LESSON #23: COIN-OPERATED LAUNDRY
Unless you are either one of the chosen few college students whose mothers do their laundry for them every weekend or one of the rich few college students who can afford a laundry service at two dollars a pound, you will quickly find yourself engaged in a never-ending war of epic proportions. Your nemesis: laundry. Your only weapon: a roll full of quarters.
Now, let’s be clear here. There is no denying the fact that as an enemy laundry sucks. It’s clever, like an interior operative agent that uses your own desire to achieve personal hygiene against you. And worse, it’s indefatigable. The war against laundry is like a land war with China. Once the battle has begun, it will never, ever end.
You see, behind closed doors, while you’re busy in the library or the gym, your clothes are piling up in the hamper, plotting their attack. Stealthily, they wait for just the right moment (that Saturday night when all you need is a pair of clean underwear), then overflow the hamper lid and spill out into the rest of the closet, busting open the door and swelling from a small wave of socks into a crushing tidal force of hooded sweatshirts and gym shorts that threatens to overtake your entire dorm room floor. They will never quit; they will never tire. Laundry, like John McClane, dies hard.
So, what do you do? Well, the secret, as in any war, is to know your enemy. Laundry’s objective isn’t so much to outright destroy you as to slowly bleed you dry, sucking away either your economic or temporal resources. If you choose to fight the battle via proxy, with a laundry service, your enemy strips away your ability to purchase new CDs, to go out on the weekends, and to take your special friend on dates. If you choose to man up and fight the battle yourself, laundry seeks to suck away valuable time from studying and playing wiffleball. You must counteract this evil by fighting smarter, and thus I now give you the rules of college laundry:
Rule 1: Sort your clothes quickly into two piles – whites, and everything else. While, in general, I am against any categorizing that involves dividing white populations from things of color, laundry is an important exception. Miscegenation in the world is a good thing (there’s a reason that babies of mixed race are usually cuter than other children); but miscegenation in your laundry basket will just leave you with a bunch of pink undershirts.
Rule 2: Wash your white clothing with warm water, and your dark clothing in cold. The great myth surrounding laundry is that your clothes do the majority of their shrinking in the dryer. This, in fact, is not the case. Cold water is the best way to prevent shrinkage. (Ironic, I know.)
Rule 3: Make sure you are there to switch your clothes promptly from the washer to the dryer. You know the asshole that leaves his clothes sitting in the washing machine all day? Don’t be that guy – because two things are going to happen if you are. #1) Your clothes will end up smelling like wet dog, and in a desperate attempt to counteract this fact, you will douse yourself with Axe body-spray. Unfortunately, this will only lead to your clothes smelling like Sex Panther; and #2) Somebody is going to get pissed off that you’ve frozen the poetics of the laundry room, and they are going to throw your wet, dog-smelling clothes on the floor. This is entirely your fault. So either set your watch, or stick it out in the laundry room for thirty minutes and read one of those J-Stor articles you’ve been carrying around (see Lesson #20). As an added bonus, if you believe Hollywood films, the Laundromat is perhaps the world’s third greatest location to find a date.
Rule 4: When drying your clothes, use a fabric softener sheet. Otherwise, you will be plagued by static electricity and your underwear will feel like it is made out of wool. So be thankful that you haven’t been born in the nineteenth-century, when everyone’s underwear really was made out of wool, and embrace the fabric softener sheet.
Rule 5: Fold when you have time. That’s right. There’s no hurry here – especially if you purchase only wrinkle-free clothing. Go out, enjoy the sunshine, and fold your laundry later as you watch reruns of Sex in the City.
Rule 6: Well, actually…that’s basically it. Repeat regularly, I suppose. The bottom line is that laundry should take you no more than two hours a week if you do it right, and during that time you should be able to get a little homework done. You’ve just got to treat it as if it’s a chronic nuisance, that will never go away, and must be treated with penicillin – (oops, I meant a roll full of quarters). Following these 6 rules means that while laundry may not be able to be beaten, it can be controlled…
…which I guess means it’s not exactly as tough as John McClane. Seriously, have you watched Die Hard IV? Just when you think you’ve got him where you want him, he’ll jump a motorcycle into your helicopter. Can laundry do that? No, it can’t. So maybe the better analogy is to compare the chore of doing laundry to John McCain. Neither seems to be going anywhere, even though they both have a tendency to get old real fast.
