If you’re a striver, a Type-A go-getter, a self-starting ambitious alpha who leans into it every single day, I’ve got an important message: give up. You’ll never get there. Because even if there is a there, there’ll be a new there as soon as you turn the corner. So you may as well put on some sweatpants and chill out. This message brought to you by my laundry.
Laundry is annoying. Fortunately, during the past 15 years I’ve managed to systematically reduce the aggravation inherent in the pursuit of clean underwear. When I lived in Beacon Hill, I kept my laundry in a huge canvas sack and periodically hauled it to a laundromat several blocks away. This was not easy because everything on Beacon Hill is built on a slope that requires carabiners and a belay. Also, I’d do laundry so infrequently that by the time I dragged out the clothes bag, it would weigh about 230 pounds and contain every garment aside from seasonal costumes. So I’d hike the via ferrata trail to the laundromat, dressed as a leprechaun, shouldering a bag that looked like it should be atop an ox heading to a Romanian grain market. Then I’d sit there for two hours wondering how there was an imbalance of washers to dryers, finally getting toward the end only to realize that I was out of quarters and the change machine was broken. So I’d hoof it to the nearest convenience store, which in that area only sold cigarillos and Preparation H.
I’d buy some cigarillos and Preparation H just so I could get some change, then return to the laundromat to find that someone took my clothes out of the washer and put them on a dirty lint-covered table that’s been touched by a thousand skid marks. Eventually, though, I’d cleaned all my J. Crew rugby shirts and Gap khakis, so I’d hire a donkey and a Sherpa and trek back up to our lavish 660-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment. Where I’d leave everything in the bag, because my room had no room. In a sad form of irony, my bedroom was a converted laundry room.
My next place, in Bay Village, was a big improvement: communal laundry right across the hall. At a stroke, a major annoyance in my life was removed. Or so I thought. While the new setup no longer required going outside, it did require interaction with the Ancient Laundry Sheriff. This was a guy who lived next to the basement laundry room and took it upon himself to monitor all business related to the washers and dryers, specifically the timing of the washer-to-dryer transition. If you threw some laundry in the washer and then dillydallied more than two minutes after the completion of the cycle, you’d find your clothes removed and placed beneath a handwritten note to the effect of, “Don’t leave your clothes in the washer all day! Other people have laundry to do! I’m weird and I just touched your underpants!” Doing laundry meant watching the clock like Tom Brady in the two-minute drill or stepping directly into a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a troll with OCD.
These days I live in laundry nirvana, or so you’d think. Got my own gear, LG front-loaders that play a happy little jingle when the spin cycle’s done or your towels are suitably warm and fluffy. And still, contentedness eludes me. I tried positioning the washer and dryer so that their doors open away from each other, providing a clear path from washer to dryer. But it soon became clear that the dryer needs to be on the left, to line up with the dryer vent. With the washer on the right, the door swings out to create a hurdle, a border crossing between the lands of damp and fluffy. The first day I made the switch, I heard my wife heaving sodden denim over the blockade, dropping socks on the floor and generally getting increasingly irritated until she exclaimed, “I can’t live like this!” I think she was joking, partly, but maybe also pretty serious. Probably only 95 percent serious.
It’s an unfortunate artifact of human evolution, but we’re much better calibrated to identify irritations than we are to appreciate the banal pleasures of the status quo. I mean, last year my contact lenses constantly felt like dirty Frisbees, so I had my eyesight magically repaired with lasers. So, do I wake up every day and scream, “I can see!” while weeping tears of gratitude? No. I get mad at my toothbrush holder, which is too big, so my toothbrush keeps falling out.
Perhaps my ongoing laundry dissatisfaction is exacerbated by the fact that I once had a fleeting glimpse of perfection. My wife’s parents were living in Singapore and we went to visit. They had a housekeeper, and she’d do your laundry—you threw clothes in a hamper and they reappeared in your dresser. Even my underwear was ironed, with starch. You know, maybe a little too much starch.