“Marriage is about the most expensive way for the average man to get laundry done.”— Actor Burt Reynolds
“Laundry and grocery shopping,” anguished my young friend last week. At 19, he is just ending his first year out of the nest and fending for himself at college.
His comment made me smile, recalling my own challenges adjusting to college life. The days of eating out to catch the Dairy Queen “Special of the Week” and dining in on whatever variety of TV dinners were on sale at the grocery store. And just for perspective, that was before microwave was even a word.
Among those memories was a fall morning many years ago, the day I came to appreciate the technical knowledge and skills required to continue wearing clean clothes. Like college freshmen before us, roommates Ronnie Lilly, Mike Williams, and I were forced to face time at the laundromat while pursuing higher education at Kilgore College. Laundry just seemed to take a back seat to higher priority items like visiting hours at the girls’ dorm and who drove the coolest cars.
Things went well for the first week. However, around the middle of that second week, class assignments got down and dirty in direct proportion to laundry piles in the closet.
As I recall, it was a Saturday when I lost track of how many times I had recycled my last “clean” shirt. My hopes had been to tag along with one of the other guys to pick up some wash day wisdom. Recollections don’t include where Mike might have been that day. Possibly, wisely on his way home for the weekend, taking his laundry with him. Ronnie and I decided there was no denying the soap, water, and washing machine routine any longer. It was also no coincidence that we selected an establishment right across the street from the girls’ dorm.
A tight budget, another conversation with my young friend last week, dictated our direct approach to slaying this laundry dragon. Put it all in as few machines as we could and add lots of soap. “Nothing to this,” we agreed, wondering why we had put it off so long.
Washing machines loaded and churning away, there was nothing left to do except attempt friendly conversation with the other laundry patrons in hopes of wearing a freshly laundered shirt that night on a date.
I think I was the first one to notice the increase in soap suds oozing from under the washing machine lid. Ignoring it didn’t work. The more I tried to ignore it, the worse it got. I nudged Ronnie. He looked, shrugged his shoulders, and went back to the promising conversation he was having with one of the dorm tenants from across the street.
When the foam lava flow ran over the side of the machine toward the floor, talking among the other patrons and nodding toward the eruption made it even harder for us to act nonchalantly. Finally, we let the diversion serve as our opportunity to slowly make our way to the door and leave the soapy situation behind.
A subsequent shopping trip to replace the abandoned items made a tight budget squeak that much louder. Luckily, TV dinners were on sale that next week. The bigger casualty was Ronnie losing his promising prospect for a date that night. The last time he saw her, she was with the others at the laundromat, attempting to locate the owner of the clothes in the over-soaped washing machine.
Chuckling at my coming clean on the laundromat story, my young friend said, “I guess it was better when you got married and had someone to do your laundry for you.”
“Sit down.” I told him. “There are topics more critical than laundry that we obviously need to discuss.”
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.
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