By Jack H. Smith
Three Forks Voice 

Column: Laundry and the steam tunnels


April 21, 2021

Earlier today, I wrote a story about the new laundromat in Three Forks, and it reminded me of my first experience of doing my laundry regularly.

While I did do an occasional load of laundry in high school, it was not until that I made it to the University of Wyoming that I learned how much my poor mom did when I was growing up.

In hindsight, I should have been helping out a lot more with stuff like that, but I make up for it now by rewarding the two kids at the house with their fair share of work. The next time I head home, I should think about just doing laundry the whole time for my mom as a thank you.

When I arrived in Laramie for the start of school, the last thing on my mind was doing laundry, but after a few weeks, I was out of clothes, and that was with wearing pants a few more times than a person should.

The first time I walked into the laundry room, I was horrified by how few machines compared to how many people lived in the dorm. This may sound completely fabricated, but my dorm was the tallest building in the entire state. That just completely blows my mind every time I think about it and the fact there were about 20 machines for the whole building full of dirty college students was even crazier.

I found out quickly that the only time that it would not be busy would be in the middle of the night, so that is when I would venture to do my laundry. I would run into some weird people washing clothes at 2 a.m., but it made for some good conversation. On one occasion, a few of us sat in this plain white room with a few beers and talked about how one day we should open up a bar that is connected to a laundromat. We thought we were geniuses, although most people we told thought we were idiots.

Years later, I found the same type of business in Oregon, and it was as glorious as I thought it would be. It was also packed, so I guess we were not that stupid.

My early experiences in the dorm laundry room involved me trying to cram as much laundry into one machine as possible. I had no care in the world about colors or separating laundry. I just wanted it done. It turns out there is such a thing as too big of a load, and I had to put break down my months-worth of laundry into several loads.

I had never washed my beddings in my entire life and, as a college freshman, actually didn’t realize that you really need to do it every so often. School started in late August, and when I finally washed the bedding in October, it was so gross it probably should have been thrown in the trash. I’m surprised it didn’t evolve into some weird life form and might journey to the room to wash itself. Looking back, it is scary how unkept most of the people living in the dorm were, but maybe everyone just got used to the smells.

Once laundry became a group thing in the middle of the night, we learned that there was an intricate series of steam tunnels that connected the University. We always talked while doing laundry about finding a way in, and it turns out we did not have to look far from where we were seated.

We found a door by the laundry room that happened to be unlocked, and it led us to the tunnels. Instead of waiting in the laundry room, we were now able to explore a little bit at a time, and this was so much fun we all started washing clothes a lot more. It turns out they frowned on us being in the tunnels, but it was worth exploring.

I had not thought about my first time doing laundry in about 20 years, but it brought back some fun memories. It also reminds me that I should probably wash my bedding.


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