By John Gladden
When Dad does laundry, my family knows a few simple rules are in effect.
No. 1: Any cash, change, valuable Pokémon cards, gift certificates or deeds to real estate investments found in the washer or dryer belong to Dad. Virtue may be its own reward, but those wadded up dollar bills at the bottom of the washer are going straight into the tractor fund.
No. 2: Dad does not check to make sure pockets are empty before putting clothes into the washer.
Why? See Rule No. 1. If you were to leave a $5 gift card to Dairy Queen in the pocket of your jeans and I reached in and found it while getting clothes ready to wash, there would be no moral gray area. It was in your pocket, therefore you can make a solid argument the card belongs to you. You don’t have to be Judge Judy to figure this out.
But, if a gift card or similar object of value is discovered rattling around the dryer by some hard-working dad, who can say with certainty to whom it belonged? If it was important to you, why did you leave it in your pants? Isn’t such carelessness tantamount to saying, “Here, Dad. Take this as a small token of my appreciation for the fact that you are willing to touch my dirty socks with your bare hands and return them, clean, to my dresser drawer. You deserve it.”
While it might be more noble of me to go on a holy quest to return the gift card to its proper owner, such righteousness is almost never rewarded with a Buster Bar.
Also, I do not check your pockets because I see what you put into your pockets — used tissues, chocolate-smeared candy bar wrappers, muddy rocks for your collection, the random feminine product. No way am I reaching in there.
Rule No. 3: Dad sorts clothing by type, not by color or material. Usually this works out just fine. Dress clothes go together. Towels and cloth napkins go together. Underwear goes together. Never shall these be mixed, so saith The Dad. I do not want your underwear washed with the napkin I use to wipe ketchup from the corner of my mouth.
I know everything comes out in the wash, as they say. That’s what creeps me out.
Rule No. 4: If it’s not in the hamper, it’s not getting washed. Dad does not wade into children’s bedrooms and sift through piles of clothing trying to discern what can be worn again, what is dirty, and what is clean laundry that got thrown on the floor.
Besides, do you really want me poking around your room? I’m afraid to go in there, frankly. Mom is courageous enough to do this, but not Dad. I find enough trouble on my own without going and looking for more under your bed. We are both better off if I don’t know what’s under there.
Rule No. 5: If it’s a nice day, I’m hanging the laundry out on the line to dry. I don’t care if every car that goes by can see your underwear flapping in the breeze. I don’t care if you think line-drying makes your jeans and the bathroom towels a little stiff. It saves me a nickel on electricity and you’ll thank me when your pillow case smells like fresh air and sunshine.
Just be mindful of the occasional lady bug that gets folded into your sheets. And if a robin rested on the clothesline while your pajamas were hanging out there, well, that’s just a chance we all have to take.
Rule No. 6: When Dad hangs or folds clean clothes, I do not turn your things right side out. If you peeled off your shirt and tossed it into the laundry inside out, that is exactly how it will be returned to you. It is one of those small, meaningless moral victories in life a dad must cling to.
I make an exception for Mom, because I am trying to stay in her good graces.
Rule No. 7: Everybody’s socks look the same to me. If you find someone else’s sock in your drawer, just put it on. Don’t complain. Nobody but you will know, anyway.
Rule No. 8: Lint from the trap in the dryer goes into the compost pail. It’s mostly cotton. When it decomposes along with the potato peels and melon rinds, I will mix it into the soil of the vegetable garden, where it will help the green beans and tomatoes grow.
I know this is disturbingly like eating your own socks and underwear, but get over it. I have. A dad has to be able to occasionally ignore reality and put certain thoughts out of his mind. It’s a survival mechanism.
Next week: Dad’s Rules for Loading and Unloading the Dishwasher. I’ll be sharing a few tips I learned back in ‘Nam before you were born. Don’t miss it. Take notes. You’ll be glad you did.