My wife works out of the house. I stay home and write. It’s a delicate symbiosis which also involves me cooking and cleaning and walking the dog. And doing laundry.
I don’t really mind doing laundry. After you sort it out, it’s really just an activity characterized by brief bursts of action, interrupted by extended periods of time when the machines are doing all the work, and isn’t this just what we were hoping for, Mr. Jules Verne? It leaves plenty of time for other things. Like cooking and cleaning and walking the dog. And preparing to do more laundry.
We live in an apartment complex with a communal laundry room that is secured by a modern lock. I need to do a quick sidebar here. Two thoughts:
- Modern locks are almost 100% effective if you remember to shut the door when you leave.
- If you desire to ever retrieve your clean laundry, NEVER set your key on the folding table. Not even for a second. The instant the key hits the surface of that table, the section of your brain tasked with remembering that fact is somehow irreparably damaged and you will walk out leaving it behind. But you WILL remember to securely shut the door, (see #1).
So here are some of my thoughts and observations, which I share with you free of charge:
If you are using a commercial washing machine, the simple migration of a single sock from the left to the right of the drum is sufficient to unbalance the load, which you will only discover 34 minutes later, when your timer goes off to tell you that the cycle should be done. HA! You now have an additional 20 minutes to wait. For some reason the machine in our building which is famous for this always goes rogue with exactly 20 minutes remaining. I’m sure it has something to do with its childhood.
While you’re waiting for the washer, which you meticulously rebalance using a plethora of man-tools and the calculus, you have the choice of starting another load in the washer that did spin out and finish, or of waiting for the wounded child. Here is a natural law, which cannot be debated, because… science: if you do not stand there for the entire 20 minutes, the machine will unbalance again. If you do wait like a schmuck outside Betsy Farlow’s door on prom night, only to learn she left a half-hour ago with Tad Benson, it will run through the remainder of the cycle with an angelic “who, me?” expression on it’s flat, metallic face.
And even if you do start the other machine, your delicate timetable is now all thrown off. Your months of planning, (which, by the way, is why you have so much damn laundry to do in the first place), the countless spreadsheets, the Visio diagram, indicating the precise blend of chemicals and water temp to color ratios… all gone. All for naught.
Eventually though, you’ll get the second round started. For me the second load is where the bulk of my threads show up, as I always do the wife’s first, in case I am struck down between loads. Then I know that, at the very least, she’ll have clean underwear for my funeral.
I, however, probably will not. Not even if I get that second load done. Can anyone explain to me at what point in a man’s life wiping his ass no longer works? Without variation, every time I do laundry, I look at the inside of my drawers and I say, “this underwear cannot belong to an adult male human being.” [ed. Note: according to every female writer on the internet, that is exactly how you can tell it does belong to an adult male human being.]
There are times when I look at my underwear and I fear for the life of the person who wore them. This is not just soiled clothing. This is a crime scene. Murder most foul. I’m not kidding. Then I remember, that I am the person who wore those and the shame becomes almost unbearable. I shout at the unbalanced washer, “You think you’ve got problems, buddy? Did you see this pair of underwear?”
Invariably it ignores me, too concerned about its own issues.
Men who do laundry, and whose wives have taught you the beauty and mystery of pretreating heavily-soiled clothing, I have a tip for you. If you want your pretreating spray to last longer, just throw your underwear in the garbage. It will be less of an expense in the long run just to buy more. Pretreating spray is not cheap. And you only need two or three pair anyway, amiright?
Another thing: over-sudsing, that staple of the American situation comedy, is far funnier on TV than when it happens to you in real life. On TV you laugh, maybe Ed O’Neil gets a little suds goatee, and then the scene ends. If your machine oversudses (and I’m sure that’s not a word), it is never over. And I never get a cool suds goatee either. I get like an Oompa-loompa suds hairdo. It’s awful.
My wife has an elaborate series of rules for what can and cannot go into the dryer after it’s washed, and I have not memorized them, nor are the written down, nor are they even the same from minute to minute, from load to load. Apparently, there are certain things that will continue to shrink, no matter how many times they are washed and dried. I try to counter this feminine logic by pointing out that if this is true, they will eventually disappear altogether. I will one day open the dryer door, only to find that the machine is empty, save for a note left behind saying, “She told you we’d keep shrinking!”
There is at least one garment that is erroneously dried every time I do laundry, and this, I can report without fail, legally invalidates any brownie points potentially gained for doing the job in the first place. One mis-dried top, and I’m sleeping on the couch, possibly until the next time laundry day rolls around.
Also, there is a proper number of dryer sheets that must be added to every load dried. That number is two. If I somehow only put one sheet in, the entire load will fuse into a giant, angry ball, bound by enough static cling to light the Vegas strip for a month.
