Saturday, October 01, 2005

Doing My Own Laundry

I have wanted to write about doing my own laundry as a metaphor for life all week but there has been no time, anymore than there has been time to do my own laundry. When there were a few snatched minutes, doing laundry needed to take priority over writing about it. Something for a professor to think about!

Mostly, I used to take shirts and washable trousers to the cleaners. They come back so crisp and clean in their petroleum-based clear plastic bags. But after figuring out how much it cost to have shirts and cotton trousers (my usual uniform, except lately) washed and ironed at the cleaners I decided to do them myself.

Though it was not my intention, in particular, this has proved to be a useful illustration of and important life reality: there are some things that can’t be put off, no matter what. Mothers of very young children know this best, of course. The baby must be nursed, the diapers must be changed, and then washed and folded, a child’s cry cannot be ignored. Men know this least, especially busy managers like me, who are in a position to delegate many tasks (often to women), especially the more mundane ones.

When I came back from Europe last week, not only exhausted but sick, there was still that pile of laundry to be done – else I would have nothing respectable to wear as went about my various duties. High level diplomatic dinner on Wednesday night? Before putting on my ‘diplomatic suit,’ there was that shirt, which, happily, I had remembered to wash in the morning, to be ironed.

All of this provides useful lessons in inexorability and humility. No clothes washed, nothing to wear. No shirt ironed, one looks like a slob at an “important” function, which Dormgrandpop hates to do. There will be a pile of laundry to do and shirts to iron when I return to Anderson on Sunday night for the first Dormgrandpop dinner of the semester.

That I would ever become a university president seems wildly improbable. But if I did, I would continue to do my own laundry. And I might try to set up housekeeping in a dorm, as well.

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