Dirty Laundry

“Kick’ em when they’re up, kick ‘em when they’re down, we need dirty laundry.” Don Henley

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It’s a dirty, grimy world out there. Plenty of dirt to go around. Nobody misses out. People sling it every day. Touch anything, touch anybody, verbally or physically, dirty laundry.

Detachment avoids contamination. Back off six feet, mask up, be seen, not heard. Avoid contact. Keep your eyes in their sockets. They’re a wandering menace, prone to take you on a trip your body can’t handle. The stench of dirty laundry follows closer than a smelly shadow.

Everyday words are dirty laundry. Not just expletives, but regular, household words. The dirt in the heart taints them. Words can collect dirt almost as fast as a Wuhan scientist can disappear. Their slime can coat you quicker than a politician can say “fully paid for,” or “build back better.”

Pick up the morning paper, wade into the mucky world of words oozing with shallow insincerity, “I know you’re hurting, and we’re all in this together.” Tell that to someone whose house Ida just blew away, or whose spouse died of Covid or whose son died in Afghanistan.

“Dirty little secrets

Dirty little lies

We got our dirty little fingers

In everybody’s pie

We love to cut you down to size

We love dirty laundry.”   Henley again

Here’s a week’s worth of dirty laundry, heading for the cleaners. Decorum prohibits me from sending the photo of the stuff I’m too embarrassed for someone else to wash. It’s hard to know if my wash jobs work in the first place.  Too much detergent, or too little.  Just pour some in and hope for the best.

Our washing machine is state of the art, a technological masterpiece. No, Alexa is not connected so it won’t respond to voice commands, which may be a good thing. It might give me some rebuttal, like, ‘load too big, too dirty, try swimming pool.’ Besides, the dial is complicated, too many choices.

I examine it intently. Normal, casual, bulky, silk, delicates, wool and on and on. I scratch wool off the list since the time I washed a wool blanket that the dog had used for his bed. It came out the size of a handkerchief. Some lessons are expensive to learn.

Despite its complicity, it beats the days of old when dirty laundry had to be washed by hand in boiling caldrons using ashes, Borax, lye soap and stirred with a stick. I always wondered what function the stick played in washing.  The answer was in the instructions for our washing machine.

Washing machines have what’s called an ‘agitator’ to break up the dirt in clothes. It’s superior to the old method of beating clothes on flat rocks down by the river to loosen the grime. Now it’s all done in a neat, enclosed environment, quietly efficient. Agitation can break up a lot of things.

In the afterdays of REA in the ‘50’s when electricity finally lit up most small towns, I barely recall the rollers used by my mother to squeeze out the final water from the clothes before they headed for the clothesline.

Yes, a clothesline in the back yard. Didn’t everybody? They say sun drying clothes makes them fresher. It was certainly better than wearing them soggy. And back-yard clotheslines were a young boy’s delight on Mondays (always wash day). What better thrill than to observe the neighbor’s 38 double-d ‘delicates’ blowing in the breeze and fantasize over the contents.

But back to today’s washing machines.  There are four basic functions: Prewash, Wash, Rinse and Spin.  Each speaks for itself in function. Throw in the dirty laundry, hit power and that’s it. The machine does the rest.

Ah, yes, the ‘Machine,’ the ubiquitous Newspeak washing machine. These media machines spin uncontrollably, on air waves, screens, tweets and ink. They whitewash all dirty laundry, scrubbing clean all thoughts, words and deeds with warp speed and efficiency. They cleanse all inconvenient truths.  Muckraking can be sanitized and sterilized whiter than a convent of nuns, bleaching the tiniest stain of detail from fiction, failure and delusion.

After thorough washing and sufficient spinning, the cycle concludes.  Mission accomplished. Dirty laundry is nice and neat, ready to hit the streets again.

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And what is the upshot of all this washing? “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Dirty laundry, down the memory hole.

He that hath ears to hear, listen up:  Read between the lines.


Bud Hearn

September 8, 2021