Obituary for Nelson Britto

July 15, 1931-March 10, 2022

Nelson Britto was born the youngest of eight in New Bedford, MA. His parents, Antonio and Palmyra Britto, were both immigrants from Madeira, Portugal.

Opportunity in New Bedford was limited for Nelson and his siblings. Nelson’s sisters found good jobs at the Embassy of Portugal, and he joined them in Washington, DC the summer after his junior year of high school.

Nelson went on to college at Georgetown, attending as a day-hop. He lived with his sisters on Rodman Street and worked at the soda fountain of People’s Drug store on Connecticut Avenue. Despite a busy schedule of classes and work, he found time to stay up all night playing cards with his fellow students, and made lifelong friends of his bridge partner and their opponents. 

At the end of his junior year, he met Kay Martin, an inquisitive young woman from Falls Church, at a graduation party. When she asked him if he had graduated, he deadpanned, “No. I failed.” Nelson graduated the following year, and after serving in the navy, he married Kay at St. James in Falls Church. She continued to fall for his bluffs for at least the first 20 years of their marriage. 

For most of his career, Nelson worked long hours at IBM to support his and Kay’s growing family.  In the 1980’s, he traveled extensively for his role in export regulations.  Much of his work was with partners behind the Iron Curtain. He developed an appreciation for the ingenuity of the staff in the Prague office, a love of their city, and a fondness for Pilsner Urquell on draft. 

In retirement, Nelson and Kay moved to Wrightsville Beach, NC.  Nelson began volunteering with the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle project, and as a result of this experience, he became passionate about coastal protection issues, such as dark skies, wetlands preservation, and watershed management. Nelson also volunteered as a guide for school groups at the Cape Fear Museum, served on the Wrightsville Beach Planning Board, and as a New Hanover County Master Gardener. 

He converted the flower bed in front of his house to a bountiful vegetable garden. Nelson loved to hand out fresh tomatoes to families on their way to the beach–a practice for which he became known as The Tomato Man of Wrightsville Beach. 

Nelson took 15 international trips with family in his retirement. In 2003, he hiked the Camino de Santiago and was named the Role Model of the Month at the Wilmington YMCA. He enjoyed working out at the Y almost much as he enjoyed seeing his friends there. 

In June of 2021, Nelson and Kay moved to Ashby Ponds in Ashburn, VA to be closer to family.

Nelson was proud of his Portuguese heritage, his Jesuit education, and perhaps most of all, the five children he shared with Kay.

Nelson Britto is survived by his wife of 64 years, Mary Martin Britto (known as Kay) and their children: son Greg and his wife Laura, daughter Maria, son Mark and his wife Jennifer, son Jamie and his partner Barbara ter Haar, daughter Kathleen and her husband Edward Schaaf.  He is also survived by three generations of nieces and nephews and by many wonderful friends.

Nelson will be remembered for his mischievous sense of humor, his generous hospitality, his devotion to his family, and his commitment to the Catholic faith. For his children, he remains a steadfast example of what can be accomplished with determination and the support of family.

The family plans to hold a memorial service and interment ceremony at St. Mary’s Historic Church in Fairfax, VA later this spring. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Families-in-Need fund at Park View High School. Nelson’s daughter Kathleen served as a librarian at Park View for five years, and Nelson sometimes saw himself in the hardworking students Kathleen encountered. This gift is also intended to honor the many wonderful young people who work at Ashby Ponds and who treated Nelson with exceptional kindness in the final year of his life. Checks may be mailed to Park View High School, attn: Marcela Cruz, 400 W Laurel Ave, Sterling, VA 20164. Please write “Britto” on the memo line. Electronic payment may be made to the donation account of Park View High School (Activity No. DB006-VAR13). Please write “Britto” in the description field.

Everything is Not For Everyone

I stayed up way too late last night. I was scouring the Michael’s website for items to send to my oldest friend, David, for his birthday.

David had been serious about art when we were in high school. He put it aside in college in favor of drums and the bass guitar.

During the pandemic, he picked up art again, making some truly wonderful collages. He has been selling them online and more recently, at local fairs. His main job is as a teacher assistant in an elementary school, but the collage art has been so profitable that he has been able to give up his second job at the hardware store.

