Coming Clean 

Why I'd like to see some people at the laundry.

We are hearing more about doing our part. Making the world a better place, and all that. And if you can't get with the program and join the love train, then get ready for someone to stab the tires on your SUV.

I reflect on these things in one place where good behavior and rules and polite admonishments have always flourished: the coin-operated laundry.

My washing machine is broken and I am here, and perhaps those executives should be here, too. Why? Because as sure as the Tide, there are rules here. You do things a certain way. Can't you tell? What other business posts seemingly ancient signs demanding (politely) such things as "Please Do Not Sit On the Machines & the Table" and "Be Considerate! Remove Clothes Promptly!"

It's been this way for as long as that dryer sheet has been stuck back there behind that dusty pipe. And don't you know people who could re-learn the basics?

1. Everyone should be miserable sometimes.

It will be hot. No matter where you stand, a rotary fan will send a gentle breeze of flaming air to kiss your sweaty cheek. Don't expect to get out of here soon, either. Hear that mother who keeps telling her kid, "Because I said so, that's why"? The kid will be saying the same to his own children before the spin cycle on your Speed Queen ends. And be prepared to feel dirty. These places may exist entirely to get things clean, but you will long to escape so you can submerge yourself in a stainless-steel tub of surfactants, hot water and phosphate-free sudsing solutions.

2. No one cares how important you are.

Big PowerPoint presentation tomorrow? Big whoop. We all have our problems. Quarters is quarters, and yours are worth 25 cents too, bucko. If the change machine spits out your crumpled dollar bill, I may give you change if you ask politely. Or if I feel like it. Then who has the power? Maybe you wear a tie to work. But it looks like you wear frayed underwear, too. Join the trenches. We're all in this together. Everybody here's gotta show 'em and fold 'em. Everybody here's gotta wait their turn.

3. You must learn to get along with others.

You come here in your cone of silence. That's OK. Everyone enters the zone. Do your business, move along. Separate yourself from others like your warms and colds. But short of dousing yourself in bleach, you will eventually be forced to interact with strangers. There will be a little girl who says hi. A man who asks if he can borrow the rolling basket. A chatty woman who feels a connection because gosh hasn't it been hot lately and don't you hate doing laundry so do I and I know it's Friday but that's why I'm here because I just don't want to be stuck here on Saturday and I love life I remember this essay by Robert Fulghum where he said he used Cheer because he liked the idea of happy laundry that's why I use Cheer do you ever use Cheer?

Just remember, these people have the best of intentions. They may even tell you which dryer works best. Such knowledge should be passed down to others. Don't be the one to break the chain.

Now go do your laundry. Just not at my house. The machine is broken. S


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