Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Laundry, a Love Affair

Gilmore Girls is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. It’s right up there with Cop Rock and The Young Riders. It was a sad, sad day when it ended. I own all seven seasons on DVD. When I need a boost or a laugh, I pick a season at random and watch the entire set although not usually in one day. I finished season 3 (again) this past weekend.

One of my favorite episodes is in season 5 (yes, I know this) when Lorelei decides that she is no longer in love with snow. Lorelei loves snow and throughout the entire episode, snow disappoints her. From falling on her car to causing problems at the inn, snow becomes the bad boyfriend Lorelei can’t get rid of. Luke knows Lorelei loves snow and he builds her an ice-skating rink in her front yard to bring Lorelei and snow back together. It’s so sweet and wonderful and Stars Hollow-y.

I feel have similar feelings about laundry. I love laundry. There’s something calming and satisfying about laundry. I attribute my love of laundry to my dad. Dad has always done the laundry (at least in my memory). It’s something we tease him about (that and his fondness for buying toilet paper in bulk). I’m sure my dad’s laundry routine has to do with his being a career Army man and probably my grandmother too. She was always really laundry focused. He does his laundry on Saturday mornings. He knows how to get stains out of anything. He even got me through my first (and only) red sock debacle. I consider this a major bonding moment.

However, laundry and I have been on the outs for almost five years now. I don’t blame laundry really. I blame a force greater than laundry for our "break up." Like Lorelei and snow, I am no longer in love with laundry.

One of the last things I did before evacuating New Orleans on August 27, 2005 was my laundry. That Saturday morning the tone of the weather reports was cautious but not panicked. I used that morning to do laundry, pick up my dry cleaning and get gas. Nothing crazy happened at the laundromat. I waited a bit longer for gas but that was expected. By the time I got home the news had changed dramatically. I decided to evacuate that afternoon. I packed some clothes (thankfully clean), moved as much of my stuff into my closet as I could, put the cat in her carrier and headed over to pick up my friend Mary. We headed to Birmingham. I had no idea that I wouldn’t be back home again for almost four months.

Mary and I headed to Birmingham because that’s where we could get a hotel room. We couldn’t afford the hotel for more than a day or two so we moved along to Auburn, AL on the 28th. Mary had friends there who offered us a place to stay. Staying in Auburn would allow us a little comfort—for me comfort came in the form of laundry. There was a washer and dryer in the house. Mary and I were both anxious as soon as we arrived. She worked out her anxiety by mowing the lawn; I did the laundry. Theirs, mine, Mary’s—it really didn’t matter. Mary and I even ironed and cleaned their apartment. We watched the levees break from their couch. We cried and cried some more. The only thing to do was another load of laundry and to plan our next move.
Laundry and I had a wonderful time during my exile from New Orleans. From Auburn to Rome, GA to my parents’ house in Virginia, laundry and I had the best relationship. I needed laundry and laundry always needed me. Once I arrived at my parents’ house I was able to establish a new routine; a routine of no routine. See, I had to work myself into the laundry cycle (ha ha) of the house. My dad did laundry on Saturday; my brother did his on Friday (his day off). I could do my laundry on Sunday or during the day on Tuesday—it didn’t really matter. It was amazing. And free. No more $4 a week (on a light week). Sublime.
I should have known that this would end. I was naïve—the warning signs were there all along; I just ignored them.

When I moved back to New Orleans in December, my relationship with laundry began its downward spiral. More people had returned to the city and more people were at my laundromat. Suddenly a trip to the laudromat took two hours (and that was quick) and twice as much money. People I had never seen before had become regulars in my absence. Laundry became something it had never been for me before—a horrible chore (I’m rhyming, not intentionally. See where laundry has brought me?)

No more lazy Sundays with a coffee and the paper. My favorite PJ’s hadn’t even reopened yet and when it did, the line was always so long and the other patrons kind of grumpy (everyone, every where was grumpy and sad). So I started going on weeknights, sometimes Wednesdays, sometimes Fridays. It didn’t really seem to matter; the laundromat was always a nightmare.

When I moved to Virginia I lucked out and rented an apartment that had a washer and dryer in my apartment. It was a return to the days of no schedule or pattern for when I had to do laundry. I could just do it whenever. This did nothing to repair my relationship with laundry. Again, just a chore. In my first apartment in Alameda, I shared two laundry rooms with the rest of my building. Awful and gross—people are disgusting. 

I had hope for the new apartment but it's not much better. I did my laundry a few days ago and the experience was a disaster. The laundry room is in the garage. It smells like car exhaust and motor oil and it's sort of creepy.  The zipper of my favorite sweater somehow lodged into the lint catcher and broke. There aren't timers on the machines so I have no idea how long anything takes.

And so my tortured relationship with laundry continues. Once I would have jumped at the chance to put it away and end the ritual. Now it sits, folded staring at me, waiting to see if I will make the first move. If I will apologize and things will go back to how they once were. That's not going to happen and there's no Luke with an ice-skating rink (or whatever the equivalent would be) in my front yard to fix this relationship.

Maybe I should try a new laundromat... 


  1. How true. I actually did laundry so that my shirts would come out right and I do believe it is a routine that relaxes. Dad

  2. Laundry is one of the few things in our house that I'm solely responsible for - and like your dad, it's because I want it done right. Naturally that means I have to do it myself. I have a vague routine related to laundry, (read: I don't do laundry Mon-Fri short of disasters, vacations or unforeseen circumstances) and have come to feel an ownership of all things laundered in our house and it makes me feel like a contributing member of our small family (since I don't cook and cleaning is a team effort).

    And so it makes me sad to hear of your laundry woes - and I shudder at the thought of public laundering as I remember back to the days of college when I routinely found undergarments lying around in all sorts of disarray.

    I hope that you eventually find your way back to loving laundry. :)

  3. There is something satisfying about doing laundry-I feel like I accomplish a lot when I do it. I have faith that laundry and I will get back together someday. It will happen.

    Laundromats are actually pretty fun; I went to the same one from my sophomore year in college until I moved from New Orleans. In a pre-Katrina world, it was amazing. Clean facility, nice staff and affordable. I would always see the same people and it felt like a little community.

    I'm hoping that I find one like that here. There are several options so I can try them all and see which one is more me. I'm hoping this brings laundry and I back together! :)

    Thanks for reading and posting!!!!

  4. I've never used a Laundromat - just the campus facilities during my tenure at NC State which left A LOT to be desired...but it sounds like your last laundromat love would be the perfect setting for a meet-cute (just finished your Christmas movie post!) so here's to hoping you find the perfect match! See you in a couple weeks! :)

  5. Laundromats are fascinating. I miss the old days of my NOLA one-the manager was an older gentlemen who lived on my street. His daughter was my age and he always kept an eye on me like I was his other daughter. He also encouraged the community feel the laundromat had. It was a sad day when he left.

    We are a generation of women who have been told that we will have a meet-cute so I'm really looking forward to the laundromat and the possibility of this happening. Then I could have my own Lifetime movie and life would be complete!

    See you soon!