There are a few known universal pains of being an adult: going to work, washing the dishes, and doing the laundry.
I am nearly 30 and yet, to this day, I have still managed to somehow avoid ever stepping foot inside a laundromat. I have always had access to a washing machine, whether it was in the basement or in a nearby room in the complex. Well, I guess people might consider that last thing a laundromat (especially because you have to pay for it) but at least I don’t need a car to get to it.
But recently, our apartment complex’s laundry room has been shut down, on account of the Big Plumbing Project that has been ruining my sleep recently. So, no washing machine. I have to go to… THE LAUNDROMAT.
I’m going to preface this by saying I did not get any photos of the inside of this place. This was a huge oversight on my part for two reasons: one being that I had shoved my phone into my bluetooth keyboard case (it basically turns it into a mini laptop, it’s cool); the other being that I was fucking terrified out of my mind. So you will have to forgive me.
Let me try to paint you a word picture: on the walls, there are washing machines. In the middle of the room, like aisles in a grocery store, there are washing machines. In the back? More washing machines. If they could have put washing machines on the ceiling, they probably would have. Some of them were dryers, but I didn’t know which ones.
The lights were so fucking bright. It was inhumane. I felt like I was being cooked in an Easy Bake Oven. They were loud, too. I felt like Chuck McGill, still in the Easy Bake Oven. It was 8 PM in the middle of winter and those lights still managed to convince my circadian rhythm that it was daytime and that I was likely to be hunted by predators.
I held the door open for someone on the way in, something I don’t normally get to do as I am usually in my wheelchair. “Hey, I appreciate you,” they said, and that was such an oddly specific way to share that sentiment, I held it in my mind and rolled it over a few times, repeating the memory. “I appreciate you.” Wow.
The only chairs available were the same disconcertingly-bent metal ones you might expect to find at a bowling alley. They were not comfortable. I tried sitting my phone in my lap so that I could pass the time by writing my book, but it was impossible to cross my legs, so I flipped my laundry basket upside down and put it on top of that, but then I felt self-conscious because I was blocking one of the very tiny aisles.
I tried talking to Paula about how I did not want to be here. A very friendly and chatty man was doing his laundry, and I felt just awful talking to her in front of him about how much I hated it here, and I also was having some sort of episode about not wanting to be caught being autistic in public, so I dropped to a whisper. It was impossible to hear me over the sound of someone else fucking around with the coin machine immediately to my left. On top of that, I hate repeating myself, so whenever anyone doesn’t hear me, I get even quieter. Over the span of about five minutes, I had turned into a fine mist and drifted away in the breeze.
I heard the first person say “Hey, I appreciate you” to someone else and realized that I was not special. It also gave me the feeling that I was in a video game listening to NPC dialogue. (Not in the crypto-fascist solipsist way but in the “I’ve completely derealized at this point” way.)
I wrote a single paragraph of my story before my brain completely liquefied. Lucas was starting to freak out about how loud the coin machine was, but nobody could hear a word I was saying over the goddamn coin machine, so after a point I just got up and walked across to the other side of the building (thankfully not very far). Unfortunately this unlocked the next source of noise: the incredibly loud television that absolutely no one was watching.
I never even got to see what was on the TV, but at one point I heard an overly-dramatic horror musical sting. I looked to the others to see if they had heard what I had heard. Nobody else reacted. I felt like I was in a cartoon.
Around the corner, behind another washing machine, there was a woman with her boyfriend (I assumed). Turns out there were dining tables in the back of the building. I tried to muster up the energy to go there so that I could write on my phone, but suddenly, the boyfriend turned the corner, looked directly at me, and said “Hey, check this out.” Then he walked away and did not return for the rest of the night. No explanation.
What the fuck?
Eventually the girlfriend left, and that gave me enough peace of mind to go around to the tables. Well, these would turn out to be quite literally the most uncomfortable chairs I had ever sat in. They might as well have been the size of a quarter compared to my big butt. So now I felt massive, horrible, scrutinized, oven-baked, and paranoid.
I did finally get some writing in at this point. Thank God.
