Exclusives: Raising Kate
PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (email@example.com)
7 , 2001:
Living with laundry
How the Princeton
experience includes becoming friends with the lint trap
By Kate Swearengen '04
My friend Liz accosted
me in the dining hall last week. "You don't have any clothes
in the laundry room now, do you?" she asked.
"No," I said.
"I did laundry yesterday. Why?"
"Because some jerk
took my soaking-wet laundry out of the drier and put it in a big
heap on the counter," she breathlessly told me. "So I
pulled her clothes out of the drier, threw them on the floor, and
stepped on them a few times. Just wanted to make sure it wasn't
I pulled my laundry out
of the washing machine a few days ago to find several pairs of men's
underwear twined disgustingly around my khaki bellbottoms. The week
before that I had to rescue my laundry basket, which had become
moored to the counter by the ever-present sticky layer of lint and
At Princeton, law and
order is maintained through the dual entities of Public Safety,
which protects students from their own or others' excessively boorish
behavior, and the Honor Code, which protects students from excessively
high grades on midterms or final exams. When it comes to the laundry
rooms, however, even these formidable constraints on student behavior
are impotent. The laundry rooms are Princeton's Wild West, where
not even mild detergent and static guard will insure that your clothes
make it through the wash safely. Some students sit in the sordid
laundry rooms like grim cowboys, keeping watch on their sudsy herds.
Others leave their laundry unattended, returning hours later to
search for it amid the massive outcroppings of abandoned socks and
mildewed sleeping bags. The situation is best expressed through
the words on a black laundry bag left on a counter in the 1915 Hall
laundry room: "If this bag moves, shoot it."
There are, of course,
alternatives. An advertisement on the Princeton Student Agencies
calendar reads: "Is that dirty laundry standing up on its own?
Call the Student Laundry Agency for help!" A paragraph in the
Student Guide to Princeton warns against the "total carnage"
inherent in the Princeton laundry experience, and presents the laundry
agency as a viable alternative. The two girls who live across the
hall from my friend Charlotte have their clothes washed by the Student
Laundry Agency. They also have water delivered weekly by the Student
Cooler Agency and receive two subscriptions to the Daily Princetonian,
both of which are lobbed, untouched, into the trash can at the end
of the day. What's my point? Appealing as the laundry service option
may sound, there's something fundamentally democratic about washing
your own underwear. Besides, laundry service is expensive.
Membership in a varsity
athletic team does not carry the special privileges that it used
to. My friend Lauren once heard a group of football players complaining
about the situation. "Athletes here are abused. If I were playing
for Nebraska, I wouldn't have to work for my grades," one said.
Although participation on an athletic team is not a guarantee of
an easy A, and although the "big man on campus" has all
but disappeared, membership on a varsity sports team does carry
certain privileges. During their sports seasons, athletes are provided
with giant diaper pins with which they can attach their sweaty workout
clothes. These bundles are dropped into giant hampers outside the
locker rooms, and are then washed by a laundry service. Elated at
this perquisite, I eagerly hauled my sheets and dinosaur-patterned
comforter down to the boathouse, only to discover that the system
applied only to clothes worn during practice.
As nice as it is to be
able to dictate my own schedule and to eat junk food with impunity,
life was better before I was introduced to the lint trap. Back in
the day, when my mom did the wash, I always ended up with an even
number of socks.
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