Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Laundry... A DIRTY Process

I hated when I needed to do laundry my sophomore year in college. The apartment complex I lived in was divided into two open air quads. I lived on the third floor of the east quad, the only laundry facilities in this outdated building were on the second floor of the west quad. East quad third floor residents loathed laundry day, quietly and more often than not, not so quietly complaining on the treacherous trek with our laundry baskets filled to capacity. Never did I imagine I would look back on this nightmare of a system and think as I do today, what I would give to have those luxuries back.

Laundry is a complex thing here in Chile if only because it is so darn simple. While most of our neighbors use little and effective machines we Associates do it the old fashioned way. Step one, fill the outdoor sink up with warm water. Step two, sprinkle in detergent. Step three, locate the hand washboard. After that, life gets dirty.

The basic idea is you take whatever item of clothing you have, scrunch it up, and scrub and grind until the odor and whatever stains once existed are removed. After we scrub all the clothes in soapy water you have to drain the sink, refill it with clean water, and then “rinse” the clothes. After the rinsing is complete, we go into spin cycle mode. Given our technology we have been working with to this point I will put your mind at ease. Spin cycle is not, as the simple living image might suggest, spinning in circles really really fast with your clothing. Rather, we take the clothes three shirts or four pairs of boxers (with a pair of sox or two mixed in to push the envelope) over to a tiny contraption known as the spinner which, true to its name, spins the clothes so much so that a large amount of the water drains out of the side of the spinner. For some reason I get a kick out of seeing how much water can drain out of my clothes, the most entertaining is my fleece jacket and jeans, at the same time! After that, we pin the clothes up on the clothes line and wait until they dry.

I would have never guessed it but a machine is much more gentile than human hands ever could be and obviously much more effective. My jeans are slowly wearing away where I scrub the hardest. My socks are no longer snuggly soft and my shirts are stretching out and slowly changing colors. As for effectiveness, I have learned that human hands are prone to cheating, trying to wash less than needed. I have paid the price one too many times with clean shirts that smell dirty, because, well, they still are dirty, even though “I washed them!”

And yet, like doing the dishes, I have sickly started to take a minor amount of enjoyment out of this archaic chore. Don’t get me wrong, the moment I see a washing machine I am hitting that thing up, if nothing more than for the sake of my poor clothes. But in the past, doing laundry was a chore because of the 10 minutes it took to take the clothes to the machines and back. Worst of all, God forbid, was the time I had to pass in the comforts of my apartment as the machine did its work. Now, laundry takes a large investment of laborious time, sometimes a couple hours. But it is a couple hours of good old fashioned elbow grease intermixed with some moments of silent solitude to reflect. Like the dishes, it requires much time and little thought, giving way to moments of silence, solitude, and if done right, solid reflection and clean clothes! Done wrong, well, let’s not talk about it…


Anonymous said...

Hi Patrick -
I think you should have your dad do your laundry while he is there. That's what fathers are for. :~}
Hope all is well.

Carrie said...

hey patrick,
long time, no talk. so, i thought i{d check out your blog. :) hope you are doing well. would love to catch up some time.
cheers from bolivia,