Back in 2015, when I first devoted my life to becoming a house husband, I had to overcome my fear of laundry. I had done laundry on many occasions in the past, of course, but that was bachelor laundry, made up of easy-peasy cottons, wools, and polyesters. Stuff that’s simple to clean, dry, fold, and put away.

Circumstances had changed: I would now have to clean Ellen’s clothes.

I’d have to delve into delicate cycles; Dryell sheets; and wrap my brain around those flowing, gauzy fabrics that seem to exist in a constant state of wrinkled.

I’d have to learn which clothes dried on a rack, which ones dried on the low setting, and which ones weren’t supposed to get wet in the first place.

I’d have to find those hidden tags and decipher the nearly invisible, 3-point hieroglyphics printed upon them.

It was all so very daunting.

I made mistakes, of course. But I fought through my fear. I practiced and persisted until I was good at laundry. Until laundry came naturally to me. Until I became a Laundry Master.

I knew I earned my laundry black belt once I received praise from Ellen. She is my Sudsy Sensei.

“Your whites are whiter than white,” she told me one glorious afternoon. “Your brights are brighter than bright. And your sweaters are in need of no stretching. You are wise in the ways of the wash, Young Grasshopper.”

I bowed, and then, as is the custom, crane kicked Billy Zabka in the face.

Mastering a job is not just knowing the particulars of the job; it’s about understanding the quirks of the tools you need to work with. The Allegra washing machine was quite quirky. This ancient top loader had a lid that came off in my hands if I opened it with too much vigor. (I am nothing if not a vigorous lid-opener.) The adjustable feet for the washer refused to adjust, so I took to shoving various objects under them – quarters, folded up sheets of paper, whatever was on hand. Regardless of my efforts, the machine still often went wonky, shaking and twitching as if it was attending a tent revival meeting.

I learned to live with these eccentricities, until I couldn’t anymore.

The shimmies and shakes grew worse with each passing load. Then, one day, the washer made a break for it. It scuttled halfway across he laundry room floor before Ellen and I could wrestle it to the ground. Had we not been there to stop it, it probably would’ve climbed the basement stairs, raced to the curb, and hailed a NJ Transit bus to Hoboken.

“Time for a new machine,” Ellen said.

I had accepted my new job at NJCU (Motto: Please Notice Us!), so the job of buying a new washer was left to Ellen. As I attempted to make sense of Jersey City, she shopped.

The texts arrived in a furious, enthusiastic burst.

I got a great deal!

It was on sale!

It cost even less because it was the floor model!

It is the Top Of The Line!

When I came home at the end of the day, I found something strange and new in the laundry room. Lights flashed. Hidden gears and belts purred. The machine beeped a whimsical melody as if in greeting.

“Isn’t it great? It’s self balancing!” Ellen shouted. “No more uneven loads!”

That sounded cool.

“I can set a timer so it’ll wash clothes whenever I want it to! If I want to do a load at 2 a.m. it’ll start the wash at 2 a.m.!”

I didn’t quite see the purpose of laundry at 2 a.m., but OK.

“And it can sense how dirty our clothes are and lengthen or shorten the wash cycle accordingly.”

Call me a worrywart, but I’m not sure I want my washing machine “sensing” anything.

“And the washer has an app! I can program it from my phone!”

Now things were getting weird.

I peeked through the washer’s clear glass lid. The machine confidently hummed away as it sensed the dirtiness of a load of whites. I could tell the cycle had just begun, so I reached into my pants pocket for my handkerchief. I wanted to toss it in with the rest of the load.

The lid wouldn’t budge.

“What are you doing?” Ellen asked.

“I’m trying to throw in my handkerchief. But it…” I gave the lid another tug. I began to look for some kind release switch.

“You can’t open the lid during the cycle. It’s locked.”

“It’s…locked? You mean I can’t get at the clothes during the wash cycle? At all?”


This alarmed me. “But what if I need to get in there?”

“Why would you need to get in there?” she asked.

I didn’t know how to answer that one. “Um…emergencies?”

“What kind of an emergency?”

“The kind of emergency…” I began, “that I can’t come up with right now?”

But I could come up with an emergency.

It was an emergency to be at the mercy of a locked lid. It was an emergency when a machine could basically say, “That hankie of yours is going in the next load, so up yours, buddy.” It was an emergency when something as simple as a washing machine could boast its own app.

