Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the laundry room. While I shuffle around carrying clothes and detergent, my mind often wanders to thoughts of home and family.
During one of my last nights in my Los Angeles home, my mother sat with me outside in the cool, dry air that one never finds here in Florida and told me stories about her life in college. I listened to tales of her nocturnal roommate, the bizarre situations she dealt with as an RA and the countless memories she made during her four years.
She passed on words of wisdom, such as, “Passive-aggressive Post-it Notes are not an effective means of communication,” “Never drink coffee past 1 a.m.,” and “Stay with your laundry when you wash your clothes.”
So far, I’ve stayed true to her teachings – except for her dubious last rule. Stay with my laundry? I feel safe in the dorms. I have a basic level of inherent trust for the residents of my building. Why would I spend 40 minutes shifting uncomfortably on top of a rattling washing machine when I could be in my room, studying quietly? No one’s going to steal my clothes.
So far, no one has. Recently, I began watching my laundry, but not because I felt the need to catch possible thieves. Anyone who has tried to do laundry on a Sunday morning understands the sinking feeling when, instead of finding an open washing machine, there are instead eight consecutive ones full of sopping, wet clothes with no one around to claim them.
I have a theory that this frustration combined with the sheer displeasure of having to do laundry at all is actually a good thing. Communal struggle brings people together. I can laugh with the engineering major next to me when I discover that the door to my dryer is broken, or sympathize with the musician who asks to borrow my detergent. The frequency of these simple interactions is why laundry rooms are some of the most social places on campus.
Beyond being a place to meet new people, laundry rooms also serve as a study commons, a quiet place to call your friends back home and a space to meditate and decompress at the end of each week. The atmosphere resembles that of a coffee shop at midday: students sit on washing machines with their laptops, talk to parents on the phone, chat about calculus and sip on coffee from Einstein’s.
College students have mastered the art of the portable, personal office. The sitting-on-a-washing-machine-while-uploading-homework-to-Blackboard kind of cubicle. It’s how we move through every day when the line separating work and home is nonexistent. No, it’s not ideal, and yes, it smells overwhelmingly like dryer sheets, but it works – and that’s all that matters.
Mackenzie Karbon is a freshman majoring in jazz performance.
Featured image courtesy Pixabay user Ryan McGuire