Thursday, June 6, 2013

Selflessness Personified: Doing Team Laundry

To be a manager, you have to be selfless on some level because our job revolves around fulfilling the daily needs of our players and coaching staff. You can't have too big of an ego as a manager, because if you do then you won't do your job successfully. One of the first things you learn as a manager is that no job is beneath you. That may be cleaning the locker room before a game or going to pickup sandwiches for the coaches after practice. It could be anything, but there is no more selfless act as a manager than doing team laundry and working in the Memorial Gym laundry room. Not one.

Laundry is something that nobody likes to do, even for themselves. It is a hassle, especially to put away all your clothes after it is done. As a Seinfeld aficionado, one of my favorite George Costanza quotes is when he told a girl, "I hate laundry, if I could I would buy 365 pairs of underwear so that I only had to do laundry once a year". That quote sums up my attitude toward doing my own laundry, but for the last three years, especially last year I wasn't only doing my own laundry, but the team laundry as well.

Since Vanderbilt does not have an equipment manager, the managers are in charge of team laundry. There are few more humbling jobs than washing another man's clothes, particularly 15 of the sweatiest men on campus. The clothes we washed were full of the three S's: Sweat, Stench, and Shit. Not literally shit, but I'm using that as sort of an overarching word here to describe the accumulation of nastiness that was found at all times in our laundry bin.

As someone who has a mild case of OCD, having to siphon through the dirty drawls and soaked practice uniforms is disgusting. I'm sure it would be for anyone. The clothes get put into the bin weighing three times as much as they do when we return them to the guys, washed and dried. Touching this collection of clothing is like engrossing yourself in a garbage dump of sweat. It's just suffocatingly wet and the smell is often unbearable.

One part of doing team laundry is counting the uniforms after games, which I was a chief responsibility of mine. I became so familiar with the sweat patterns of our players, both from mopping the floor during games, and dealing with their clothes that I often could make a pretty educated guess about which player's uniform I was holding. I am not proud of this fact because how can you take pride in knowing the perspiration tendencies of other people? It is like someone taking pride in knowing when their roommate likes to watch porn and engage in affiliated activities. It is really something you would rather not know, but unfortunately this knowledge was heaped on me like an albatross around my neck. At least when I was mopping the sweat, the mop served as a mediator between me and the perspiration, but with laundry, the two forces collided head on.

I knew that Kedren Johnson's jersey would always be the heaviest, not because he played the most, but because Kedren would sweat in Antarctica. His glands operate on another level entirely. Kevin Bright and Shelby Moats also always got a good workout in on the court. Then there were the jerseys that were almost completely dry and those belonged to players like Nate Watkins and Carter Josephs. They were like the inverse of Kedren, they didn't sweat because the world was unfortunately deprived of seeing them in any significant action on the court.

While the laundry in itself is awful, what is worse is that the place where we wash the clothes is just as disgusting. The Memorial Gym laundry room is a smoldering pit of unrelenting humidity. It's like a laundry room located on the equator, it just burns vapor. Any time I walk in there with my glasses on, they come out fogged up, my breathing gets labored, and my shirt gets moist.

I never told our players this, but guys if you are reading this and want to make it appear to the coaches that you worked up a sweat before practice, without actually "working" just sit in the laundry room for 10 minutes and Coach will think you went hard in a pre-practice workout. I really hope one of them tries it and lets me know how it goes. I spent a lot of time in that laundry room, and that is a place I never intend to return.

There were a few positives to being such a laundry expert. First off, my sense of time has become immaculate. I practically have a mental alarm set to 27 minute washer and 60 minute dryer cycles. There was very little in-between time when I did laundry, it was flipped right away, like a one man assembly line (with help from some of the other managers on certain days). I was very efficient and I now have the ability to usually not need to set a timer to know how long I need to do something for, it's quite nice.

The second positive is that when the laundry is finished it needs to be folded and put away. This takes place in the locker room. Where there is a television. On days where practice was really long or after a poorly played game, I would seek out refuge in front of ESPN and take extra care when folding the towels. It was a nice way to be productive and at practice while working at your own pace. Nobody perfected this art like former manager Doug Browne, who was a senior my sophomore year. He mastered this like no other as he would disappear for long periods of time and be found watching SportsCenter after practice.

The third and most positive thing to come out of this task, is realizing that nothing is too belittling of a task for me to do going forward. Like I said earlier, having to do other people's laundry is a very humbling experience. It is complete and total servitude and if I can do that, then no task will ever be beneath me going forward. I really hope prospective employers (mainly NBA and NBA D-League teams) read this post and that my writing is so clear that they can visualize the sweaty jerseys and smell the stench for themselves, and then proceed to hire me to do a job nothing like this. That would be the ultimate laundromatic payoff.

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