all of the selves we Have ever been
It is day 302 of the pandemic.
And it is pouring rain.
What am I going to do with myself all day?
Something happens to my mind on days like this. It feels like the apocalypse has occurred and there is no one left but me. These are the kinds of ideas that enter my mind on days like this:
Whittle an oar out of the coffee table.
Eat until I run out of food.
Reply to all of the text messages received from voting organizations.
Read my insurance policies that are up for renewal.
Reply to all of the happy birthday messages I received back in March from my dentist, gynecologist, and favorite retailers.
Sharpen all of my pencils.
Sort the paper clips by size.
Organize my canned goods alphabetically.
Engage in consumer advocacy by spot-checking Kimberly-Clark. Are there really 110 tissues
in my Kleenex box? Is each 3-ply?
Of all of these ideas, the only one that really appeals to me is to whittle an oar out of the coffee table. Of course, that is the most dangerous and costly choice. Why is that always the case? Dangerous and costly—the definition of sex appeal.
Perhaps I can do this cheaply. I do have that multi-purpose tomato knife that I have used to saw through giant pork butts, but my inner police sergeant screams at me: “Drop the knife.” And I do. I go to my fallback position: laundry. There is always something to wash. I gather and sort. I even add a few clean items to the basket just to get my money’s worth in the laundry room. I pass the day washing, drying, fluffing, folding, and hanging. The familiar ritual is therapeutic. I feel productive. I enjoy the warmth of the clothes as I pull them from the dryer. I inhale the fresh scent of the fabric softener. Yes, there will be a tomorrow!
But back inside my apartment, I still have my eye on the coffee table!
When the day comes
and we are asked to answer for our lives,
I will have to tell the truth.
“Oh, Great One,” I will say. “I have spent my entire life making the world a better, cleaner, happier, healthier place. I have supported those who have made the greatest advances in science, technology, social structure, and scholarship of every kind.”
If the Great One asks for more detail, I will say simply, “I kept up with the laundry.”
Confident that The Great One understands how the world really works, I will move to the front of the line where I will join all of the others who kept the world and washers turning. I will know I am in the right place because I will hear the background music of my life. It will not be trumpets and horns. It will be the steady, reassuring hum of a dryer.
We admire the people who live in laboratories and invent cures and the men and women who spend time in zero gravity and travel in space, but the unsung heroes of history are back in the laundry room. Think about it. What if Dr. Alexander Fleming had not shown up for work in his lab the day he discovered mold growing in petri dishes? What if he had to call off because he had been on vacation and didn’t have any clean clothes to wear? Would the world have survived without penicillin? What if Neil Armstrong missed his flight because there were no clean towels in the washroom? Would Americans have been the first to walk on the moon?
Laundry is serious business.
And while we underestimate the grave impact of dirty laundry, we are also wrong in our attitude that laundry is not a sexy business. Take a moment and think briefly about the morning after. People get up in a better mood. They are energized and hopeful about the day. They feel more confident, more powerful, ready to face not just the day, but the entire week! They have smiles on their faces and that “anything is possible” attitude in their hearts. You know what I’m talking about--that feeling you have when your drawers are full of clean underwear and socks, when everything you own is clean and ready for wear. All of your favorite, most comfortable clothes are back in the line-up. That is a piece of heaven…the morning after laundry day.
There are people who smirk and think there is nothing to it. Anyone can do the laundry. That, I say, is the attitude of the ignorant.
Some people study bugs in the dirt. They are called kids, and that is child’s play. Then there are entomologists. They study insects. Entomologists have discovered 800,000 different “bugs.” Entomologists, like other scientists and scholars, have their own unique names for things, their own languages, and they study the professional literature. That’s called scholarship.
I would argue that I, like others who keep up with the laundry, have studied at least 800,000 different kinds of stains. I’ve searched at least that many times for tiny tags hidden in the collars and seams of dirty clothes. Just as in science, the information contained on those tags comes in several different languages, and there are special symbols that suggest when an item must be hung to dry or washed in cold water. You’ve got to know your symbols.
People who keep up with the laundry also know there are equations to be balanced and formulas to be followed. How long can that grease-stained shirt sit in the hamper before it becomes hopeless? What is the ratio of vinegar to water for getting those road salt stains out from the hems of your trousers? Ignore the research findings at your own peril.
People who keep up with the laundry are also people of character. They are trustworthy. How many
tell-alls do you read that were written by laundresses? Who knows more about our dirty little secrets than the people who wash our clothes? The next time the President is looking for a national security adviser, maybe he should look in the laundry room. And while we’re talking about security, we really should plan ahead. If laundry ever comes to a complete halt, the world will get ugly…and FAST. We’ll need someone in homeland security who understands the world of wash.