LESSON #58: WEEKENDS ON THE CHEAP
Do you remember that old saying about the only two certainties in life being death and taxes? Well, as far as sayings go – this one’s okay – but I’m not absolutely convinced that it’s entirely true. Sure, yes, I hear your grumblings – these two constructs are, in fact, certainties. You’ve got to pay your taxes, and if you don’t, the IRS will eventually catch up with you (just ask Al Capone and Barry Bonds). And, it’s also true that unless you get carried like Elijah to Heaven by chariots of fire, you’re going to die – although, according to the fictional Ricky Bobby, “with a high enough level of income and the advances in modern medicine, it’s not unthinkable to think that some people might live to be 245 or 300” (we’ll call this latter life extension the Magic Johnson rule – since he now has as many T-Cells as all of Mbabane, Swaziland combined). But, my contention is that life, while indeed offering us a recurring sit-down with the tax-man and a one-time appointment with the undertaker, is at the same time full of all kinds of other inevitabilities – and the secret (also known as Michael Scott’s Second Rule Business) is to react, adapt, readapt, and act. Or, in less cryptic, or less stupid terms – life is about preparing for the many inevitabilities that exist, and having a glass jar full of contingency plans to break open when the time is appropriate.
For instance, despite China’s terrifying record of human rights violations, it is inevitable that at some point in the twenty-first century, they will pass up the United States and become the world’s leading economic superpower . Why is this inevitable? Well, the major reason is that they’ve got 5 times as many people as we do – which wouldn’t mean all that much except for the fact that their 1.5 billion citizens are also working considerably harder than we are right now. As I write this sentence, most of my American readers are on spring break, and most Chinese kids are tucked away in a basement doing organic chemistry experiments. This is why, after you get back from Cancun, you should get prepared, and START TAKING CHINESE NOW (see Lesson #2). Likewise, it is equally inevitable that at some point in the next decade, the Chicago Cubs will reverse the Curse of the Billy Goat and, much to my chagrin, will actually win a World Series title. Why is this the case? Well, as long as the Cubs continue to dump twice as much money into their payroll as any other National League franchise, it only makes sense that they will eventually be able to buy themselves and the ghost of Harry Carey a championship. After all, it worked for the Red Sox in 2004 – and there is absolutely no way that the curse of a fucking Billy Goat has anything on Babe Ruth (I’m pretty sure Babe Ruth used to eat Billy Goats for breakfast). As such, if you, like myself, are a Cardinals fan, it’s important to steel yourselves for this certainty. I’d recommend ear-plugs, Budweiser, and a Kosuke Fukudome dartboard to help you through what will inevitably be a lousy November.
Those, however, are just two examples of major life inevitabilities that help round out the death and taxes equation. And there are plenty more – including the one that we’ll be working with today – the inevitable boredom that will eventually haunt your weekend nights as you make your way through college. Now, there’s no one path to boredom (just like there’s no one path to enlightenment – Dr. Wizard’s Advice notwithstanding), but, in order to catch as broad a swath of the college population as possible, let’s deal with the inevitable march towards boredom that is typified in the college-drinking scenario – which breaks down like this:
Freshman Year: Most students, upon arriving on campus during the fall semester of their freshman year, will be initially overwhelmed by the freedom of escaping from their parents and the fact that there’s no one waiting at home to smell their breath at the end of the night (except, possibly, a member of the opposite sex who has also spent the night gargling with Keystone Light and cigarettes). As such, there exists an introductory period of drinking euphoria, typified by a progression of swilling cheap beer in dorm rooms, swilling cheap beer at a cousin’s off-campus apartment of some guy who lives on your dorm floor, and swilling cheap beer at fraternity parties during rush and the remainder of your freshman year. But eventually, this gets old.
