Laundry in the Dorms: One Nightmare After Another


When the laundry rooms get frustrating, just rage against the machines like Brendan Foo, FCLC ’13. (Photo Illustration by Harry Huggins/The Observer)

Published: February 16, 2011

Living in the dorms gets old after a while, with the RAs lurking in the hallways ready to hand out fines and the lack of privacy that comes from living with as many as eight people. Luckily, I’ve managed to take these minor infractions in stride, since the dorms have their fair share of advantages. Residents don’t have to suffer through a long commute, which is particularly helpful in winter weather, and we have free access to washing and drying machines.

We’re not forced to lug our laundry through the streets of the city or pay extra money just to sit around and watch it spin. Yet after living in the dorms for almost three years now, I’ve noticed that the laundry rooms have gone from busy to chaotic in recent months. The free laundry access is no longer an advantage of the dorms but a hassle.

Without fail, something has always gone wrong when I’ve done my laundry this year. My favorite time was when I pressed the start button on a washer, and nothing happened. I already put my detergent in, and I wasn’t about to waste it. I quickly noticed, however, that the red dial that indicates the progression of the wash (rinse, spin, etc.) was moving. Yet the washer wasn’t doing anything. When I tried to open the washer, it wouldn’t budge. When I turned off the washer, the door still wouldn’t open. My clothes were stuck inside a broken machine. Swell.

My sole option was to hold the “start” button down (this speeds up the washing cycle) until I tricked the machine into believing the cycle was complete. When I finally managed to open the washer door, the washer suddenly began working. That’s right—the moment the door opened, water started gushing out. In a state of panic, I immediately slammed the door shut so as to prevent water from spewing out all over the laundry room floor. Upon closing the door, however, the washer stopped working again. What kind of washing machine only works when you leave the door open? After messing with the buttons for another 10 minutes or so, I finally got the machine to start, but only after wasting another cup of detergent and employing a significant amount of sailor terms.

Next up, the dryers. Oh, the dryers. Sometimes all the washers are free, but all the dryers are taken. Or they simply don’t even do their job. Have you ever been that sad, sorry soul who leaves their wet clothes in the dryer for 50 minutes, and then returns to discover that they’re all still sopping wet? Apparently, some of the dryers don’t give off heat. Your clothes just get tossed around for an hour. Now I can understand if one dryer fails to give off heat. Sure. OK. But in McMahon, more than one dryer is always in disrepair. Every once in a while I find a note taped to one of them that says, “Part coming soon!” but it’s never soon enough.

In addition to faulty machines, there’s also a problem with the number of machines available. Apparently, all of us in McMahon Hall do our laundry at the same time. For the past two years, I’ve been able to find a time of the week when no one is in the laundry room. Yet since the class of 2014 has entered the building, it seems like everyone is always doing their laundry. I’ve dragged my laundry up to the 16th floor and down to thesecond floor from the 10th floor multiple times, only to discover that each is equally busy with each machine taken.

Due to this overcrowding of people and drop in workable laundry equipment, the laundry rooms have taken on the appearance of battle grounds. In their frustration at the lack of available machines, students unload other students’ clothes without hesitation. If you wait even five minutes too long to get your clothes, you can bet that by the time you get back in the laundry room, someone will have removed them and set them on top of the dirty, detergent-stained washers.

Maybe McMahon should consider investing in new machines or actually checking on the state of their laundry rooms from time to time. Students also need to take responsibility and remember to report broken equipment to their RA, so that residents don’t get stuck using a broken machine 10 times before facilities finally finds out about it. If facilities ever does get around to buying new machines, they also need to increase the number purchased.

However, when facilities fails to come through, students should start selling tickets to the only working machines available. We could even fine people for leaving their clothes in the machines too long. Eventually we might save enough money to buy our own machines. Machines that actually work, too.