I wanted to buy him a particular pair of scissors, the Fiskars Amplify Soft Grip Mixed Media Shears. These are some serious scissors, with an equally serious price, tag. Michael’s sent me a 30% off coupon good on my entire regularly-priced purchased, so I figured yesterday was the day to shop.

I wanted to throw some other items in the basket—some things that might be useful, and some things that might make him laugh.

When I was in high school and he was a first year college student, I sent him a Chia Pet. He responded (retaliated?) by sending me the Clapper. As we have aged, we no longer send each other stupid gifts for every occasion, but there tends to be a bit of—what shall we say? Whimsy in our gift giving.

Within the last ten years, like when we were fully-grown adults with spouses and retirement accounts, David sent me an envelope that was so large I had to go to the post office to pick it up. I thought it might be a print or an enlarged photograph from childhood.

What it was was a set of decals. Very large decals, depicting some kind of water rodent, and specifically designed to decorate the toilet.

I don’t think I even entertained the possibility of taking the toilet decals to Goodwill. I removed the cardboard backing and then rolled up the sheet as tightly as I could before stuffing it in the trash can.

A few months later, Dave and his [much saner] wife Kerry came to visit me and Ed. Within minutes, Dave asked to see the toilet decorated with water rats.

I paled.

“You got rid of the Toilet Tattoos?” He was incredulous. “Did you at least find someone to give them to?”

I looked away.

“You threw them out? I can’t believe you threw them out!

Kerry said, “I told you not to send her those.”

Dave shook his head. “Those things were rad.”

This is who I was shopping for last night.

Dave’s birthday present from Michael’s will contain the Fiskars Amplify Soft Grip Shears, two smaller pairs of scissors for detailed work, a swivel craft knife for even more detailed work, and some oddball silicone painting spatulas and a tiny jar of sparkly silver glitter paste. Reflecting on it now, the silicone painting spatulas and the glitter paste don’t seem nearly strange enough.

Perhaps I should have sent a Weird Al Chia Pet.

But nothing screams Christmas like a Weird Al Chia Pet.

Deep-Seated, Three-Year-Old Stuff?

It started because of a chocolate bar. I had ordered a dark chocolate almond and sea salt bar through the app and when I picked up the rest of my order last night, it wasn’t there.

I went to the app to report the chocolate bar missing, and found it had been cancelled. Sometimes, you can have an item shipped to you. Sometimes, you can select an alternate option. This time, there was nothing, not even an apology.

I felt annoyed. I batted the feeling away. Then, I noticed the value of an offer I had applied had been reduced proportionally. My annoyance increased, not at all proportionally. I told myself it was not worth thinking about.

I thought about it. I told myself I had more important things to think about. I told myself to Let. It. Go.

I did not let it go. Twenty four hours later, I had managed to think about more important things, but the annoyance popped back into my consciousness when I picked up my iPad after dinner.

“Maybe I will feel better,” I thought, “If I just let them know that I noticed this, and that I don’t like it.”

I opened the app, found the place to leave a comment, and composed the following:

I explain.

It wasn’t easy to explain what had happened in 500 or fewer characters. It was impossible to explain it in 500 or fewer characters without sounding like a crank.

After submitting this deranged rant, I thought about it some more. Shopping on the app is a gamified experience. It takes some effort to select the offers and apply them effectively, i.e. to play the game. I like to play and I like to win, but it’s not that I’ve lost that turns me into a crank. It’s that they’ve flipped over the board just as I was about to slide into the Candy Castle.

What a Dog Knows

Right now, I am sitting at my friend Amanda’s kitchen table. She and I left the DC Metro at approximately the same time. In July 2019, she moved to Arizona. In August 2019, I moved to Atlanta.

The last time I saw her was Labor Day of 2019. Since that visit, Amanda lost Toby, her dog/soulmate. Toby had cancer and Amanda knew it was time for her to separate from the pack, but it was still so hard.

Amanda grieved for a number of months and is still grieving, but eventually she was ready to open her home to a new set of paws. Enter Lupe, the chihuahua with a heart of gold.

Lupe was a rescue whose puppies had all been adopted before she met Amanda. I found her to be a dog with the most gentle and loving spirt, and a dog appreciative of any attention you want to give her, but rarely demanding. The main exception of course is if she thinks food is around, but that’s common for any dog who grew up as a stray.

