Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Tuesday I post a new column.
My apartment building’s washing machine smells like cats. Don’t ask me why. I’m not God. I can’t even explain to my parents why I’m 28 and not fully employed, so don’t expect me to solve complex mysteries about cats and laundering devices. All I know is I put my clothes in the washer, add detergent, and my shirts come out smelling like freaking cats.
I can only assume that someone in the building has a cat, and chooses to wash that cat in the machines. The dryers do not smell like cats, probably because cats are self-drying. It would be silly to waste 75 cents drying a cat.
But why would someone wash a cat in a machine? That’s what buckets are for. You fill the bucket with warm, soapy water and force the cat into it. Then you scrub the cat with an adorable, brightly-colored sponge while it hisses and tries to claw your eyes out. There’s no need to bring technology into this reputable cat washing method. The “delicates” setting on a washer is meant for fancy underpants, not household pets.
There’s a sign in the laundry room reminding residents not to use the washers for cleansing rubber items, making tie-dye t-shirts, or cleaning pieces of wooden furniture. I have added the words “WASHING CATS” to this sign in large letters. I can’t imagine fitting or even wanting to fit a coffee table in the washer, but if people have to be warned against that sort of thing, there’s probably some asshole washing cats in there as well.
I’d like to imagine it’s one rogue resident committing all these unspeakable washings. Maybe a mentally retarded resident who doesn’t quite understand the boundaries our society has placed around washing machines. One day the cat looks a little dirty, and the next day the wooden Ikea end tables need to be stained cherry. It’s an understandable train of logic for someone who’s mentally challenged, or from Wisconsin.
But let’s get back to my problem. Shirts that remind people of wet kittens may sound adorable, and even highly marketable, but it’s not a pleasing odor. The smell is more like a mangy street cat that’s been rolling around in expired milk, or a cat that caught on fire, like I saw in a Youtube video once. It is the smell of an undesirable cat, not a lovable Garfield cat. This is a cat that despises lasagna. A cat that greatly prefers Mondays to other days of the week. A cat that would murder Jim Davis if given half a chance.
I’m left with few options in this debacle. I could use a laundromat, but let’s be honest, that’s where lonely old men go to describe their medical ailments to strangers. Also, I’ve already been banished from two nearby laundromats by the old Armenian woman who owns them. She was furious that I used her change machine without doing my laundry there. “I remember your face! I remember everything!” she screamed at me the last time.
That crafty old lady has a monopoly on laundromats in my neighborhood. She owns at least seven of them. If you anger her, you’re left washing your clothes in the same bucket where you wash your cat.
I could sneak into some other apartment building and use their washers, but that’s something I usually only do when I need to wash my wooden furniture or make tie-dye t-shirts. My building has a difficult to decipher entry code on the intercom, which is why our machines have gone so long without being destroyed.
I guess I’m just destined to smell like cats, even though I don’t own one. Other people have cool destinies like inventing the personal computer, curing Lyme disease, or convincing Christina Ricci to appear topless in a movie, but some of us have lousy futures that can’t be escaped. I’m like the bearded lady at the circus, except I can’t grow a beard and I smell like cats.