A Laundry Tale by
(135 Stories)

Prompted By Laundry

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I have always enjoyed doing laundry in the laundromat. For an hour or two, you need think about very little. Wash. Dry. Read. Watch people. A mini vacation from quotidian stress. And, sometimes, it’s better than that.

Gina's graduate student stipend was not really enough to live on. Certainly not well.

This happened while we lived in Quincy, MA. It was either soon after I moved there to be with Gina and so had not yet found a job, or it was during one of the long stints of unemployment in a dying industry that punctuated much of those years. Either way, that day, we were broke; Gina’s graduate student stipend was not really enough to live on. Certainly not well. That morning, in fact, we had been discussing whether to borrow money for rent from a relative so we could also eat until her next stipend check arrived.

But we had to have clean clothes, so to the local laundromat we went. It was fairly early in the morning. The place was empty. We filled a few washers, then I went to the change machine to stock up on quarters.

There was money on top of the change machine. I told Gina. We wondered for a few seconds what to do about it. Then I took it. It was roughly $40.00

Now we are not depraved enough to steal from the poor. On the other hand, no other finders could be much more in need than we were. We formulated a plan. We decided that, if someone came in and looked around frantically, or asked about it, we would return the money. If that didn’t happen, we’d keep it and buy food.

A few people came in to do laundry that morning. They filled machines and made change without a sign or a word of distress. No one seemed to have lost any money.

That week, with a grateful nod to our unknown benefactor, we ate without going into debt.

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.

Tags: laundry, laundromat, finder, keepers
Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    A perfect story for Christmas week, Dave. There is an on-going feature on Friday nights on the CBS national news; some feel-good story to end the week (On the Road with Steve Hartman). Some time ago the reporter told the story (this takes place somewhere in the South; though I watched it last night, I’ve already forgotten exactly where – shame on me), of a wealthy individual who would walk around town in a disguise (hat and sunglasses, nothing sinister), handing out $100 dollar bills randomly to people in the grocery store, drug store, Walmart, etc. People wouldn’t believe their good fortune or the kindness that was being shown. What a difference it made in their lives!

    A teacher in that town showed episodes of that segment to his 12 and 13 year olds to teach empathy. On their own, they decided to emulate that model, held fundraisers, raised $8,000, and scattered around town to hand out the money (small bills, sometimes $20 at a time). The recipients were so moved – so many of them were down on their luck, down to their last few dollars. They were so overwhelmed by the children’s kindness and the children felt so wonderful and empowered sharing in that way. The little girl interviewed at the end was moved to tears and hoped she could continue this work next year. She said her life had been changed forever, seeing how SHE had affected others with her own generosity. It gave me hope that we can still teach children to care and be kind.

    I’m glad you had a guardian angel that day too!

  2. Thanx Dave for sharing your personal and very moving laundry story.

    Wishing you and Gina a healthy, happy, peaceful new year, and an ever bountiful table.

  3. I can relate to times that I could have really benefited from a stack of quarters in a laundromat (like the time I bought steaks. in the streets of Dorchester near my apartment,, packaged up in Purity Supreme packaging, and sold by two high school aged guys at a steep discount–the only time I would afford steak that month). I think you acted honorably. It was a well told story, as usual made more powerful by the way you filled in the social context.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      A similar situation happened to me again, years later, in Chicago’s loop. One summer afternoon I was leaning against a light pole composing a photograph, when I realized I was actually stepping on some money. I picked it up and found to my astonishment that it was three $100.00 bills. Same dilemma; what to do? Again, no one seemed to be looking for it. This time I went into the coffee shop that I was standing right in front of, bought an iced coffee and sat at a table outside, watching. I sat there for over thirty minutes. Again, no one came by looking around, frantically scanning the ground. Eventually I concluded that the person who dropped the cash either had no idea where, or had not yet even missed it. The $300.00 was less life-changing to us than the $40.00 had been back in Massachusetts, but it was a fun little windfall. Since it was unearned, I spent it frivolously.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    It’s always hard to know hat to do with “found” money, especially for people in your circumstances back then. Trying to teach my youngest daughter a lesson when she found $50 in the park, first we left a note but no one claimed it. I made her give half to charity. I’m wondering of she has forgiven me yet?

  5. Jim Willis says:

    A great story, Dave, that reminds me of one day in my own grad school days when I found a $50 bill in an I-Hop parking lot and thought I’d won the lottery. You have given your laundry tale a good spin!

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    This story reminded me of laundromat days, and what a luxury it was when I finally lived in a place with my own washer and dryer. It sounds like you did just the right thing with the $40, and were perfectly deserving of the good fortune. Betsy’s description of paying it forward was good too–it reminded me of a columnist in the Bay Area (Jon Carroll) who celebrated Thanksgiving by going an ATM, taking out $200 in twenties, and giving one to every person he saw who asked for money, without judgement. When you are in need, every little bit makes a big difference.

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