Today, for the first time in five weeks, I did laundry. I have not waited that long to do laundry since college. As I rolled my cart to the elevator, I sheepishly kept my head down and pressed the close door button on my descent, hoping not to stop at another floor or see a neighbor along my route to the washing machines. I had at least four loads, if I squeezed in my clothes to full capacity. I made it to the laundry room without seeing anyone. Turning the corner, I met my laundry room companion.
I nodded at her – clearly a mother with young children judging by the tiny socks in her hands. She looked at my basket, and did not jump back in surprise at its size and contents. When I referenced my oversized load, she commented that it looked like a typical day in her life with children who like to make messes. Not feeling as guilty, I smiled, and shoved my clothes in the machine. Her presence was calming compared to the territorial washers who rolled their eyes if someone occupied more than two machines at a time or scolded washers who were not promptly removing clothes as the cycle concluded.
Our interaction made me miss the laundry room at college, filled with friends, often bustling at 2am on a Tuesday night instead of 9am on a Monday morning in my building today. Freshmen year, I made my first friend from Singapore as I waited for my clothes. He taught me how to fold (and explained that compulsory army service had given him a bit of practice already). When I was a Resident Advisor, I hosted “Suds and Bubbles” parties to teach freshmen how to do laundry, and made root beer floats because in my mind when the ice cream met the soda, it resembled the frothy top of the soap meeting clothes in a washing machine. No one needed to know that I discretely called home before each lesson to confirm I could explain the difference between Permanent Press and all other cycles to my pupils.
One of my residents transported clothes to and from the laundry room in a rolling suitcase every month or so to aggregate his time most efficiently (clearly, he was a science major as he measured the value of his time). Another waited until all he had left was a towel, tied it around his waist, and focused on his laundry like he was studying for an exam. There were others who could not figure out that the lingering scent coming from their room was actually coming from the dirty laundry in the hamper.
I wonder what it was like to be their roommates with those laundry habits. The funny part about washing your clothes in mass with others is that suddenly you inherit 500 plus roommates who have all used the same tiny machine before you, and left behind souvenirs in the form of stray socks, tissues, and pocket change (keep the change, you filthy animal – sorry couldn’t resist to end on that quote from my all time favorite movie – Home Alone).