I would like to say that since I met Lupe on Saturday, she has taken a particular shine to me. I can’t say that because 1) I think she takes a shine to everyone, and 2) I upset her this morning.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, which is 7:30 back in Atlanta. Since I fly home this afternoon, I thought I might as well get up. Lupe was up too. Amanda staggered out of bed about a quarter to five, gave Lupe breakfast, and then went back to sleep.

I took Lupe outside for a short walk. I gave her some pets and cuddles. Then I set her down on her ottoman and went back in Amanda’s guest room to start packing.

I didn’t check my bag on the way here, but I’m going to check it on the way back. There was much sorting a rearranging to be done, and many decisions to be made.

Did I need to take all my medicines in my backpack? Should I put this really long charging cable in the checked bag? Would I need my toothpaste before we leave for the airport?

It can take me a long time to make minor decisions, especially if I have lots of time to ponder them. Sometimes I sweat the small stuff—literally. I couldn’t decide what to do with my tiny bottles of liquid, and I had to grab a mini scrunchie to stop my hair from sticking to my neck while I thought about it.

Finally, I decided I would check most of my them but that I wanted to put my hand cream, lip balm, and hand sanitizer in my backpack. I realized I needed another plastic bag to get these three items through security, so I went to look for one.

Amanda was still asleep, and I knew her well enough to know that she would rather I rummage through her kitchen than wake her up or put off getting myself organized.

Lupe was napping on the ottoman in the living room. I was in the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets and drawers. I did it softly, but I guess I woke her up because on the third closure, I heard this sort of soft growly bark—sort of a “Grr…ruff!

It was the first time I had heard her bark.

“I’m sorry, Lupe,” I said, “it’s just me.”

She did it again. “Grrr..ruff!”

“Hey, I’m just looking for a plastic bag. It’s okay.”

I took a step closer.

“Grrrrrrrrrr——RUFF!” That time she meant business. I took two steps back.

“Lupe,” I said. “What is up?”

She didn’t bark, but eyed me mistrustfully.

“I’m the same person who—-“

And then I had a thought. I reached up and pulled the scrunchie out of my hair. The hair fell down on my shoulders and I shook it out.

She watched me, and I swear to you, her eyes widened.

“See,” I said. “You know me.”

She was still a little tense. I approached her cautiously, and when she didn’t growl or bark, I held out my hands for her to sniff. Once she had done that, she relaxed half way. Very slowly, I moved to pet her head. She permitted it, and then leaned into it. She closed her eyes and put her head down.

When I took my hand away, she was asleep.

I gave up on finding a sandwich bag, and grabbed a Target bag from the lowest cabinet. I went back into the guest room.

When I returned to the living area, I made sure that my hair was down. Lupe was awake. She didn’t growl or bark, but she kept her distance and is still staying close to Amanda.

I don’t blame her. She doesn’t know what other tricks I might attempt.

A Skeptical Lupe

Slice and Slice Again

I first participated in the March SoL Challenge in 2015. Every year, I’d try to get back to it. Until this year, I never did.

It is a little painful to look at those Slices from 2015, knowing how oblivious I was to the hardship ahead. I had written about my father and how he was becoming eccentric and curmudgeonly. I later understood that in 2015, we were seeing the onset of dementia. For a long time, I didn’t want to write about my dad because I wanted to respect his privacy.

My father is still alive, and, for the most part, he knows who everyone is. If he did find out I was writing about him, he might be angry. He might not care at all. If he did care, he’d probably forget about it in a few hours. Furthermore, he hasn’t turned on his computer in over a year, so it is unlikely that he will even find out. I feel a little guilty writing about him, but I also need to put words to what’s happening.

It’s hard mourning someone who is still alive. It’s hard missing someone who is sitting across from you at the dinner table. He is Schrodinger’s father—he both is and isn’t my dad at the same time.

Since my last March challenge in 2015, I’ve also had to come to grips with the fact that I am never going to be a mother. In 2016, my only known pregnancy ended in miscarriage at sixteen weeks. I still think about her—the baby—every day.

We waited too long to seek treatment, and the doctor told us there wasn’t much that could be done. We spent thousands on fertility drugs anyway.

When we gave up on that, we met with adoption agencies. We learned that due to our age, it was highly unlikely that we’d be able to adopt a child under ten years old. Maybe that, or becoming foster parents, is something we will consider later, but now, we’re not ready. We’re still too sad about not hearing little feet too bring home larger feet.

