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A little humor about that coin shortage

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After hearing about the nationwide coin shortage, I cannot help but wonder how it must be affecting laundromats, since that is where most of my coins end up being spent. But why are laundromats still coin operated? Why only quarters? If they insist on staying coin-operated, can we allow them to discriminate against other denominations? Isn't that showing quarters privilege?

It takes between $6 to $10, depending on the laundromat and the capacity of the available washing machines. Drying a "normal" load takes about $1.50 to $2. I wash three loads and usually spend about $20. That is 80 quarters inserted one at a time, and the machine does not start until every quarter is inserted correctly. Cold and uncaring, it waits. If you insert a Euro dollar or a Susan B. Anthony by mistake, it will spit it back. Oh, you're short by 50 cents, you say? Well, that is too bad—you will still have to come up with two more quarters, no exceptions, no substitutions—no nickels, dimes, and don't you even dare thinking of paying in pennies!

When I see a brand new washing machine being saddled with an antiquated coin feeder, I get the feeling that it also changes the machine's character. The union sealing their fate, it exudes despair and coldness. How long they will stay together is anyone's guess, but it's certain that both coin feeder and machine have a rough and dirty life ahead, where only thing that matters is cash, and care is just a four-letter word.

Meanwhile, the rest of the retail and self-service machine industry incorporated the ability to accept paper currency and electronic funds. Some going so far to accept only electronic payment methods. So, how did laundromats go overlooked? How could people feeding that many quarters into machines go unnoticed? Finally, how many people did I just come into contact with to get $20 worth of quarters?

Self-serve laundry and vending machines were invented with convenience in mind. While technology exists, as evident in vending machines, laundromats stalwartly remain stuck in the past. Ironically, it seems change comes slowly in the self-service laundry world. Perhaps, the current coin shortage will serve as notice, shed light on the plight of those who depend on laundromats for clean clothes. But it is doubtful that owners will voluntarily reform on their own, especially in the red states.

If you want to know where the true poverty line exists—it lies between those who wash clothes at laundromats and those who can wash clothes at home. For those who can, it's a luxury often taken for granted. While on the other side, those hours spent at laundromats are cruel reminders of their situation. And before you accuse me of playing the "wash card," I ask that you ask someone you know on the opposite side. I am certain that they'll agree that being able to wash clothes at home has much more significance than you would think. How much, you ask? Rather than social equality or global peace, the future I hope for is when everyone can wash and dry clothes at home, and laundromats become extinct, except the few in museums serving as a reminder of how divided society was. This letter's intent was humor, not to be taken seriously.

Charles Bird

Los Osos


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