Sophomore Year: During the summer after your freshman year, you go back home, and some moderately shifty guy named Ricky who hangs out at the community pool tells you that for a hundred bucks, he can get you a fake I.D. – which, you assume, will make your sophomore year awesome. Upon your return to campus, you are even more excited to find out that all of your friends have also met their own version of Ricky – and you spend your second year at college drinking at bars where the bartenders know you aren’t 21, but let you drink anyway with your crappy Hawaii I.D. because in the inevitable bar-raid that’s coming, your crappy Hawaii I.D. will deflect the necessary amount of blame from them for serving minors. Win-win-win (except for the fact that your real driver’s license might get revoked for a few months if you get caught). Even still, this gets boring – and you can’t wait until you turn 21 at some point during your junior year so that you can start going to bars that card more carefully – because campus bars are totally for sophomores.
Junior Year: And now the moment of awesomeness finally arrives. You have your big birthday (hopefully you follow Dr. Wizard’s rules for YOUR TWENTY-FIRST BIRTHDAY – see Lesson #21), and you graduate to the big leagues. But, about a month after you turn 21, you realize that drinking Jaeger-bombs in a black button-up shirt is just about the same as drinking Keystone Light at an off-campus apartment – and so you decide instead to start wearing a thrift store T-shirt (so you’ll fit in) at the townie-bar (that isn’t really a townie-bar because every March and April it gets invaded by a new crop of barely-21-year-olds – and it actually counts on this for 74% of its annual business – where there might even be some random Hungarian owner who makes you feel like you are part of an insider circle because he gives you shots of homemade moonshine from his “secret distillery” in the back). And then, this gets old, too – and now you’ve reached a precarious position. So you stop, terrified, and you ask yourself, “what is it that we’re going to do next year?”
And thus, now we come back to the inevitable merger of all of the many paths to weekend boredom that are reconvening from the woods. Our quick journey through a prototypical college drinking lifestyle has been fun – but at the end of the day, you’re still fucking bored – because even Keystone Light, while being terrific fun for a season or two, can hardly fill the entirety of 208 college weekends. So, it becomes time to look elsewhere. The problem, however, is that unless your parents have given you an otherworldly allowance, you don’t have much money to do expensive cool things – like go skydiving or go to Paris. And thus, it’s time to explore other promising alternatives for filling collegiate WEEKENDS ON THE CHEAP.
So here’s what you should know: all of the things that you can’t wait to do, that sound so grown-up and adult-like, that you assume you’ll do once you have a job and money – well, you can actually do those things for next to nothing while you’re still in college – because most colleges provide them for free. Concerts? Movies? The Symphony? Plays? Sporting Events? Internationally Renowned Speakers? Yeah – your college and your Student Entertainment Board are bringing these things regularly to your campus. All you have to do is get off your ass, get out of the Keystone Light mindset, and go attend them. Now, I’m not trying to tell you that you have to do these things – but the next time you complain about boredom, consider the fact that there’s probably a Nobel-Prize winner lecturing on your campus at some point in the next month, your student-drama department is begging people to come watch them put on a show that you would have to pay $75.00 to see on Broadway, and you can score tickets to see up-and-coming artists who are busy touring college campuses for almost nothing on their way to becoming the next big thing (during the same week of my senior year, I once saw Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and Dave Chappelle – for a total cost of ten dollars – and all of them blew up in popularity inside of the next 12 months). You’ve just got to commit to taking advantage of the free entertainment.
Now, while I’d strongly recommend that you do these things while you don’t have to pay for them, I understand that sometimes it can be difficult, for some unknown reason, to go watch a movie at the campus movie theater. Still, if none of these options excite you, there are still other ways to have fun during college weekends on the cheap – including, if you’re stuck in the Keystone Light mindset, innovative ways to drink. For instance, have you ever tried putting on your winter coat, setting up a card-table outside, and playing drinking War in the middle of February? Or loaded a backpack with Keystone Light and gone for a ten-mile hike with your friends at the town-golf course? Just a couple of ideas to mix things up during that long senior year – but you should also try the Symphony, because it’s cooler than you think. Sort of like McLovin – who, incidentally, also had a crappy Hawaii I.D.