In spring of 2019, I resigned from a high school position I liked to move to a new city for my husband’s career. He did not pressure me to do this at all; I thought it might be good to change things up. I completely underestimated how difficult it would be for me to find a job I liked as much in this new place.

In June of 2019, I accepted a job at a private school. It turned out to be a poor fit in important ways. In February 2020, when I received my contract for the 2020-2021 school year, I wasn’t sure I should sign it. I did, thinking I should put in one more year.

It turned out to be a moot point. In June of 2020, my position was eliminated. I scrambled to find something else, and ended up in a part-time position at a technical college. I like it, but I miss the sense of purpose and the relationships I had at work before we moved. Like every other public school teacher, I was often frustrated, but I also, especially in my fifth and final year, felt good about the work I was doing.

I think I found solace in my role at that school, more than I realized. Being away from the school has somehow made all the other losses harder to live with.

I know I have much to be grateful for. That awareness doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to be sad sometimes. I also know that it won’t always be this hard. I will adapt. I will find solace in other things, volunteer work, maybe, a new job, or a project of some kind.

I may always carry some sadness, especially around the child I lost. The sadness may never get any lighter. But I will get stronger, and the load will be easier to bear.

Wicked Headache

I have a headache. It’s all I can think about. I don’t think it’s a migraine. I think it’s from seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies don’t make me cough. They rarely make me sneeze. The barely even make my nose run. They just give itchy eyes and a sharp pain over my right eyebrow and underneath my right eye.

I don’t remember the pollen being this bad last year. I don’t remember seeing footprints in yellow dust on the breezeways of my building. I don’t remember my car being covered in pollen after being inside the parking deck all night. I don’t remember feeling this bad.

There is a possibility that I forgot to take my 12-hour Sudafed this morning. The allergies have been so bad this year, I decided to take one every morning. When this headache started today, I took some Tylenol. Later, I realized I had–possibly–forgotten to take the Sudafed. I settled on a four-hour dose, just in case I had already taken the 12.

Except for the Sudafed, I keep all the allergy medicines in one of those pill boxes with slots for morning and evening every day of the week. The reason I don’t keep the Sudafed in the box is that it’s so frustrating to separate the pills from their multiple layers of packaging that I only force myself to take out one at a time. You’d think I’d develop a knack for it after the third or fourth pill, but I never have. The pain I’m feeling now is an inspiration to try harder–but not right now.

My doctor put me on Singulair for allergies years ago, which I take in addition to an OTC antihistamine every evening. With my allergies being so bad this year I did a little research, and decided to switch from the purple one to an orange one. I know they have names, maybe Allerfex and Xyzial? The orange one starts with an X. I could go check–but not right now.

I also use Nasocort everyday in spring and fall. My doctor said to try that or Flonase, and I bought the Nasocort because it was cheaper. I was excited when it came out in generic, but then I could not use the generic bottle I had bought because the pump was terrible. That stuff is unpleasant enough when it mists properly.

I also just went out to the car and took a can from my stash of medicinal Coke Zeros in the trunk of my car. Keeping them there is only way I can keep Ed (and myself) from drinking them in non-headache situations. The Coke Zero seems to have helped a little, but it was probably stupid to go outside.

Later, I’m going to take a shower to get the pollen out of my hair. The steam might also relieve some of the pressure in my head. I’m going to do it–but not right now.


There have been times in my life when I’ve been writing, and there have been times in my life when I have not. Generally, I have been happier when I’ve been writing. Sometimes, it goes well. Sometimes, it doesn’t. The important things is that I show up and do the work. It’s one of the great things about this challenge, not only do you commit to writing everyday for a month–an entirely doable goal–but you know there is a reasonable chance that someone else might read it.

The first few days of the SoL Challenge were like trying to get back to regular exercise after not doing it for months,. I couldn’t believe how rusty I’d become. It didn’t feel good. I was disappointed in the results. I thought wistfully about how strong I used to be, and figured that my best days were behind me.

I was going to say that the big difference is that after a few weeks of working out, I never lose track of time and realize I’ve been exercising for hours. That is completely untrue.

Just one year ago, lockdown started and the university I live near sent most of its students home. I used it as my own private park, exploring the empty campus on foot. I walked almost everyday, often for two or three hours hours. I started picking up speed and choosing more hills.

