Few sights can inspire thoughts more demoralizing than your pile of laundry waiting to be done. There it sits, in salacious solidarity and communal sangfroid; there you are, semi-mesmerized, in conflicted contemplation, confronting a lump of sweaty fabric friends as they repose in that hamper, closet, drawer or laundry bag purloined from your summer restaurant gig. Face your fear; ya gotta do the wash.
The bed linen that has comforted your midnight thrashings; the pillow cases that have held your dreams; the socks and stockings that have seen your wanderings (and perhaps done some wandering of their own); the silks, satins and nylons that have witnessed your flirting; the handkerchiefs and washcloths that wiped your tears and running nose; the towels that know their way around your body like a lover; the skirts and slacks that have been your trusted vehicles as you roam from pillar to post; the “fun to wear” underwear that knows all your dirty little secrets; the work clothes, play clothes and clothes with a bloodstain you’d sooner forget about. Yours, all yours, almost living in sin themselves as they stew, awaiting the pleasure of your cleaning them, the holy washing, folding and sorting; a John the Baptist christening, resurrected and ready for new adventures. You stare, you sigh, you speak: “It’s time.”
I’m one of the people who like to take my time doing laundry.
The more blessed of us live with access to washer/dryer combos in our abodes. The rest of us know the true meaning of the word schlep, since not many laundromats, washaterias or coin washes have adequate, if any, parking spaces. We also learn the meaning of the word (in)dignity, for our laundry is evidence—in full view—of how we live and what we live in. The laundromat is a confessional where we must all come clean before we leave this place, this temple of wash and dry.
To my way of thinking, a “soap and suds” joint is proof of universal regeneration. We bring in our soiled, exploited lives and come away…purified. Of course—as with all cleansings—it must start with change.
Quarters mostly, that we’ve saved or will procure from the change machine. Unlike George Carlin, when we put a dollar in the change machine, something is going to change. The evil spirits of soil will depart (permanent stains excepted); smart money will wash once a week, whether it’s needed to or not; I don’t know too many of those people. The rest of us have a “bottom of the closet” outfit; we know that when this particular garment has to be worn, it is damn sure time to bite the bullet.
Some people take their time and sort the laundry before washing (colors, whites, darks); others—and all of us at some time—just throw the lot in the biggest washer and let God be the judge of who comes out appropriately clean. At times, we all have thrown in that new red bathrobe with everything, and as a result we have worn one shade or another of the color pink for the rest of the social season. It happens.
If perchance you would say that “it all comes out in the wash”…well, you’re right. Who among us has not had the experience of “finding something” from a pocket that wasn’t checked before wash day: money, gum, a ballpoint pen, that phone number (beyond recognition) of the cutie you met at Vaughan’s last week?
I’m one of the people who like to take my time doing laundry, and I bring a book, snacks and my ever-evolving patience. However, sometimes I do the wash on the fly and multi-task my buns off, with the clothes getting short shrift. In a perfect world, there I am relaxing in the sun with a copy of War and Peace while my whites have a party in one machine, my colors are re-enacting the musical Oklahoma! in another and the darks are doing whatever darks do when they’re left to their own devices. All are looking forward to that last rinse and spin before the tumble-dry sauna…happy, happy fabrics all. I admit that sometimes I’ll catch myself staring into the dryer while the colors, darks and whites dance in an orgy of patterns and traces, the juxtaposition of shapes and hues like a flashback to the sixties, when, alas, I DID inhale. Then: “Time’s up, pencils down! Everybody out of the pool and into the basket for sorting and folding, c’mon guys, let’s take it to the bridge!”
And so, to the folding. Okay, I used to be the guy who threw everything together and got the hell on out—folding, shmolding. Now, in a state of near Buddhist compassion, all are settled and honored; I become one with my cleanliness. No, of course I don’t pair socks or fold my dainties. I wouldn’t dream of eliminating the search and rescue mission every time I grope those drawers. The socks rarely match; I hate wearing them and they’re always losing themselves. And knickers are always “grab and go.” Period.
Ah, but the perfectly folded piles of towels, hankies, tees and trousers. Folding a fitted sheet is a lesson in humility…can’t do it. Getting it all back in my shopping basket (the ones that most geezers use) and laundry bag (also freshly washed) is an engineering feat, just as extracting them from those vehicles of conveyance with any semblance of skill or organization is a miracle.
But the job is done; I trundle home, careful not to spill, proud of myself and my clean stuff. I’ve watched a section of humanity go through the same cleansing ritual, the dirty dancing ebb and flow of fabric states of consciousness. All is right with the world.