Laundry Musings

I don’t need a calendar to tell me what season it is. My laundry line makes it clear. Guess what? It’s summer!

Saturday’s laundry line included lots of T-shirts and no long pants. What prompted this particular laundry day wasn’t the usual, that I was out of clean underwear; the impending dearth was of shorts. Even though I bought two new pair last month. (Both “dry on the fly” shorts from Duluth Trading, in case you’re wondering. Took a chance on the first and liked it so much that I immediately ordered a second.)

Several of the Ts had long sleeves, reflecting some cool, April-like weather we had in late June and early July. Then it rained a lot. The rain left but humidity didn’t. We’ve been living in Sauna City for quite a few days now. Tam hates it, but manages to take good care of himself. I’m tempted to change T-shirts three times a day (which still doesn’t excuse the size of my T-shirt collection). Mushrooms are blooming all over the place.

T-shirts and shorts, shorts and T-shirts

In a possibly hopeless attempt to justify my T-shirt collection — it’s not a collection, it’s my wardrobe — earlier this year I started a blog devoted to them: The T-Shirt Chronicles. A week ago I blogged about Lammas Bookstore in D.C., where I was the book buyer from 1981 to 1985. I’m wearing the 10th anniversary shirt, from 1983, right now, by the way.

This reminded me of a story the owner-manager, Mary Farmer, told about doing her laundry in the neighborhood laundromat. An occasional customer came up to her and said she was surprised to see Mary doing her own laundry.

This story has stuck with me for almost 40 years now. It surfaces whenever someone writes or says something that suggests s/he doesn’t have a clue about the challenges of running a small business, especially a bookstore, which operates under constraints that may not be unique but certainly aren’t typical of retail.

There’s a Q&A I learned in horses that applies pretty well to bookselling and other business enterprises: Q: “How do you make a small fortune in horses?” A: “Start with a large one.”

Especially on Martha’s Vineyard. Some people are sure they’re being gouged by island businesses. They may complain bitterly that this or that retailer isn’t open year-round, and while we at it, Main Street doesn’t look the way it used to; now it’s all boutiques and T-shirt shops.

Well, yeah. If you factor in the cost of land, and the insane rents often charged for commercial retail space — how much merchandise at what markup do you have to turn over just to pay the rent, not to mention the staff? — and the short peak selling season, and while we’re at it competition from online behemoths who can get you anything you want faster! cheaper! than even driving into town . . .

It’s not all that hard to understand. But plenty of people just don’t want to think about it.

Short version: I do my own laundry. I rarely use a dryer. I can afford to wait for a good drying day, and I like hanging the wash out. I would, however, almost certainly feel differently about hanging things out if I were in charge of laundry for four, or six, or ten.

And do check out The T-Shirt Chronicles if you haven’t yet. I’m mostly hanging out in the early 1980s at the moment, when I was living in D.C., but the Vineyard has come up a few times already.

Same line from the other end

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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