If on the other hand, two sheets stick together and I do not discover this, thereby placing three into the machine, any towels in the load instantly become 100% water repellant, and rubbing them on your body, even for an hour, will fail to remove one drop of moisture. You will air-dry long before this cloth absorbs the faintest trace of wetness from your shivering form.
But two sheets! Two is the God-molecule! It is the ticket to Valhalla, not glorious death in battle; two damn dryer sheets! Your clothes won’t even consider clinging to one another. It’s like a family reunion where everyone comes, in spite of the fact that they all hate each other. Your towels could drain the ocean, just by laying them on the beach for five minutes. And the aroma! Don’t get me started on the sweet, undefinable scent of the dryer sheet. The ones we use claim to be “fresh linen” scented. I wonder though. Doesn’t the linen take on the scent of the dryer sheet anyway? Isn’t fresh linen actually “two-dryer-sheet” scented?
And what of the other varieties? “Springtime?” Depending on where you live this might not be a pleasant odor at all. Springtime in the Bronx, when the Bronx River swells and washes up all the unfound dead bodies from winter… not what I want my laundry to smell like. “Garden Fresh?” What if I’m allergic to the flowers in that particular garden? Could be a nightmare!
Let’s call a spade a spade, and start naming all dryer sheets what they really are anyway: “Undefined Pleasantly Scented.”
A final word about dryers. The coin-op dryers in our building cost $1, and for that you get 45 minutes of drying time. This is never enough. I could have one lace doily, drying all by itself, and after 45 minutes it’s still damp. Fortunately, in a rare act of altruism, the manufacturers of our machines allow you an extra fifteen minutes if you deposit an addition quarter upon startup. But you have to do it at the outset, there’s no provision for the extra fifteen if at the end of 45 you find that your clothes are not done, (and you will, my friend, you will). In that case it’s another whole dollar, buddy. Hard cheese to you!
I get heat from my wife and, oddly, my daughter for doing this, but I ignore them because I know I’m right.
I say “oddly” concerning my daughter because until 2015 she never washed a single article of her own clothing. Daddy took care of that. And let me tell you something people: teenaged girl humans make adult male humans look like models of spotlessness. I know, I know. You guys are dealing with that special circumstance which marks the end of childhood and the commencement of womanhood, and gives you the legal right to torture, maim and kill male human beings on a monthly basis. (When they tell you that you can only be killed once, they lie, and they have never lived with women when that “thing” happens). So yes, I get all that. But I was under the impression that there were products designed to help deal with that situation. Isn’t it, like, a multi-billion dollar industry?
But I digress.
Once all of the washing and drying is done, you’d think the job was finished, wouldn’t you. But it’s not. Because now there is folding, and in the case of socks… matching.
Folding is not too bad really, and I do it right in the laundry room. Remember the folding table? The one that causes you to forget your key? Well, brainwashing is not its only function. You can actually fold clothes on it. Imagine! (The top of the dryer also works nicely for this, in case you want to use the folding table for something else, like to store your key). [ed. Note: DON’T!!!]
But sock matching. That is another beast altogether. This is again an area in which my wife is very particular. Every sock has one exact match. Even if I have five pairs of identical socks, I will always, in her eyes, pair them up incorrectly.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s is not some validity to her position. Socks are a mysterious and dark-hearted race. How else can you explain their propensity for one of the partners constantly running off, abandoning its mate to a dreary existence in that black hole known as “the sock-bag?” (We’ve had one for nearly 30 years, which my wife still holds out the hope will one day be emptied by the tearful reunion of every broken relationship represented therein.)
Even when one does not go off, to join the circus probably, they still are malicious and mischievous. For example, I have a cohort of socks with a nifty black logo identifying them as being related to all the others from the same bag. However, after owning them for several months, I began to notice that some were fully two inches longer than some others. How in heaven or hell is such a thing possible? They all came from the same batch, out of the same plastic bag, and have been worn by the same person (me) on the same two feet (mine) which are (I swear to God) approximately the same size. There is certainly not a two-inch difference between them. Like one is bound geisha-style, but I ran away before they did the other one.
Then there are the far more insidious ones that look the same except maybe the elastic band at the top is a few millimeters different, or one has a lavender toe and the other also has a lavender toe, but two shades lighter. The older I get the more I’m inclined to agree with cavemen and hillbillies: socks are overrated.
I know I make all of this sound fairly horrendous, and that’s because it is. But the fact of the matter is that eventually it comes to an end. You fold the last pair of inexplicably undefeated men’s underwear. You match the last demonic sock, (sidebar: it’s no coincidence that the evillest team ever to play baseball is the Boston Red SOX). You attempt to restore your wife’s last tiny shrunken shirt to something resembling adult clothing, as opposed to a newborn’s onesie. You’ve done it! You’ve finished the job! You’ve won!
And then you take of the clothes that you sweated up while doing the laundry and throw them into the hamper. And like a black seed planted in forsaken soil, it begins again.