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March 1, 1999




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Laundry empties pockets

By H.G. Miller
Kansan Columnist

millerQuarters, man, I need quarters. I´m stranded at the laundromat, and the change machine is spitting my wrinkled dollars back at me so indignantly that I think I may take a baseball bat to it.

It´s not like I haven´t tried avoiding this scenario. I bought a pack of socks a week ago, and now it´s gone, so here I am.

Two days have passed since I shelled out a few scraps of cash for some discount boxers, and now I´m forced to wear the last pair I have, the ones with the crotch ripped out in an embarrassing incident.

These jeans are funky. You can´t even see the khaki through the stains in my work pants, and for the first time in college, I´m wishing I had joined a fraternity just to have the T-shirts.

But no, I am now left with no options other than washing my prized collection of concert shirts, flannels from the alternative age and towels with just enough threads left to rub the water off, rather than dry skin.

Of course, excelling at procrastination as I do, none of the “nice” laundromats are open when I stuff my soiled articles into a cracked plastic basket, a few trash bags and a sack from the grocery store. No, my laundromat doesn´t have pool tables or video games. The sign over my laundromat simply reads “24 Hours. Coin Operated,” although the last part is hard to see because half the lights are burned out.

Inside, superior technology does not prevail. Aside from rows of washing machines that I assume used to be white, a weathered Coke machine rests next to the your-dollar´s-no-good-here change machine. Inside the selection buttons of the Coke machine are cut-out tops of twelve packs of various soda brands — we´re talking class, here.

Above the coin slot on the machine is a swab of duct tape with “75 cents” scrawled out in black marker. Of course, I´ve got way more than 75 cents. I wrote a check for $10 at the grocery store to have money for the laundry, even asking for ones.

And now, I find myself getting on my knees and praying to the demon lord of change machines.

“Please, take my dollar,” I begged. “It´s backed by the government. I swear it´s good.”

Tears pour out, and the patrons begin to look uncomfortable, probably silently cursing themselves for coming to a place like this at a time like this.

Finally, after agreeing to put in a good word with dryer No. 3, the change machine decides to give me the quarters I need. About then, I realized that I haven´t remembered to bring detergent, and I strain every muscle in my face so as not to unleash a string of profanity that could make only a mother proud.

I´ve got plenty of dryer sheets, though, so when my clothes are rolling around in that machine that would probably work if it used heat, I know they won´t be picking up static.

This thought is of little solace, though, as I drive back to the apartment, checking my watch to see how much more sleep I´ll be losing, wondering if I´ll get to see yet another sunrise through the greasy window panes of the laundromat, and beginning to realize that the whole living-at-home thing wasn´t so bad.

Miller is a Hutchinson senior in English.



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