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Holten: Hell on Earth

What do you hate most in life? Getting a colonoscopy, a root canal or experiencing a direct hit on your thumb with the head of a hammer … twice in two seconds? Personally, I hate doing laundry.

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Oh sure, there could be worse things. For example, I could be washing clothes in some washtub by a creek in 1914 with a washboard instead of with our modern-day conveniences. Then again, if it was a nice day, that doesn’t sound half bad because it sure beats going to a Laundromat in Dickinson in 2014.

Now, since I hate washing clothes I tend to wait until a pile develops that rivals the size of the twin buttes south of town, only bigger. Then I rent a large semi truck to haul the pile to the Laundromat where it takes me longer to load the machines than it does for concrete to dry in your new sidewalk.

Thus you can imagine my mood going in, which usually resembles that of an investor on the day the stock market crashed in 1929.

Of course, with that much laundry, I spend as much time loading my clothes as Mozart did composing his concerto and then, this past Monday, I poured in an abundant supply of soap and went to the coin machine, where I slipped in a $20 bill, and guess what? It was out of order.

Out of order? Are you serious?

First of all, the place looked like an absolute dump when I went in. It was gross to the point of wondering if my clothes would be cleaner or dirtier when I left there.

You see, there was liquid and powder soap strewn across the top of all of the machines with empty little boxes piled here and there. Are you kidding? You pour soap in the machine and then you can’t walk three steps to the garbage to throw the boxes away?

The carpets are soiled to the point of it looking like that’s where most of community changes the oil in their car and the restroom, which has no toilet paper in it by design, is used most frequently by stragglers who are not doing any laundry.

Meanwhile the tables that are provided for folding clothes have the type of junk piled on them that you would most normally find at the city dump and it leads you to wonder how it could have possibly gotten there.

Then, in the midst of it all, while sweating because it was at least 85 degrees in there, I was asked by a middle-aged man wearing a soiled T-shirt, shorts and sandals what time it was.

“Seven-fifteen,” I said and looked at his feet, which were so unkempt, gross and full of fungus that it almost made me want to throw up, I kid you not.

Now, I was still there because, despite the coin machine not working I had enough quarters to wash one load of high-priority clothing and in the midst of doing so, I spotted a telephone number on the wall written in magic marker and labeled “management.” So I called the number and it was not long before a very kind and considerate maintenance man came and converted my $20 bill into a pile of change, which allowed me to wash the rest of my clothes.

I also, while wallowing in my frustration, met two very nice people who I wouldn’t have met without the aid of the temporary delay.

In the end, I remembered something Eric Hoffer, the American moral and social philosopher and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983, once said: “Our frustration is greater when we have much and want more than when we have nothing and want some. We are less dissatisfied when we lack many things than when we seem to lack but one thing.”

That’s true and yet, we still need to do something about the Laundromats in this town because they’ve got to be driving more good people away than any 60-degrees-below-zero day ever could.

Holten is the editor of The Drill and the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. Email him at or call him at 701-456-1208.