I’m not very good at laundry. Never have been.
The first time I had to do my own laundry was in 1970, my freshman year at Boston University. I was out of clean underwear and I wasn’t sure why. When I lived at home I didn’t have to worry about it. Clean clothes just appeared in my room without my having to do anything. After just three weeks at college, however, there was no clean underwear in sight. I noticed the pile of dirty clothes and figured out that maybe I should do some laundry.
I headed to the basement where the massive laundry machines were kept, and made sure I had plenty of quarters. Opening the doors on one of the front-loading washing machines, I realized I didn’t have any soap. Fortunately, there was a place around the corner where I could buy some.
Returning to the basement with my box of Tide, I got smart and read the directions. I’m pretty sure it said to use half a cup. I remember thinking, These clothes are really dirty, so if half a cup is good, then two cups will get them really clean. Imagine my surprise when my plan didn’t work. After I removed them from the dryer, my jeans were able to stand up by themselves, and my underwear appeared made out of concrete. I can’t wear these. How do I fix this?
Fortunately, I’d gone to high school with a girl in the dorm next to mine, so I headed to her place and threw myself on her mercy. When she recovered from laughing at me she told me to wash my clothes two more times without soap. It sort of worked, but I ended up with rashes all over my body—those clothes wouldn’t be fit to wear until they had been cleaned a couple more times. I was ultimately saved from myself by a girl named Mary, who would come to the men’s dorm every Saturday and do your laundry for two dollars. It doesn’t sound like much, but a bottle of Key Largo wine was only 69¢. Mary was worth it.
After I got married, I attempted the laundry thing again. Apparently I had forgotten that more detergent doesn’t necessarily mean cleaner clothes, so while my wife was out doing errands I carried our clothes to the laundry room. This washer was different. It wasn’t a front loading industrial machine, it was a regular machine and a top loader. Top loaders react differently. This one started spewing soap suds all over everything. Only one way to clean this mess. Pull everything out of the room and start wiping things down with towels. I was in the midst of doing exactly that when my wife came home. I don’t remember her saying anything, and she didn’t help me clean it all up, but I do remember that I never had to do laundry after that.
I’m not opposed to doing laundry; I just don’t know how. We have a super nice washing machine, and it’s really a guy machine because it has all kinds of buttons and knobs that adjust everything depending on what you’re washing. Eventually I find a setting that says “Normal” and I figure that’s good enough for me.
Before going any further, I have a confession to make. I hooked up the washing machine in our house. Whenever Louise did laundry it wouldn’t come out to her satisfaction, and she noticed that all of our clothes were shrinking. A call to our twin plumbers, Rick and Rob, and help was on the way. Rob took one look at the machine and asked Louise, “Who hooked this up?” According to the plumber, I had reversed the hoses, so the cold water hose was attached to the hot water pipe and vice versa. A quick reconnect and the problem was fixed.
I’m not allowed to do plumbing anymore.
Back to the story. I’m ready to load the machine, and in the back of my head I hear a voice telling me to separate whites and colors. I don’t know what that means. Does that mean every color in a different pile? How do I do that? I’m colorblind! Seeing no good reason to separate anything at all, I shove everything into the washing machine. Punch “Normal,” hit the start button, and walk away. This laundry thing is easy!
Except for one thing. Louise was away that week, and I didn’t hear the machine ring the bell when it finished. About six days later I went to do another load. I opened the machine and there was the first load just sitting in the machine. They were still damp, and they kind of smelled funny. Okay, I’ll just throw them in the dryer with a couple of dryer sheets and all will be well. I found out that dryer sheets don’t work at all unless you actually put them in the dryer. Just take my advice and don’t leave your clothes in the washing machine for almost a week. Trust me.
I don’t really worry about laundry now. The Lovely Louise takes care of it, and should she ever wake up and leave me, I’ll just go back to what I used to do when I was single: I would just leave everything in the dryer. When I needed something to get dressed in the morning, I would simply turn the dryer on for a few minutes until everything was fluffed, and then grab what I needed and leave the rest there until the next time. No carrying clothes back to the bedroom, no folding, no putting things back in the dresser or the closet—I cut my laundry workload at least in half. Laundry genius.