Why anyone would care why I turn washing clothes into an epic, I have no idea.
But the urge to write about it reminds me of something my grandmother once told my mother.
She said that going outside and finding a tree to talk to was better than letting your problems fester. Of course, there was the risk someone could see you having a heart-to-heart with a sycamore and call the Cossacks.
I assume Grandma’s idea was to walk into a secluded spot in the forest, or at least a wooded area, and find a tree you could talk to and hide behind.
In my case, I’ve chosen not to talk to a tree, but to a computer. I bare my soul and produce a column that you, the reader, can take to heart — or carry to the recycling bin.
Anyway, if I went outside to find a tree I’d have to get dressed and my clothes are currently in the washer on the “normal” setting, which couldn’t be less descriptive of my laundry procedure.
I do my wash every weekend, typically starting on Friday night — two loads, one heavy (jeans, flannel shirts etc.) and one light (T-shirts, underwear, socks etc.). I don’t sort according to color or fabric type and I don’t care how much I have to stuff into a load to avoid doing three.
Given my tendency to forget to move loads over and put off folding, if I had three loads I’d be washing clothes into Monday or Tuesday. My approach to laundry is epic, like “Ben Hur” or “The Ten Commandments.”
Just a few minutes ago, for instance, I put a load of jeans into the washer, added detergent and then forgot to hit “start.” I was distracted by two socks and a dime that fell on the floor after I thought I’d checked the pockets and divided the loads.
My wife used to do my laundry, but my willy-nilly approach was more than she could take. I tended to leave pens, peppermints and packs of gum in my pockets, and as a result ruined some of her clothes.
She doesn’t buy them in thrift stores the way I do, so I understand her feelings. In my case, what’s the big deal if you stain a 99-cent Goodwill shirt?
There was no animosity whatsoever over her decision to cast me adrift into the dark, roiling sea — I’ve always wanted to use the words “adrift” and “roiling” in the same sentence — of doing my laundry.
Typically, the way this works is that I put in a load and move it to the dryer when it’s done. But as a rise-and-shine, bushy-eyed morning person, I start getting drowsy at, say, 8 p.m. By 8:30 or a quarter of nine, I’m in la-la land before the first load can come out of the dryer.
It’s not a big deal if the load is jeans, because who cares about wrinkles in a pair of relaxed-fit Lee’s? But if I shake things up and wash the other load first, whatever collared shirts I have in the dryer wind up wrinkled beyond even my liberal standard of office casual.
That means those shirts have to go back into the dryer on a setting called “wrinkle release,” a marvel of modern engineering.
But the hold-up means the wet load has to sit in the washer an extra 15 minutes, further prolonging a process that already feels like an ordeal.
There are times when I’ll fold a load as soon as it comes out of the dryer, but only after it cools down enough so I won’t sweat bullets onto my clean clothes.
It’s rare – no, impossible – that I’ll work straight through, washing, drying, folding and putting away both loads. Things come up, things like naps, reading, guitar and not wanting to do laundry, that you can’t do at work, at least not when you want, and not in your boxer shorts.
By the time I’m pulling the second load out of the dryer, whatever enthusiasm — OK, acceptance — I’ve mustered for laundry is gone. My body language leaves nothing to the imagination. I yank socks and T-shirts out of the dryer and fire them into the laundry basket like it’s their fault.
I’m not done until the stuff’s put away, and putting shirts on hangars is almost always the step that I like least and sends the epic into a double postscript.
When I think of all the people — let’s face it, mostly women — who do laundry without complaint or delay, I’m embarrassed to make such a big deal out of a simple task.
Not even a tree would want to hear somebody whine about that.
Laundry send you into the forest? Tell me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.