I would often lose track of time. I would rarely stick to the route I thought I would follow. Sometimes, I got lost. Sometimes, I’d spend so much time walking, that I’d neglect other aspects of my life. You can replace “walking” with “writing” and that’s a reasonably good description of my behavior as a Slicer. Enthusiastic but undisciplined.

By May of 2020, my ankles had started complaining when I first went out. I did some stretching and strengthening exercises, and I noticed they didn’t hurt as much after the first half hour of walking or or so. I figured I was fine. I was not fine.

One hot July day I had been walking for about an hour. Instead of getting better, my ankles were feeling worse. Then a lot worse. I decided I should head home immediately. I had walked about about ten minutes in the direction of home, and then the pain became excruciating. I tried modifying my steps in a variety of ways to make walking less painful, and then I texted Ed, who came and picked me up.

The doctor said that normally she’d want me to go to physical therapy, but due to the pandemic I should just do the exercises at home. She I needed to stay off my feet as much as possible for at least a month. She said when I started walking again, I needed to be systematic about it, and increase my mileage gradually. It’s difficult for me to be systematic and gradual with things I like to do.

In terms of writing, I have written too many words and spent hours on tangents so many times this month. Before this month, I thought I was bad about finding time to write, but I think I’ve often been afraid to start writing on any given day because it is so hard for me to stop.

I’m not sure what the answer is. I could try outlining and sticking to the outline. Just setting a timer might be more productive.

I’m a little bit frustrated because for the first part of my life, most of the writing I did was returned with red ink in the margins: “Provide examples,” “Needs more description,” Not enough detail” etc. At this point in my life I have detail for days, and it’s too much.

I am exhausted from staying up writing until 3:00 on Saturday night. Still. I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t want to never write, but I have to impose some limits on it. As with exercise, I have to incorporate it in my life in a sustainable way.

What is the Most Egregious?

My husband Ed took the day off work on Friday and drove four hours north to have a “socially distant” visit for the weekend with some old friends. I am not sure how that all that shook out, but unlike Ed, I’d already had the virus and we were both vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson last week. I know the vaccine hasn’t fully kicked in yet, but I also know that he’s been pretty lonely working from home, so I didn’t kick up a fit.

Ed was going to be gone for two nights. Surely, I could maintain my normal routine and our apartment for two nights, on my own right?

We said good-bye Friday morning and I went to work. The chiller has been broken and it was disgustingly hot, but I did my best to stay focused. After work, I wanted to go home, but I went to Lidl and bought groceries as I had planned. I even bought lots of vegetables. When I got home, I brought in everything that had to go in the refrigerator right away. I left the rest in the trunk for a few hours, but them I told myself to buck up and bring everything else inside.

Saturday, I woke up late. I was getting ready to take a quick shower, and then I thought, “What’s the point?” With the dysfunctional HVAC, I’d be drenched in sweat within the first hour. I probably wouldn’t skipped the shower with a witness present.

I worked. I came home. I made a to-do list. I took care of a small number of items. I started Slicing, and then I got lost in what I was writing.

I found myself fussing over my description of the awkwardness of a particular building I encountered in college. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find a picture of the building as I knew it. I read about its history and felt compelled to comment on some of its stranger features.

Was any of this relevant to the story I was trying to tell? Nah. Did I spend hours on it? Yes.

I posted my Slice just before midnight, as I am wont to do. I told myself that I should go to sleep—that writing about college did not mean I had to act like I was in college. I did not listen to my own good counsel. I started writing something else. I stayed up until 3:00. I might have stayed up later, but the words started blurring on my screen.

Unlike when I was in college, I woke up early despite having stayed up late. I read the news. I did unusually well on the New York Times weekly news quiz. I know I could “be prepared for the quiz each week” by subscribing to the daily briefing, but where’s the fun in that?

I ate a few squares of chocolate. I read a text from Ed saying he’d expected to be home by 2:00. I went back bed and tried to sleep a little more. Eventually, I got out of bed and took a look at my to-do list.

I sat down at the computer determined to write a concise slice about the biggest lesson I have learned this year.

I was doing okay. I was staying focused, I was laying out my points in a logical fashion. And then for illustrative purposes, I started telling a story.

And then I kind of fell into a trance. If you’ve read the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you might say it was that. If you know I have what used to be called ADD, and is now confusingly called ADHD, type 2 (inattentive) you might say it was hyper-focus. If you were one of my elementary school teachers in the eighties, you might say I was not following directions.

