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.
So today’s one of those rare magical things we call a snow day in Saint Louis, which means that instead of going into the office, I’ve spent the day in much more productive fashion watching old episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” listening to my new Katy Perry album, reading five recently purchased television pilot scripts, and working on the index and appendices for the book version of Dr. Wizard’s Advice. Overall, this little snow-induced break from Des Peres 204 has been refreshing, and also a little surprising. Did you know, for example, that the pilot episode of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” is one of the greatest introductions to a television series ever? Or that at various points in Dr. Wizard’s Advice I have referenced Zsa Zsa Gabor, Willie Mays Hayes, and the Oregon Trail? Crazy, I know – but both are true. Anyway, I thought I’d post a snippet from one of the appendices on the website tonight before I head off to teach the GMAT, so here’s a short excerpt from “Ten Little Things You Must Experience Before Leaving College.”
“The Dark Side of the Rainbow”
There is absolutely no experience more quintessentially collegian than watching a volume-muted version of The Wizard of Oz while listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – and if you haven’t done this, then you absolutely must, immediately. In a strange occurrence of what the late psychologist Carl Jung has deemed synchronicity, it just so happens that the rainbow-covered album provides an eerie, ironic, and totally mind-bending soundtrack to Dorothy’s voyage over the rainbow.
Now, there’s great debate as to whether or not these items were originally intended to be paired by Pink Floyd, but from my perspective, it doesn’t really matter. If, on the one hand, when Roger Waters was masterminding production of Dark Side of the Moon, he was secretly staging an L. Frank Baum-inspired coup, or if, on the other hand, when Dark Side of the Moon was produced, God was secretly guiding the process such that the two would form an unexpected pair of classics that work together to produce a level of awesomeness similar to that which comes from dipping your French Fries in your Frosty at Wendy’s, the outcome – in the end – trumps all intention.
So here’s what you do. Invite all of your friends over for a “Dark Side of the Rainbow” party, and make sure you have an American copy of the 102 minute version of the movie and a digitally re-mastered copy of the CD (you cannot use iTunes and you absolutely must not experience this for the first time using a pre-synched version from the internet – it ruins half the fun). Then, once everyone is settled and sufficiently primed for the trippy experience, take your copy of Dark Side of the Moon and place it in your CD player. As soon as it clicks to 0:00 on the first track and begins playing, press the pause button. Next, start up the DVD of The Wizard of Oz with the volume turned off, and as soon as the black and white MGM lion roars for the third time, press the play button on the CD. Then sit back and experience 43 minutes of crazy. If the arrival of the twister, and the concomitant wailing on “Great Gig in the Sky” doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, then something is wrong with you.
But even that, as awesome as it is, isn’t the best part of the whole experience. You see, after it’s all said and done, you and your friends get to have a raging debate about whether or not the whole thing was planned, and whether or not the links are real – and this is where everything gets really fun. For ammunition during this discussion, you can download a list of the synchronicities here. Is it just coincidence that Dorothy is balancing on a fence rail during “Breathe” when Waters sings “balanced on the biggest wave”? Or that the scarecrow without a brain dances around during “Brain Damage”? Once the debate has raged for a little while, let everyone refresh their drink, and then start the movie up again from the beginning – this time with the list of clues. Afterwards, congratulate yourself, and know that you can now check off one of the “Ten Little Things You Must Experience Before Leaving College” from your list.