Posted by: The Amoeba | December 5, 2007

Quarters – A Tale Of Change

Like so many apartment and condo dwellers, we do not have our own washing machines. There are laundry kiosks scattered among the units of our complex. They’re not wonderful. For one thing, the drum size of the dryers isn’t large enough to prevent your so-called “permanent press” shirts from having to be ironed, unless you’re prepared to dry them one at a time. At a dollar a pop. In quarters. No, they don’t let you buy drying time in 6-minute, 25-cent intervals like in the old laundromat in Maine. You get a dollar’s worth, whether it works for you or not. But, we don’t have a washer/dryer hookup in our pad. So the kiosk will have to do.

Which means we need quarters. Lots of quarters.

Those of you with real houses might have forgotten how fast you can go through a roll of quarters if you’re having to pay for the privilege of clean clothes, one Maytag-ful at a time. Trust me. It hasn’t gotten any better. You need a new $10 roll every five minutes. OK, maybe not. But it sure seems like it.

Like today. Three loads of washing sat in the basket needing to be done. I looked for the stash of quarters. I coulda sworn there were three rolls in the change cubby just five minutes ago. Nope. I counted out the visible coin, and added some from my pockets, disturbing the moths in the process. Three washer loads, three dryer loads, one load’s worth of coins left over. Just enough. I descended the three flights of stairs and dropped the laundry in the machines, resolving to think no more about laundry, or quarters, this day.

I should have known better than to tempt Murphy so flagrantly.

The fauna of the great state of Hawai‘i currently features forty-four species of ants. Of which, forty-four have been in Hawai‘i only since the arrival of Europeans. Yep, the native Hawai‘ians never had ants up their loincloths. And yep, this is just like all the rest of the flora and fauna of these islands. But you regular readers know this already.

Bad enough that we have these ants in the woods and fields, helping to get rid of what’s left of the native biota. But that’s not enough. No sir. They have to come into the house, too. Which is where I found them. A whole raft of the Argentine class of vermin. Bedding down in our clean bath towels.

I’ve heard of children sucking on clean towels, but ants? In other circumstances, I might’ve taken up a scientific investigation. But when it comes to my home, insectoid invaders turn me into a Dalek. Screw science. I threw the towels into the laundry basket and tramped them down to the laundry kiosk, all the while chanting ex – ter – min – ate – ex – ter – min – ate. In a few minutes, they were in the machine, being drowned and solubilized. Half an hour of this, then into the dryer and …


I’m out of quarters.

Three washer loads, three dryer loads, one load’s worth of coins left over.

I’ve just spent the leftovers. I’m stuck with a washing machine full of towels and dead ants, on a rainy, sticky, 100% humidity O‘ahu afternoon. In an apartment complex where the Rules state, Thou Shalt Not Hang Thy Laundry Outside. On pain of eviction. So even if I could air-dry the towels in this climate, I can’t air-dry the towels.

What was that? Where are the change machines? Remember, we live in the “poor people living in tents” part of O‘ahu. And the kiosks are open to the elements, with only two walls and no doors. Otherwise, the structure would fall down from mold and mildew within six months, and in the meantime the smell would kill you. Change machines would jam, be emptied, or simply vanish within minutes of being installed.

So I’m off to find a place that will turn a bill into quarters. The nearest place, a convenience store, is three miles away. I should know. I’ve walked from there to home, on nights when the bus failed to show up. I drive there, pull in to the parking lot, walk into the store, wait in line. Then, finally, ask if I might get a roll of quarters.



“No. We don’t make change here.”


    “What is it?”

    “Why the hell is it shaking in here?”

    “Ever hear of ‘systole and diastole‘, dude?”

    What did you say my sister did, dude? You’d better be able …”



    SHUT UP!! That shaking is what happens when OC’s blood pressure goes up 30 points. You make it 50, and we’ll all be up the creek. So chill, already, dude.”

    “After you, dude.”

You’d think that any self-respecting business would be able to assist a prospective customer with the occasional tube of coins, right?