At that moment, a feeling came over me that I hadn’t felt in years: Fear. Fear of laundering. All of my hard work, all my training was meaningless now.

It was a brave new world. And the washer was back in control.

66 Replies to “Laundromike”

  1. Oh, dear Michael . . . I am wiping away tears of laughter after reading this one! As someone who recently faced the dilemma of purchasing a new washer and dealing with all the choices they now offer, I send my sympathies. Salespeople didn’t grasp that I wanted “NO” bells and whistles beyond being able to wash my clothes without going down to the river with a rock. I finally acquired a compromise washer and hours later learned that it wouldn’t start until I added the clothes so that it could decide just how soiled they were before locking down my lid!! At least you have found your way out of the laundry room!

  2. I appreciate this because I love my old-fashioned, can’t do anything but turn them on, washing machines! However, it sounds like you are way better at laundry than I am. I’ve never been complimented on my laundrying, and my general plan is to do all the loads on one day (so I’m not doing laundry on more than one day), dump them onto the floor in the family (yes, I put clean laundry on the floor, and no it is not folded), then turn up the music really loud and try to convince my kids and my husband that when you have to find all of your clothes in a giant unsorted pile and then fold them put them away, if there is music playing, it’s a LAUNDRY PARTY. And it’s fun.

    1. Wendy! I haven’t talked to you in ages! Good to hear from you!

      But, well, I don’t know how to break it to you, but what you described is not a party. It is a big ol’ pile of wrinkled, dust-bunnied, floor clothes.

    2. You are genius! Maybe if my sons would have had to fold their own, they wouldn’t have stuffed it (still folded) back in the dirty hamper in the attempt to clean their rooms.

  3. Right now in the basement is a washer trying to rock its way free, with all kinds of things stuffed under its feet to try and keep it under control. You are more than welcome to come and use my washer if it will make you feel better. I will even provide the laundry to go in it. I bow to your expertise as a Laundry Master.

  4. I have one of those and we walk by it on tiptoes. You heard about the electronics in your new car? When something goes wrong it’s expensive? Yeah, like that. Mine kept turning itself on and beeping off and on all day. Had to replace a ‘something’ panel. Six years old and $400. I like the old machines.

  5. We splurged on a newfangled frontload washer and few years ago. So far, it’s most reliable feature appears to be a greater ease in depositing wet clothing directly into the pets’ food dishes…

  6. Ha ha. We got one of those new-fangled washiing machine robots when we moved west. Ours doesn’t have an app, but it is sentient, locking lid and all. It also saves water, and I gotta tell you, Mike, my whites just don’t look white anymore. I miss the old rumbling floor-walker. Good luck!

  7. LOVE this! Your post brought back memories of our own washing machine trials and tribulations. Our machine would be unbalanced to the point that if we were on the first floor—machine on the second—the noise it made bouncing across the floor resembled a submachine gun firing. I have to say though, I’m with Ellen. I love all the bells, whistles, and tunes. Tell her, or maybe you would prefer not to, that I now have a cooktop and oven that are bluetooth and sing to me as well. 🙂

    1. You know what other machine had a lot of bells and whistles/ And could “sense” things? HAL 9000. Just sayin’.

      And let’s not discuss ovens. Believe it or not, Ellen purchased a new one today. I am afraid of will greet me.

  8. I don’t even need to tell you how good a writer you are. I just read so many words about a washing machine. Isn’t it awesome? Maybe one day I’ll write like you. You make me laugh so much.
    Oh, and about the laundry, I still don’t know how it works because I washed with my hands most of my life so kudos to you. Keep up the good work.

  9. I love it when I visit and find myself laughing out loud. I know all too well the walking washing machine. You are even braver with the computerized one! That would give me heart palpitations!

  10. We still have our old washer, top load, but it still works for now. The most excitement we get out of that is when the drain hose somehow comes loose and floods the laundry room, kitchen and bath, depending on how fast I notice. Hey those floors have to get cleaned sometime.
    I did just buy a new sewing machine though, that I go in and look at once a day, comparing to the manual, and then eventually just walk away from. I’m still sizing it up. Not ready for the gunfight yet.
    Great post Mike!

  11. You can count me among the disgruntled front-load washer owners whose warranty expired just before the bling-blang thing went wonky. Your tale shook my grimace of pained familiarity into a grin, even if my whites are dingy.

