everything done, but hey, it’s much easier to walk to the other side of the building and go down to the basement to use the laundry room, even if it does feel more than a little dormitory-esque.

However, my expectations were not quite met when I ventured down to the communal laundry room for the first time. While there seem to be an ample number of machines for the building, they are unrealistically small. I managed to fit three pairs of jeans and about as many t-shirts into one–and had trouble closing the door. Ironically enough, the dryers must be about three times bigger–you could be using half of the washers in the room and easily fit all of your laundry into just one dryer. I have no explanation for this, except maybe that someone accidentally ordered mismatched machines, because people are stupid. Though I can’t help but suspect it wasn’t an accident, because people are spiteful.

Annoyingly the only way to pay for your wash in the building is to use quarters, and I’m one of those people that despises spare change so much that I use my check card so that I can avoid cash entirely. So getting extra quarters is a chore. People look at you funny when you pay for your lunch with your Visa debit card and then pull out $3 and ask, “Can you change these for quarters?” I guess I could go to the bank and ask for a roll of quarters, but that would be too inconvenient, so there must be some other way…

One idea that I came up with: I suppose that I could just use the money I get for returning my cans to the grocery store to do laundry, but let’s do the math. You get a nickel per can or bottle you return, and a single load of laundry, not counting the cash you spend on the dryer, is $1.25. That’s 25 cans of Coke, which costs something like $8! And don’t expect me to take out my old-lady push cart and troll the neighborhood for cans and bottles that people have mistakenly tossed in the garbage. I’ll let the bag ladies do that–I’d prefer not to upset their delicate economic balance.

So anyway, rather than bothering with all of this, I decided that it would be better and easier for me to just use the same old laundromat down the street that I’ve used since I moved in. Granted, I usually end up spending about $20 to get all of my clothes clean, but then again that’s my own fault for waiting so long. Usually this involves piling everything into the aforementioned old-lady push cart, and rolling it the three or four blocks to the laundromat, with my detergent and a laundry basket teetering precariously atop the whole mess.

The laundromat itself isn’t all that bad, as it uses smart cards that you can pay for with cash instead of stupid quarters, and it’s open 24 hours. Plus, the several TVs that they have in there are a nice touch; unfortunately they don’t have cable, so usually the TVs display nothing more than static patterns and closed captions that say nonsensical things. So in a lot of ways it’s good, except… well… it’s a laundromat. My mother got asked out on a date once when she was younger at the laundromat, and that is all the proof that I need that they’re creepy on some level, smart cards or not.

Long story short, I have clean clothes to wear again, after weeks and weeks of putting it off, but it sure would have been a whole lot easier if I was on a meal plan. I’m not sure how, but I’m sticking with it.

—2004