Airing my laundry

I have decided that the mark of adulthood is not a steady job or a retirement plan. Nor is it buying my own groceries and forgetting my family’s birthdays all by myself. No, I will finally be an adult when I no longer have to go to the laundromat.

I’ve been an adult in the past, and let me tell you, I can hardly wait to be an adult again. Those stages when I cohabitated with both a washer and a dryer were among the most sanitary years of my life. I didn’t have to stretch the same pair of boxer briefs for days at a time unless I chose to. I didn’t have to hoard quarters like I was one of the Mario Bros. questing for Princess Peach. And if I wanted to start a load, go for a hike, and forget all about the clothes in the washer until I started another load the next week, well, that was my prerogative.

Having access to in-house laundry facilities is, I believe, a fundamental human right. If you made me choose between W/D hookups and fiber internet service, I would choose both. No human being should have to load up a basket with dirty laundry — which, by definition, you are not supposed to air in public — and take it to a facility where other people take their own dirty laundry, which is dirtier than yours because it’s not your dirt.

As if stuffing a washing machine without any idea who or what stuffed this machine before you isn’t disconcerting enough, other people use different products than you do, with different smells. And the only thing worse than other people not using bleach to kill all the mystery gunk in their socks is the people who DO use bleach, because it splotches your favorite concert tee that you already resist washing so the holes don’t get any bigger.

Even more dreadful than using the laundromat is using the laundromat without a vehicle. Oh, I’ve been there, back when I thought I was an adult because, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t take my laundry back to my mom’s house while she cooked me dinner. Every month, I loaded up a bag of clothes like a disgruntled Santa and trekked downhill to the bus stop, then had to haul the same bag back uphill, until I just started burning my clothes after wearing them.

At another stage in life, I was half an adult. I had a washing machine, but no dryer, which would have been handy because I lived in such a humid climate that my clothes molded on the dryer rack before they finished drying. So I dried clothes by turning on the oven and creating a broiler tunnel with bedsheets, and offered thanks to the gods for the simple words “utilities included.”

For two years now, I have been forced back into the adolescence of not washing my own clothes at home. Sometimes, I am spared the germophobic trauma of the laundromat by a dear friend allowing me the use of her home facilities, or opting to take a road trip to my mom’s house instead of just buying new Fruit of the Looms. I’m constantly re-evaluating my life choices to determine how I can make friends with laundry rooms who live even closer to me.

Of course, using a laundromat comes with perks. This I cannot deny. I have had the opportunity to acquire several washcloths and even a pair of tighty whities that jumped my laundry train somewhere along the tracks. I can take my laptop with me to pretend I will get work done in the 22 minutes of the spin cycle, or in the extra 30 minutes of drying because it turns out the first dryer was busted. I get to meet people whether I want to or not, because they want to meet me, and I refuse to leave the premises lest I abandon my wardrobe to the mercy of bandits.

And anymore, when I leave the laundromat with a basket of unfolded clothes because I really don’t want them touching who-knows-what-happens on those laundromat tables, I come to a place of quiet gratitude. I am fortunate to live in a community with laundry facilities. I am fortunate to have the physical capacity to get my clothes there, and the resources to wash them. Heck, I am fortunate to have clothes at all. Without them, I’d have precious few places to stash every quarter I find.

Zach Hively is an award-winning writer in Durango, Colo. He can be read and reached through and on Twitter @zachhively.

From Zach Hively.