The Legend of Laundry

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know how to do laundry until I was in college. Well, I did know how to do laundry– I did laundry by throwing it in the hamper or asking Mom, “Hey can you wash these for me?” But I want to make it clear to you that I know how to do laundry now, so don’t go through reading the rest of this thinking I still can’t do my own laundry.

My childhood house  had a total of four residents, as I’m sure you’re well-aware, since you’ve been loyally keeping up with my blog. (Smile and nod at this.) Well, actually, now that I think of it, I think it’d kind of be fun to just pull a sister out of thin air, like, “Yeah, we don’t really talk about little Karen that often. She’s very quiet,” and after reading for over a year about how my brother is a monkey and how my parents are mean and nasty, you find out that I’ve been selectively omitting the existence of my sister. Surprise! It’s a girl! (Surprise indeed for my parents, as well.) But I really don’t have a sister, and while I embellish the content of my blogs occasionally, I will give you my word that Karen does not exist (in this dimension, at least; I can’t say anything for the other dimensions).

And, I don’t know, my mom and sometimes my dad did all our laundry. Now that I think about it, that doesn’t really make sense to me; why did Mom do it all? I mean, I guess it’s convenient to throw all our dirty laundry into one lump sum and then sort from there– I guess that sort of conserves unnecessary usage of the washing machine, but I don’t know why my brother and I never had to get in on that action. Maybe Mom didn’t trust us with her clothes– Mom is definitely the type of person who would rather do everyone’s laundry than trust inexperienced washers to not throw her certain black shirt in the dryer, and that sweater only goes in for half the time in the dryer, and these clothes need to be washed on cold, but these get a different detergent… and so on. It seems kind of lame that she didn’t at least try to train us; I mean, now that I do my own laundry (and I do do my own laundry) it seems a strange concept to me to have other people constantly doing my laundry (because I do my own laundry).

So anyway, my brother and I would just bring our dirty laundry to the community hamper and it would eventually disappear and some time later, like the tooth fairy’s doings, it would appear clean and folded on the stairs going up to our bedrooms. I have to say, sometimes the process was kind of sloth-like, and I had wanted to wear a certain pair of jeans but they were in the washer! Ugh! And the bus came in 15 minutes! God! What awful service! (But I do my own laundry now, so I don’t get upset with other people now when they fail to do my laundry in a convenient and timely manner. Because I do it myself now. My laundry, that is.)

Then I went to college and Everything Changed. I didn’t visit home too often–well, maybe twice a month–so within that time between visits, dirty laundry was accumulated that I had to account for. I brought some laundry to my parents’ house, but there was a small portion that I learned to take care of on my own. (On my own.)

The first time I did laundry, I did the washer thing okay, and then I put it all in the dryer thing and let that go, and all the sudden I had clean clothes? Insert my credit card, and then I just had to throw it in one machine with a shot of detergent, then throw it in another machine after the timer went off and hit another button? Why hadn’t I done that all these years? Poor Mom.

But I quickly learned laundry is more science than I had anticipated. From the dryer, one of my cute little floral blue shirts emerged, even more “cute” and “little” than before. Dammit! I had just never thought about not putting something in the dryer. I mean, I had certain articles that I kept abstained from dryer-tumbling, but… Damn. Oversight on my part. The shirt became a crop top.

So that was cool, and I mastered that–dorm laundry–and I felt proud and adult of myself.

Enter: apartment laundry.

So these bitches really threw me for a loop. So it turns out there are normal washers/dryers, and then there are NASA washers/dryers. Normal washers/dryers have a few options (Hot/Cold, Large/Small, etc) and a “Start” button, and then NASA washers/dryers have five billion customizable options, a stick shift, a slew of nobs, emergency breaks, a combination padlock, a leprechaun with a riddle, and a dial that tells you nothing indicating which way is “Start.” On top of all that mathematics and engineering, you have to pay in quarters–in quarters–and I will tell you what: I could NOT figure out how those quarters went in there. It had six slots for the $1.50 it cost for laundry, but three of them were filled in and I was like, “So I only owe $0.75?” and “Do I just shove this metal thing in, like the gumball temporary tattoo dispensers?” and “It’s not taking my quarters. Is it free? Is it going?” Well dumbass, it turns out two quarters go in each slot, and it took my roommate of the time struggling with it to figure all that out. Which is good, because I was about to give up on laundry for the entire lease-term of that apartment. I had already poured the detergent on my dirty clothes (another thing that baffled me; which compartment do I pour detergent in? Turns out you just dump it straight in with some machines) and so they needed to be washed somehow, even if it meant taking it in the shower with me, which my roommate said she had done before, so I knew it would work, kinda.

So I figured that shit out and that was a pretty big feat. I got the hang of that and it was all good. That place was nice because the laundry room on my floor was right next door to my apartment, so I could just scuttle over and have my laundry washed and hanging to dry right fast. Er, unless it was being used. Which it was, frequently. And these things didn’t have timers on them, so you just had to keep checking back to see if the person’s laundry was done yet. And even if the laundry was done, there was NO guarantee that they would be back any time soon to collect it. In fact, my roommate was one of those culprits; I’m pretty sure she left her laundry in a washer for hours once while we were getting ourselves into shenanigans.

But, now I’m at a different place. Another year, another laundry situation… Now I have to walk up a hill both ways to get to my apartment’s laundry facility. I will admit I have begun just driving to the laundry building, especially in the winter, carrying up that big old laundry basket… This for sure deters me from doing laundry. I mean, not that I was too eager to do it in the first place, but the exerting energy thing to even GET to the facility is a real roadblock for me. I’ll go as long as I can without doing laundry– wear the day’s clothes as pajamas, heavily perfume my socks, pat hand sanitizer on my shirts, turn my jeans inside-out; you know, the usual tricks. But eventually I have to step up and face the music and it is not melodic, my friends.

Interestingly, in all my laundering experience, I have found socks to be quite the troublemakers. Those rascals are always stirring up problems.

One time, a few months ago, I was doing my laundry (my own laundry) on a particularly windy day, and as I was putting the laundry basket into my back seat, a gust of wind flared and made off with one of my socks. Well, I’m a team player, so I ran off after the sock, which is a fantastic image, if you think about it: me, looking utterly ridiculous, in my baggy gray sweat pants, brown leather boots (real fashionable), bright yellow Kent State shirt, hair slopped together in some unfathomable tangle, baggy black hoodie with the hood up… running after my sock through the apartment complex parking lot. I got back after successfully capturing it, and told my cat, “I had to chase my sock in the wind! … It was actually pretty funny.” Maybe one day my sock will be re-introduced to the wild, but it still has some progress to make.

Today I actually did my laundry (my own laundry) and when I got back to my apartment and folded everything, I noticed I was missing one of my blue socks. BUT I also noticed that I had this tiny little sporty-looking white footie sock that was definitely not mine. So, I don’t know man, circle of life, I guess. The life lessons you learn from laundry–nature’s greatest instructor.

Book of Laundry, chapter 12, verse 3: You can do a person’s laundry and they’ll have clean clothes for a day. But if you teach a person to do their own laundry, they will have clean clothes for life. (Well, in theory. I still have a lot of dirty clothes even though I can do my own laundry–my own laundry.)



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