What’s funny about this whole thing is that I just recently finished the chapter of my book where the deuteragonist does their own laundry for the first time. At this point of my life I had never been to a laundromat, but I had an educated enough guess to what it was like. It’s a story about mental health, so I depicted it as that they have to go through an indescribable wormhole to even locate the room, and then they get so upset and overwhelmed that they simply choose to die on the spot. I based all of this on me and my friends’ experiences with executive dysfunction, but I had no idea how accurate it would turn out to be.
Wait hold on what the fuck is that.
Oh my God. There’s Amogus here.
“Oh my God, I wish I had brought Trash Can,” I said. (Trash Can is the name of my piggy bank, which is actually a bootleg of the Chocoball mascot.)
“I have a quarter,” Paula said as she pulled out her Aldi keychain, and I felt my spirits rise.
“It takes two quarters,” Lucas countered, and I felt my soul began to rot inside my body.
“You have a quarter,” Paula said to me, gesturing to my Aldi keychain.
Okay, I was getting Amogus. That would be a worthwhile memento of this otherwise utterly horrible experience.
Paula took my quarter, walked up to the machine, and turned the dial. I felt a surge of strange, probably unwarranted nostalgia; I used to get Happy Bunny figurines from a similar machine in the Cub Foods back in Minnesota. I’m willing to admit I might be a lot more susceptible to ‘gacha’ than I thought, I probably just prefer it when it’s physical.
She walked up to me, hands clasped over the capsule…
What The Hell.
“This isn’t Among Us,” I whispered, pained.
“What? What is it?”
We sat around the table, looking at my single red die.
None of us even knew how to process it, at this point. Was it agonizing? Was it hilarious? Funniest thing ever? Utter betrayal? It was Single Red Die. It wasn’t Among Us. We were down 50 cents.
Paula got up to look at the machine and I followed her. Sure enough, there was all kinds of bizarre plastic crap in there! What gives? If I go to a laundromat and spend 50 cents on Among Us, I want to get an Among Us.
I was genuinely pretty upset at this point. Paula taught me how to play the dice game Pig, which is a score-tallying game, and she got up to over 20 points when I only had 5 so I got pissed and quit.
The washing machine finished, and the clothes went into the dryer. This was over a week’s worth of laundry for 3 people, so the dryer was going to take an hour. But at this point, I was angry and starving – and yet, somehow, I had no desire for food at all. So we managed to at least agree that we would go to McDonald’s and get some ice cream and cookies.
We left the building. I got into the car. Then I watched in horror as Paula left the car. The owner of the laundromat was talking to her.
Me and Lucas speculated. What the hell could be going on? I wondered, oh God, did she somehow put in too much laundry and the dryer exploded and everyone would know it was my fault and I would get this on my permanent record?
No. The place was closing its doors early. It was 9 PM, at this point; they close at 10, but they lock their doors to new people at 9:30. Fuck.
We drove to McDonald’s very fast. Someone was in the line in front of us, but we all could see that they were on their phone, not even looking at the menu or the speaker; I won’t pretend I can guess how long this went on for, but it was long enough that we started freaking out. Lucas pulled out and went into the other lane. They immediately drove ahead. We started having persecutory delusions.
We got our food eventually. I watched Lucas eat his ice cream, and as much as I hate to admit this, I watched him in my oven-fried rage and I quietly thought “How the fuck can someone eat ice cream so slowly?” He was eating ice cream like a normal person, but the instant anything turns into a Timed Mission like from Video Game, I turn into a wild animal and start biting things.
We drove back. I pulled on my hair. We thought the place was already locked for the night but it wasn’t. Paula hung out in the laundromat; I could not bring myself to go back in, so I sat in the car and wrote my book. I got a lot of writing done at this point.
And then the laundry was done.
Altogether, it cost nearly $10. If we had done our laundry at home, it would have been $3. This would have been great if it came with any meaningful benefit, but the only thing it did was suck my soul sloppy-style out of my body. Oh yeah, and it also cost 50 cents for a Single Red Die.
So we went home. I was completely silent for the rest of the night, and I went to bed. Life moved on.
I woke up today to write this article, and, well… I realized that Single Red Die has come to grow on me. Because, like…
Maybe life is just about how you look at it?