I have a long history with doing laundry; longer than most
anybody, I’d suspect.
I began my professional career doing laundry at the age of
eleven, working after school in my grandparents’ dry cleaning establishment in
my little-bitty home town in Texas. Two days a week, I’d trot down after school
and help my grandmother run the place.
My first job was to place the cardboard guards on the wire
coat-hangers. This involved hugely boring and repetitive work for which I was
paid fifty cents. I later graduated to steam-pressing the clothes and then, to
actually running the dry cleaning equipment on ancient, giant, dangerous
I was twelve. It’s a wonder I didn’t kill myself.
My grandmother, "Budgie", also taught me how to politely wait on customers, how to
make change, how to do the accounting at the end of the day, and how to
correctly make a commercial bank deposit at the end of the day – all by the time I was fourteen years
It was incredibly valuable experience for which I was paid
five dollars a week. She also supplied me with a very substantial snack every
afternoon – usually a hamburger and a Coke; quite adequate sustenance
for a growing boy.
To this day, I can still recall the exact taste of those hamburgers and the frosty Cokes. Mixed with the scent of dry-cleaning fluid in the steamy, un-airconditioned back room, the appeal of those burgers and Cokes to a ravenous 13 year old would be impossible to beat.
Before I went off to college, my mom thought it best that I
be able to do my own laundry. Toward that end, she assigned the whole family’s laundry
to me during my senior year of high school. I learned how to separate clothes
according to color, how to wash at different temperatures, how to starch and
iron shirts, and there was even one ill-fated attempt at ironing a pleated
It was good experience. It was great parenting.
During my 20s and 30s, my laundry was impeccable, thanks to
mom and my grandmother.
Now that I’m firmly implanted into middle age, I’ve gone
It costs a buck-fifty each to have my shirts laundered. I
drop them off and pick them up from the nice Korean woman in my building. The
pants cost more; how much I don’t know and don’t care. It’s worth it.
I wash my own laundry about once a month. Aside from a few
white pair of socks to work out in, I only wear black socks and keep a couple
dozen pair on hand. When they get worn, I toss them all and buy new ones. That
way, I never have to sit and pair up socks.
So, my laundry only consists of towels, dish cloths, bedding,
socks, gym clothes, and underpants. I just chuck it all on “high” with cheap
detergent. No sorting, very little thought, no expensive fabric softener –
Why should my socks, gym clothes, and underpants be scented when they’re
going to smell like dirty socks and sweaty gym clothes right after I wear them?
And why should anyone’s underpants ever call to mind an alpine fresh meadow?
I don’t own an iron or ironing board anymore. I’m sure I
could still wield an iron if I had to.
But I don’t have to.
Instead, I’d like to think that there might be an eleven
year-old grandson sweating over my laundry with an adoring grandmother
imparting good work ethics.
Such a kid would, indeed, be very fortunate.