I try to save money whenever I can, but lately I have been visiting a laundromat a lot. Rural folk in remote areas generally don’t know what a laundromat is, and those who know what they are can’t use them because their places don’t have electricity.

The word laundromat is a misnomer as it is actually a trademark in the USA (North America). The proper name is launderette, a place with coin-operated washing machines and dryers for public use. But don’t fret when you see your local launderette labelled as laundromat. As people say, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.

My visits to a local launderette began just before my recent tour of Australia. I had thick clothes and sweaters which I wanted to bring with me, but they had not been used for a long time. There is a launderette near my house and that was where I went with my niece and her boyfriend, who helped put in the clothes for washing and later for drying. I just passed him some money and the ever-helpful handsome young man changed them into tokens to operate the machines. While he was doing that, my niece and I had drinks at a nearby fast food restaurant. He joined us shortly and when it was time to bring the clothes home we went back to the launderette.

Then after I returned from Australia, I had piles of laundry but was so busy that I did not even have time to put them in my washing machine at home. So, I decided to bring the clothes to a launderette near my office.

That was the first time I visited a launderette alone and instantly realised I did not know how to operate the machines. Luckily, there were a few helpful men and women there! I learnt that I had to change my ringgit into tokens first and then put the tokens into the machines as required. I was grateful that there were clear instructions on the machines and on the wall as well.

Way back in 2005, when I was a part-time student in Wales, England, there was a launderette at Cardiff University where my course-mates and I stayed. But I never visited the launderette. Instead, I would dry my clothes on the window sills in my hostel room. Never mind if it took days for them to dry.  I did not use the launderette because I thought it was expensive. At that time, one British pound was equivalent to RM7. I was also old fashioned and not adventurous then.

My best friend called me from Sibu the other day and told me that she was keeping an eye on some clothes that were being dried in the sun. She said there was no one else at home. It was also laundry time for her whole family.

Another modern gadget I appreciate very much is the public water dispenser. I visit a water dispenser at least twice a week and sometimes late at night after work.

It is good to have your own water dispenser at home but if you don’t, the best alternative is a public water dispenser. Again, like the launderette, the water dispenser has to be operated with coins, which means that if you live in a big city like Kuching you cannot survive without money.

In the olden days, we had to boil water and waited for the water to cool down before putting it in bottles and other containers.

My mother saw me the other day with empty bottles and asked, “Where are you fetching water from?” In her mind, she was back in the days when water had to be fetched manually from a river or well. That was a job specifically for the womenfolk.

Still another modern gadget that I appreciate is the smartphone. Now, I can keep in touch with my family members and friends wherever they are.

Many of us are lucky to live in urban areas where there is good access to the Internet. With our handphones, we can watch movies, documentaries and use Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.

At the launderettes, while waiting for their clothes, many customers, including yours truly, use their handphones. It takes about 25 minutes for a 14-kg to 26-kg load of clothes to dry and if you are using your handphone, that is indeed a very short time.

Indeed, we are fortunate to live in this modern, technologically advanced age when many useful gadgets are available and more are invented every day. Let us be thankful for these inventions and other blessings in our lives.