Column: Institution of higher learning taught young men more than 3 Rs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I should have taken home economics in high school.

I took industrial arts, which most of us called &uot;shop.&uot;

It was a fine class, but I should have taken home ec.

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Thanks to shop, I had learned how to weld, so when hungry, I would weld myself up a grilled cheese sandwich.

I guess it was a welded cheese sandwich.

There was plenty of westing in my Westinghouse.

All I ever got out of a cookbook was a nasty paper cut.

If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, I was extremely safe.

I traveled with hope and a fork, depending upon the culinary skills of others.

It wasn’t always easy slopping at the trough.

The school that I attended was so tough that even my teachers stole my lunch money.

I likely would have been unable to learn how to cook.

Cooking was just the tip of the iceberg of things that I didn’t know how to do.

I was just smart enough to wish that I were a lot smarter.

Then there I was &045; in college.

It was around the time when Carly Simon wrote that song about me.

I was enrolled in an institute of higher learning.

I was making a feeble attempt to get all of my marbles rolling in the same direction.

I was there to learn.

And, boy, did I have a lot to learn.

For reasons unclear to me, I found myself in the basement of the building that I lived in.

The basement housed a free-range insect collection that would have done a university entomologist proud.

We could have starched the cobwebs in that basement and used them as doilies.

It was also where the washing machines and clothes dryers lived.

Oh, I had help.

Some roommates.

We were all raised on farms and knew nothing about washing clothes.

We were all cats in the same bag.

We were confused.

It was part of our charm.

We knew how to drive a tractor.

When it came to laundry, we were as worthless as sundown in the shade.

We should have taken a home economics class.

Our lives were based upon a complete lack of knowledge.

Because I had been called &uot;almost as intelligent as a small rock&uot; by at least one person, I was chosen to read the box that the powdered laundry detergent was in.

It mentioned &uot;delicate fabrics.&uot;

We decided that this was something that men didn’t have.

We, each wearing clothes that appeared to have been hit by a wrinkle bomb, gathered our laundry.

We stood there looking at this large pile of dirty clothes.

We were trying to remember things that we never knew.

We were as nervous as clams in a chowder factory.

It was another avenue of abuse on life’s road map.

None of us claimed optimism.

&uot;I think we are supposed to separate them,&uot; said one.

&uot;What does that mean?&uot; asked another.

No one knew.

We were suffering from separation anxiety.

It was my chance to demonstrate the wisdom that I had hoped to one day be known for.

&uot;I’ll bet we separate the things with zippers from the clothes without zippers.&uot;

I blew my chance.

I was wrong.

We separated them according to smell.

We learned.

We learned because a girlfriend of one of the bunch told us.

We called in the cavalry.

She was a talker and arrived in mid-sentence.

&uot;What are you guys thinking?&uot; she asked as she hovered somewhere between amused and disgusted.

Who said we were thinking?

&uot;You guys must be idiots!

You separate the whites from the colors.&uot;

She could barely contain her glee as she fended off sainthood.


They think they are so smart.

We suspected that our laundry guru put on her clothes the same way we did.

The only difference was that we slept in ours.

She knew that when a man makes a fool out of himself, it’s permanent.

She spent three hours telling us about things that left her speechless, but she didn’t tell us

whether the whites went on top and the colors on the bottom or vice versa.

We knew that it didn’t matter if we separated them by zippers, colors, sizes, from left-to-right or from top-to-bottom.

Once we put them into the washing machine, it would mix them all together anyway.

Life keeps teaching us things that we don’t want to learn.

I am willing to bet that if Santa Claus does his own laundry, he wears pink underwear.

(Hartland resident Al Batt writes a column for the Tribune each Wednesday and Sunday.)