Etiquette & superstition: laundry


I’m not going to get all cutesy with this topic and make the etiquette part of the post about airing one’s dirty laundry in public or on social media (same thing), because I think it’s a little too obvious and it’s just common sense anyway. You don’t always have to show a sunny face to the world at large, but as countless memes will remind you, Facebook is neither your therapist nor your diary. But you knew that already. Let’s talk about real laundry instead.

ETIQUETTE: Oh, the shared laundry machine. Whether you’re at a coin laundromat or using the facilities in the basement of your apartment building, sooner or later you are going to come across unattended laundry that is left sitting in a washing machine or dryer long after the machine has done its thing. And you need to do your laundry, and there are no other machines available. Is it rude to take the clothes out of the machine so that you may use it?

No. No, it’s not. Provided you deposit the laundry in a clean area (a spare basket or the top of the machine, for instance), everybody in America seems to be on board with taking the clothes out if you have waited a reasonable amount of time for the owner of the clothes to retrieve them. Let’s say 15-30 minutes after the wash or dry cycle has finished. If you are transferring someone else’s clothes out of a washer, don’t throw the load into a dryer and start the dryer thinking you are being a good samaritan. Some of those clothes might be line dry only… and now you’re not a good samaritan, you’re the jerk who shrank your neighbor’s merino sweater.

SUPERSTITION: If you wash a new article of clothing during a new moon, the clothes will never fit right. And if you wash clothes on New Year’s Day, someone in your family will die soon. The day of the week that you do your laundry also has some effect either on the outcome of that laundry or your general nature. I’m just going to quote directly from the Radfords’ Encyclopedia of Superstition for this one:

“‘They that wash on Monday, have the whole week to dry.
They that wash on Tuesday, are not so much arye.
They that wash on Wednesday, may get their clothes clean.
They that wash on Thursday, are not so much to mean.
They that wash on Friday, wash for their need.
But they that wash on Saturday, are clarty-paps indeed.’

NOTE: Clarty-paps means dirty sluts.” Duly noted.

Photo from Reeve Photograph Collection via National Museum of Health and Medicine on Flickr

Cartoons and uncomfortable situations

Yesterday was a confusing day. I picked up an odd job via one of those sites you pick up odd jobs from – my job was to pick up someone’s comforter, wash it at a laundromat, and return it – and I got stood up. I showed up where I was supposed to pick up the blanket, buzzed the apartment buzzer, and there was no answer. I texted the client – no answer. Neighbors came in and out of the apartment complex and offered to let me in, but nobody knew who this person was that I was supposed to meet. I stayed outside and texted again. I buzzed the buzzer again. And texted. And buzzed. I got in my car and texted again after fifteen minutes, and then after a half hour. Nothing.

After about an hour, I left and texted the client that I had left. I finally got a text back – “Buzz the buzzer. utdm.” Not knowing what utdm meant (under the door mat? up the down move?) I responded that I had tried buzzing the buzzer several times but had left. Then I got one last text that made no sense. I reported the situation to member services for the site and cancelled the job.

I was a little freaked out as I wasn’t sure if I had just escaped a mugging situation or what, so I parked my car while I calmed down, and noticed that I was in front of my favorite local swap meet store, but all of the store front art was different. The drawings of tricycles and bleach and mittens with eyeballs had been replaced with a mural of cartoon characters. I recognized some of them,

but I wasn’t sure why Tweety Bird was carrying a caveman club,

I didn’t know who this toddler was or why he was drinking a beer,

and the only thing I could guess this guy was supposed to be

was the elusive Number One from The Prisoner. When I came across the Shroud of Turin with a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos bag above it,


I was ready to call it a day.

Now that I’ve had time to reflect on it, I’m thinking that this no-show laundry job was nothing sinister but just the modern equivalent of a prank call, but what kind of lame prank is that? It’s as much a mystery to me as Flamin’ Hot Jesus.


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