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Adulting isn’t easy: My very first trip to the laundromat

April 5, 2017

I am 22 years old. I’m going to graduate in May and head out into the abyss they call the “real world.” I’m excited for what’s to come: unfamiliar adventure, new experiences, life outside of the college bubble. With that being said, looking into the future is not all sweet and there is definitely a share of bitterness I’ve already started to experience.

My first trip to the laundromat certainly fits into the bitter side of things. Before I unfold all that was my first laundromat experience, I would like to preface this story with a brief background on my laundry knowledge.

I was 12 years old, a fresh-out-of elementary school sixth grader, when I first learned how to do my laundry. My mother, after raising three children, grew tired of finding clean, folded clothes in the hamper because my siblings and I would throw anything in as soon as our nighttime privileges were threatened by a messy room. I guess you could say I was forced to grow up fast.

Our laundry room at home I was forced to know and learn to love.

I remember writing out a step-by-step list and having to use it the first few times I found myself in the laundry room. By the time I memorized the steps, I was a proud seventh grader. Yes, I waited as long as humanly possible before washing my clothes. I was proud but I was also lazy. Long story short, I’m no rookie to the laundry room.

Last semester I moved into a new apartment right in the center of Amherst. How could I say no to this location? The only downfall: no washer or dryer. Luckily, I have incredibly generous friends who will let me use theirs when I’ve run out of clean underwear and socks.

This week, though, something came over me. I decided it was time for my first laundromat experience. What a thrill! As I gathered my clothes I thought, “Time to be a big girl. Time to prepare for the ‘real world.’”

I’m a New Jersey native. We don’t pump our own gas. Cumberland Farms on Belchertown Road was the first place I ever did it myself. I could compare my first self-serve gas station experience with my first visit to the laundromat: quite pathetic.

Let me take you through my two-hour excursion. I hopped in my car and plugged “laundromat” into Google Maps. I followed the six-minute directions and voila! I arrived.

As soon as I parked I regretted not buying detergent before driving a whole six minutes to get there. Not to worry folks. They have detergent and anything else laundry-related you may need. I found that out after walking in without my clothes, looking confused and asking the man at the counter if the boxes and boxes of laundry detergent were for sale. He told me they were.

If you look closely, you’ll see the nice, patient man in the window.

That makes my life easier, I thought. I brought my clothing in and handed over a few quarters for a Tide laundry detergent pod. The man looked, confused. We stared at each other for what felt like an entire minute before I realized I had handed him Spanish change. We both laughed. He slid over a handful of quarters in exchange for a few dollars.

I walked over to the machines to investigate their words and buttons before diving in.

“Those are dryers,” I heard from a few feet away.

“Of course they are,” I responded. I was embarrassed, but I couldn’t completely expose my obliviousness.

Like I said earlier, I’m a seasoned laundry veteran. I’ve seen plenty of washers in my 22 years. These ones, though, looked different.

They looked retro and unfamiliar.

I finally made it to one of the washers, which I realized after several other customers came in after me were not the popular choice. There are three different style washers at this particular laundromat and I intend to try out each one before I graduate. That’s a bucket-lister.

I sat down on one of the chairs that looked like it was straight out of the eighties, plugged my laptop in and started to fix up my resume. What else would a senior trying to act like a grown up do while waiting in a laundromat?

The washing machine I chose for my first visit, one very similar to the one we have at home. I played it safe.

Thirty minutes went by before I gathered my wet clothing and confidently walked over to the same dryers that greeted me when I first arrived. I was astonished at the size of the dryers. They looked bigger than my apartment, which isn’t saying much, and made me consider moving into one. I threw my clothing in, slid in about five quarters because that’s what the man at the counter told me I should do, and pressed start.

Then I remembered step seven on my laundry list from sixth grade. I walked over to the employee and asked how much a dryer sheet costs. He laughed and told me 25 cents. I’m not sure why he laughed, probably at how helpless I was, but he gave me one anyhow and I threw it into the machine.

Back to my yellow seat and resume I went.

Another 30 minutes passed and I gathered my belongings. I almost broke the dryer door in the process and folded my things like any adult would.

The yellow seat (on the right) where I finished formatting my resume. My backpack sat on the left.

On my way out, I said my goodbyes to the patient man still sitting at the counter and he replied with a wide grin.

With that my first laundromat experience had come to an end. I was not proud of my performance, but I’m determined to do better next time. I drove myself home and immediately went to my bed to take a nap because, well, being an adult is tiring.

Email Danielle at daihini@umass.edu or follow her on Twitter @Danielle_Aih.

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