Well, maybe not. The place is even more in the “poor people living in tents” part of O‘ahu than our house is. Already, the local kids hang out on this corner at night, smoking ganga and writing their names on the walls. Any place that gets a rep for being the least bit friendly, like handing out quarters for pop machines or whatever, and the place won’t have any room left for regular customers.

I call home. “There’s a laundromat across the street with a change machine. Use it.”

Now there’s an idea.

Or not.

Y’see, the laundromat in Maine had one of those change machines. Prominently marked “Customers only”. You let anyone else use those machines, they’ll be jammed or emptied pronto, and there won’t be anything left for the bona fide customers.

I didn’t even go in.

I wound up going another five miles down the road to a supermarket (the banks were closed), where a cashier finally (and reluctantly) exchanged a Hamilton for a roll of Washingtons. And, an hour later than it should have taken, I redeemed the towels from the laundry kiosk, clean and fumigated.

You’d think that there’s no way in hallelujah that getting a roll of quarters should be so hard. But somebody has to be willing to provide the service. And the neighbors should treat the provider with respect. Good interactions in life are two-way streets. If one side or the other doesn’t come to the party …

… well, you’d better not be caught short of quarters in the middle of a laundry session.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.



  1. Ohhhhhhh I SO do not miss those days! Indeed! My deepest sympathies OC… *shakes head*

  2. go to a bank

    they rountinly
    turn bills into coin
    and back again…

    im sure you must go to
    drive by a bank
    at least once in awhile…

    with a little advance planning
    you could determine just how much
    washing and drying
    you would like to do
    in a given period of time
    and then
    you could actually
    stop in at the bank
    get the required coin
    and be on your way

    or you could just
    go to the laundry
    and do all your change making
    and washing and drying
    at once

    dont be a dope

    jist get her done

  3. Maybe some day, Melli …

    Dude, the banks were closed! Or that’s where I would have gone …

  4. It’s been at least 45 years since I’ve had to use a laundromat, but I remember it all too well. HORRID.

    You have my sympathy. As does Quilly. Hope she’s better.

  5. Oh my……..I suppose there is a lesson in here somewhere……….don’t trust ants……..don’t run out of quarters……..take prosac before doing laundry……..

    Do I have this straight…..this was OC doing the laundry? Well I know that men can do laundry, they just don’t in this house…….so this could never happen here. haha

  6. It beats washing the unmentionables in the sink, tlp. Quilly’s still feverish, but her wit has returned. Things are looking up.

    Meditate, nea. Don’t medicate. Om … That was my evil twin doing the laundry. But don’t tell Q, I wish it to be a surprise.


  7. Nea — OC, or his evil twin — is much more patient at folding than I, so when we split the chores, I, uhm, gave him laundry. I like opening my dresser and seeing all my clothes look “fresh from the store” crisply folded.

    Oh, and half of my wit has returned.

  8. I think I’ve lost track of just how many hundreds of dollars I’ve spent in quarters on laundry in the past year I’ve lived in this apartment. Ugh. I can relate!

  9. Lessee, Brooke. Four quarters a load times 10 loads a week times 52 weeks in a year.

    That makes 35 weeks (0.67 years) for a $350 washer/dryer set (being advertised used on a bulletin board) to pay for itself.

    Oh, sorry, that’s not what you wished to know.

    Try 2,080 quarters a year. 52 rolls. Weighing nearly 26 pounds. Don’t try to stuff them all into your trousers pocket.


  10. […] (it’s been two weeks and nothing has worked yet – Quilly’s been suffering even longer), chasing ants (more on that in another post), and attempting to keep up with work via […]

  11. […] sometimes worry that if I somehow were to kill them all (and trust me, they cause me to reveal my inner Dalek), we’d be in trouble, ’cause we’d discover that they’d been holding hands […]

  12. […] sometimes worry that if I somehow were to kill them all (and trust me, they cause me to reveal my inner Dalek), we’d be in trouble, ’cause we’d discover that they’d been holding hands […]

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