Apartment Building Life: Don't Believe the Hype

Yesterday, I had a brush with the gritty side of apartment life.

After resigning myself to the fact that doing a load of laundry would cost me R12, I went up to the 14th floor of the Broadway apartment building in Braamfontein, to check out the facilities, so I could know exactly what I would be paying for.

What greeted me, was this:


The walls and the lone cupboard in this place are in a terrible state, but at least the machines are in working condition. And they come complete with notices and instructions for use for the tenants.

Excuse the picture quality. I was distracted by the over-use of exclamation marks and the tautology on the torn notices. Yes, editing matters to me even in such a situation.

The notice said that I had to use only the new R5 coins, and a R2 coin to make up the R12. I suppose if a machine is built to take your money, it is built to do so as quickly as possible- sorting through R1 coins and 50c pieces would just be too much work. For the machine. Also, for the person who empties it our and counts his/her profits. Capitalism. *spits*

The notice also informed me that a load in the dryer would cost an additional R12, using the same types of coins.
Because I'm not in the habit of keeping loose change at the ready, should I come across a coin-grubbing machine (I don't even like getting too close to vending machines), I had to go to the garage to ask for change. I came back, and realised I still needed some R2 coins, so I went out again and bought airtime so I could break a R20 note.

When I got back to Broadway the second time, and after I had gathered my coins, I took the lift up to 14th floor, and began my laundry adventure. (Or should that be "continued", since I had already been doing a fair amount of exploring and foraging up to this point...?)

I put my first R5 coin in the slot, and tried to push it in, so the machine could begin "processing" my order. Well, it turns out the greedy Speed Queens want all the cash upfront, so only after I had put in all three of my coins, did the machine accept my money, and begin the wash cycle.


Okay. Step one done. Now, we wait.

I killed some time reading a magazine, and I would have taken a seat somewhere while I did, but all this particular laundry room had to offer was this:

I don't even want to know how the table got that way.

After the wash cycle was complete, it was time to master the tumble dryer. After toggling the heat settings nob, switching the machine on and off at the plug, and struggling with the coin slot, I figured out why the machine wouldn't start: the lint filter wasn't clean. (Don't judge me: the machine we have at home isn't nearly as fussy as all this.)
And so I spent another hour waiting on my laundry to dry.

I thought of going downstairs to my room and waiting it out there, but I have lived in a student residence long enough to know that turning my back on my laundry is a very, very bad idea. I mean, I was pretty sure no one would be coming in to use this dilapidated laundry room, seeing as it's in a scary corner and it costs so much money ("so much" here, is relative to a student budget), but still: you never know. And I value my dresses and tops too much to take any risks.

Despite how run-down the laundry room is, and how dodgy the coin system is, I did get my clothes clean and dry- and that's all I really wanted.

Still: getting laundry done in an apartment building is no small feat. The experience was quite the opposite of the popular images of shiny floors, brightly-lit rooms and friendly fellow patrons that sitcoms sell to us. Laundry rooms in apartment buildings are for the brave- for people who aren't afraid of a little exposed chipboard or even a rickety out-of-use "supplies cupboard".

When it's time for me to get my own apartment, I will make sure I can bring my own washing machine, or at the very least one of those old-school steel basins to do my hand-washing in.
Failing that, I'll just move to Cape Town, where I can frequent I Love My Laundry, and get my washing done while enjoying a light lunch with some of quirky-cool people who seem to litter the streets of the Mother City.



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