  12. I’m one of those weird people that doesn’t mind doing the laundry. But if the floors need to be swept, I will put that off ’til next Tuesday for a hamburger today! Wait, what were we talking about? Oh yeah… laundry. We had to replace our washing machine and dryer not too long ago and I wanted another one JUST like the other one! NO, I didn’t want a front loader, NO, I didn’t want one I could program with my phone and NO I absolutely did not want one that cost the same as a used car! So, I got exactly what I wanted and I’m good… carry on! 🙂 ❤

      1. Hey! Before you hurt your voting finger (not the one you use to show your true feelings about you-know-who), please head over to Susanna’s Valentiny contest. I’m a finalist. There are some terrific stories just waiting to be admired. Cheers!

  13. I was sitting here, mouth open, at your stupendousness. To describe doing laundry in such intricate loving detail – may my heart be still. And then, the sad story of the demise of your rocknrolling washing machine. I wonder where she went? Is she rocking for someone else now? Maybe she’s searching for you, traveling the subway toward Jersey City.

  14. OK, first things first: we must always keep in mind that laundry can be a very “delicate” matter. Beeps and boops and bops should not be considered “normal.” See, the manufacturers don’t take into consideration that they could be “soiling” the reputation of Laundry Masters such as yourself, who’ve mastered their trade with very specific tools and methods, such as easy-open lids. I’m thinking we should work up a “heavy duty” petition and let those scoundrels know they’re not pulling the “wool” over our eyes. After all, we do NOT have “air fluff” for brains! 😉

    This actually did make me laugh out loud! LOL
    “…the machine still often went wonky, shaking and twitching as if it was attending a tent revival meeting.”

    “The machine beeped a whimsical melody as if in greeting.” I’ll have you know I HATE that “whimsical” hello and goodbye. The only time there’s a hint of enjoyment is when I purposely press the washer and dryer buttons slightly off sync and it goes from irritatingly corny to “kinda” cool 🙂 And by the corny quality of the tune, It’s very obvious our machine was NOT Made in America lol

    A few years ago my mother decided to finally buy the front-loading state-of-the-art machines she’s always wanted AND both at the same time ’cause she’s never had a matching set since they always break down at different times. It’s not that the machines aren’t good ’cause they are, BUT—there are definitely drawbacks *sigh* With ours being a front-loading machine, I understand why it locks, but if you catch it quickly enough or during a part of the cycle when there’s not a lot of water ours will unlock. Maybe yours is that way? I don’t understand why it locks when it’s a top-loader (?). One important feature ours lacks is the ability to JUST “spin.” Sometimes I want to just wring something that’s wet, not anything more, but the closest thing is the “Rinse and Spin” cycle which is a full 19 minutes *SIGH* And there’s a funny smell and the one time I tried to use one of those “fresheners” I thought there was no fragrance ’cause Oxy-Clean was in it. Meanwhile it contaminated (for chemically-sensitive me) the machine for weeks with a disgusting fragrance.

    I would say I’ve got maybe a red or brown belt in laundry ’cause I’m not SUPER fussy 😉 It’s good enough for me!

    And I have to tell you, Mike—you know I love your posts and I think you’re an amazing writer, but I’d say your blog is probably the only one for which I enjoy reading all the comments too! 😀 Thanks for the giggles!

  15. Mike, what a terrific post. It is so nice to be back here on a Thursday, readin— wait, it’s a Tuesday. You write on Tuesdays? Huh. Anyway, I’m so glad you are back! I am anxiously awaiting more art from you, here on the post and maybe on my wall (if I were to win).

    I love that you are a laundry genius. Just my kind of guy. I can wash, but don’t. There is no story about my washing. I am lucky, I guess, that I do not do my laundry. “The Help” takes care of this. (And by “The Help” I mean the terrific young woman who helps me with household stuff, staying healthy, and not stressing out too much–my aide.) My washer and dryer, which are a mixed couple, came with the house.The washer is a commercial-grade behemoth with the smallest agitator bar I’ve ever seen. It’s the perfect machine for quilts and other big items, but it is the slowest non-agitator-bar machine alive. But, hey, it came with the house!

    So, meet back here again on Thur– Tuesdays, now? Do you abbreviate Tuesday with a “T” and Thursday with an “R?” Just curious.

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