The Observant Astronomer

The passing scene as observed by an observant Jew, who daylights as an astronomer.

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Washing Dirty Laundry

As I was folding the midweek laundry, I was contemplating the remarkable skill of the lady who owns the laundromat we frequent. Now you may wonder why a laundromat, but the reason is quite simple. It is more convenient to go there than to do the laundry in house. At home, the nearest place to install a washing machine is down two flights of stairs in the nethermost depths. This is very common in North America, at least in the parts where there are basements.

It is a dirty secret, but the reason for this is that it seems impossible for North American washing machines to be housebroken. The American family lives in fear of their washing machine spontaneously spilling its load, flooding the room, seeping through the floor, melting the plaster, and ultimately destroying the homestead. So, banished it must be to the basement, to minimize harm from the inevitable disaster.

British washing machines don't seem to have this problem. In Britain one has one's washing machine in a room within the living area; usually either in, or adjacent to, the kitchen. One switches easily from dinner to laundry without the need to haul heavy loads up and down endless, narrow stairwells.

Similarly in Israel, but, given the standard construction of Israeli apartment buildings, an unruly washing machine poses no risk in any event. After all, the standard way of washing tile floors there is to dump a bucket of water on it and push the water and dirt down the conveniently placed drain.

But American washing machines are simply too dangerous to keep in the kitchen. So, faced with all those stairs, we take the simpler alternative of twice-weekly visits to the local laundromat. There we can take advantage of the efficiency of parallel processing, doing all the laundry in the time required for but a single load in the serial-style basement laundry. The remaining bottleneck is folding.

Which brings me back to the remarkable skill of the laundromat owner. Here is a woman who is able to quickly transform a mound of dry laundry into an identically sized stack of precisely folded garments. Through regular practice and a focus on the essential point, an unruly situation, an unstable pile, is brought to order.

4 Comments:

Blogger Amy said...

I used to live without an in-house washing machine/dryer. I can vaguely remember finishing the laundry. Now it seems to take all week. I finally get done and realize the basket is, once again, full. Like dusting in a sandstorm.

1:28 AM, April 10, 2005  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

A little off the subject but it is Mayim Shelanu time. Teh Alter Rebbe's shulchan aruch holds, prominently, that we must not gather mayim shelanu at night, since the sun heats the water from below the Earth. He brings this from Gemorra Pesachim 94b, as the daas Chachamei Umos. The proof is that the steam can be seen on the surface of the water early after the dawn, proving that the water is warm at that time.

Can yoyu give a short history of this observation and what questions it was proposed to answer? Surely, someone touched the water and found that it was not hot! Didn't they?

7:13 PM, April 10, 2005  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

And obviously we cannot put a washer on the second floor because of the Corialis effect, causing the water to swirl the wrong way, and leading to a fire hazard. They simply are not scientifically advanced enough in the rest of the world to understand this. ;D

7:15 PM, April 10, 2005  
Blogger rosignol said...


It is a dirty secret, but the reason for this is that it seems impossible for North American washing machines to be housebroken. The American family lives in fear of their washing machine spontaneously spilling its load, flooding the room, seeping through the floor, melting the plaster, and ultimately destroying the homestead.


Have you considered buying a decent washing machine, instead of a crappy one? I know such things exist in North America, I've been using them for over 20 years.

9:11 PM, May 09, 2005  

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