homepage logo


By Staff | Mar 1, 2013

The two words that have done the most to shape the course of civilization are laundry day.

Back in caveman times, there was no such thing as laundry. There were only clothes, which the cavemen wore, unwashed, until they rotted away.

I mean the clothes, not the cavemen.

The only way a caveman’s clothes might get washed would be if he were caught out in a rainstorm. This the cavemen saw as an inconvenience, certainly not as any form of progress.

Cavewomen regarded this lack of cleanliness as disgusting. But there was really nothing they could do about it.

Then someone discovered soap. The cave guys regarded the stuff as little more than a mild curiosity. Soap was good for making bubbles, which was good for entertaining the kids. A cave guy might also use a piece of soap to create a lather on his lips, saying, “Ha, ha. Look. I’ve got rabies.” This never failed to elicit peals of laughter from the other cave guys.

It was also noted that soap helped remove dirt. The cave guys regarded this to be of small consequence; the cavewomen, however, latched onto that particular attribute with a fanatical fury.

Before the cave guys knew it, the cavewomen had instituted laundry day. It was initially billed as an annual event but mission creep quickly set in and laundry day began to be held every week.

Washing laundry on a regular basis meant that water needed to be piped in and the dirty water drained away. Over time, this gave rise to water and sewer districts. Bureaucrats then had to be hired to supervise things and politicians had to be elected to supervise the bureaucrats.

A direct line can thus be drawn from the discovery of soap to the Watergate scandal.

Laundry day was a huge event back when I was a kid. With eight children in the house, laundry day involved a level of logistics that are normally associated with fielding a small army.

Clothes were sorted and placed in piles all around the living room. A kid might be tempted to jump onto these clothes heaps as if they were denim leaf piles, but we somehow knew better.

Hot water was poured into the tub of our venerable Speed Queen wringer-washer. Clothes and soap were added and the Speed Queen began to churn with its implacable wigwag motion.

Once the clothes were deemed clean, they were sent through the wringer and into a rinse tub. It always fascinated me to watch the wringer, its rolls squeezing the wet clothes down to a mere shadow of themselves. I often wondered what would happen if a person got caught in those rollers, if one would be reduced to a two-dimensional version of oneself.

This wasn’t due to a morbid imagination as much as an overdose of Saturday morning cartoons.

By the time my wife and I were wed, laundry day had been demoted to an everyday event. It was sad to see this noble institution lose its cachet.

Being a dairy farmer means being OK with a certain amount of dirt, muck and assorted gunk. My wife, on the other hand, saw it as her sworn duty to conduct a fulltime, all-out war on every form of grime.

For instance, I was OK with it if my coveralls were spattered with large quantities of, um, stuff. In my opinion, they didn’t needed washing until they could stand by themselves.

My wife thinks that even the tiniest fleck of dirt on a piece of clothing qualifies it for a stint in the washing machine. I couldn’t see the point, especially since the freshly cleaned clothing would likely become bespattered shortly after I began chores.

“You’re right,” she exclaimed during one of our frank exchanges on this topic. “Why even bother taking a shower or a bath? Why don’t you just douse yourself with cologne at the end of the day and call it good?”

“Finally.” I replied, “You’re beginning to see things my way.”

Turned out that this was not within the range of correct responses. I must have forgotten to calibrate my sarcasm detector that day.

Much progress has been made in the war on dirt. Our youngest son is a shining example of said progress.

When he was in college, my wife supplied him with rolls of quarters to use at the laundromat.

We later learned that many of these quarters were diverted to other purposes. When asked how he kept his clothes clean, he replied with one word: Febreze.

I have two questions: why in blazes didn’t he share this valuable tip with me sooner? And do they make Febreze For Men?

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page