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Imminent CollapseLaundering the Ugly Truth

By Bill Andrews
CAMPUS LIFE EDITOR

As you may or may not have noticed, summer is drawing to a close, bringing the school year inexorably closer. Back in the proverbial day, by the end of summer most of us were almost glad: we got to buy new school supplies and the promise of a year of academic alacrity was filling our little heads. Some of us remain that way: my fianc e, for example, still gets a particular thrill out of buying just the right pens before the year begins. And even if we’re not exactly overjoyed at the thought of spending yet another term here, still we are grateful for the changing scenery of the seasons, since we human beings crave change. The thing is, though, some things didn’t change for me over the summer. The one constant since last term, amidst all the job and weather changes, has been the necessary evil of doing laundry.

For years (years!) I have dreaded doing laundry. In fact, my freshman year (approximately during the Carter administration) when friends from home would ask if it was really hard here I always said the same thing: “It’s kinda hard, but the worst thing of all is doing the laundry.” It’s not that I’m averse to physical work or chores; unlike my ‘everyone-in-my-family-is-an-engineer’ friends, I come from a more modest household, where not doing chores meant I didn’t get my allowance of $3.50 a week. And it’s not that I think it’s beneath me to do laundry, since I willingly do so many things that are clearly beneath doing laundry (another column for another time). I simply don’t like doing my laundry @mit.edu.

East Campus, for instance, makes it particularly tough. I lived on the fourth floor (41W) for a few years, meaning it always felt, quite literally, like I was descending into hell whenever I did laundry. Going down the stairs, the gigantic bag heavier with each step, I’d eventually find myself on the ground floor staring at that gaping maw, the narrow, dark passageway which led to the laundry room.

Saying a silent prayer, I would step down, deeper into the heat, into the steam of the EC basement, the random noises getting louder and louder in my ears until finally I stood before a laundry machine – a gleaming white slot machine, minus the slot. Would this one work, or would it break down five minutes after leaving, throwing my whole laundry schedule into confusion? Would it mangle my clothes, shrinking and discoloring with wild abandon? Would it call its accomplice in five minutes to come steal my clothes and make hundreds in the black market? You never knew what kind of trouble your dirty laundry could get you into.

Swiping my card (on the fortunate days when the reader wasn’t broken), I’d hope beyond hope first that the washing machines liked me, then that the dryers hadn’t heard anything bad about me either. After all, there’s nothing quite so disgusting as reaching into what you expect to be nice, clean, dry clothes and feeling that sickly, sneeze-reminding dampness of an evil dryer’s work. Finally, if all goes well and fortune had smiled upon me, the only thing left was the long, arduous trek back to my room. After the infernal conditions I’d been in, the rest was child’s play, and I’d ascend the stairway to heaven, while listening to Led Zeppelin.

I’m sweating just from remembering it all. Well, that and the heat. Nowadays, I do my laundry at Senior House, and that’s no picnic either. I have never lived on West Campus, nor have I ever investigated the laundry conditions over there, but my male’s intuition tells me they’re probably similar. Well, maybe a little better actually, since (unlike so many of my East Side compatriots) students there still actually do their laundry. Still, it’s an unpleasant adventure wherever you are. Just one of the prices of civilization, I suppose, and in the end it’s much better than practices were 100 years ago.

The thing is, though, you’d think we could improve things, especially being MIT and everything. We should have, like, little nanobots that go through and clean our clothes while we’re wearing them. Or, perhaps, a new type of laser strong enough to burn up dirt and stains but gentle enough for our clothes to, you know, not catch fire. Now that would be a welcome change from my summer routine, something to really get excited about this term. Well, that and some cooler weather.