At one point, I looked at the clock. It was 1 p.m.

“Oh,” I thought. “It’s gotten late. I need to finish this.”

I wrote a little more, and checked the clock again. It was 1:30.

And that’s when it clicked.

Ed expected to be home by 2:00.

By 2:00! I turned off the computer, spun around amd jumped out of the chair. I made a lap around the apartment.

“What’s the most egregious?” I asked myself. “What can I fix fastest?”

I finished my rounds in the bedroom, so I made the bed and picked up my dirty clothes. The next stop was the kitchen. Wincing, I remembered that it had been spotless when I came home from work on Friday.

I quickly finished unloading the dishwasher that I had only managed to unload partway yesterday. I put everything that could go in the dishwasher in the dishwasher as fast as I could and then I started in on the stuff that had to be hand-washed.

Last night I had pulled a little leftover pizza crust out of the fridge and made a mini pizza on a small baking sheet. Some baked on cheese and sauce splatters refused to be scrubbed away.

“Stop,” I thought. “Use your time wisely.”

I plugged one side of the sink and ran some hot water to soak the sheet. I looked around the kitchen, trying to see it through Ed’s eyes.

There was still a little flour left where I’d rolled out the dough. How had I missed that? I wiped down the counters more carefully. I spotted some crumbs on the floor from a crusty roll I’d purchased at Lidl on Friday. I got out the broom and dustpan started sweeping the floor.

I was horrified to see that I’d previously overlooked some carrot shavings that had missed the trashcan. And when had I dropped all those peanuts?

I finished the floor, almost forgetting to put the broom and dustpan back in the closet. I went back to the baking sheet and was relieved that the hot water had softened the baked on food enough that I could scrub it away. I rinsed it and added it to the drying rack.

What else? The delicates I’d hung to try in the guest bathroom—were they dry? I raced across the apartment to check, and found I could put away everything but a lightweight sweater and a some pajama bottoms with a waistband that needed a few more hours. I pulled a pair of leggings off the drying rack, and wondered why I hadn’t put them in the dryer. I decided it was to save energy.

I was sweaty and out of breath. There were still a lot of my belongings strewn about, and I put them away until the apartment looked slightly better than when Ed left.

He made it home safely, and he’d had a nice time. He unpacked immediately as he always does, and then he started in on his laundry.

I started writing this slice—determined to finish it before dinner. He came in with a pair of houndstooth dress pants that had cost me more than I’d wanted to spend.

“These were in the dryer,” he told me. “They are still a little damp. Do you want me to restart the dryer or hang them up?”

Huh. I thought I’d hung everything in that last load in the bathroom. Apparently not.

“Oh,” I said. “Hang them up please.”

“Sure,” he said agreeably. “How do you like them hung?”

The words I wanted were “from the bottom of the legs along the crease and then draped over the bar of a hanger.” I could not remember them. I told Ed I’d hang the pants. I got up and took them from him.

No wonder they were still a little damp. I’d never turned the dryer on.

The College Secret

On the way to work this morning, I found myself thinking about something I did in college. Approximately 25 years ago. That’s more than half my life ago, a fact which barely seems possible.

Way back then—more than half my life ago—occasionally, I would realize that I way too behind on my studies to go out with my friends on a Saturday night. This should have happened more than it did, but at least it happened occasionally.

When I lived on campus, I had a plan for those Saturday nights. It was a plan so good that I actually tried not to let anyone else in on it, because I was afraid they’d do it to.

After my roommate went out for the night, I’d pull out my duffle bag and shove my laundry bag in it. I’d figure out exactly which books and notebooks I needed and take everything else out of my backpack. Wherever I could find room, I’d shove in my detergent, my stain stick, my roll of quarters.

I’d always be completely overburdened, but I’d always do it in just one trip. I’d shuffle to the closest dorm that that had washing machines, and then I’d slink down to the basement.

The dorm in question was old and brick. It had an original straight line of rooms, completed in 1902, and then a much uglier 1958 line of rooms, extending back from original line at a perpendicular angle. The new wing was not at one end of the building forming a corner, and it wasn’t at the center, forming an even T. I tried to find a picture to show you how disconcerting this was, but that building has been renovated past recognition, and strangely, ugly dorms of the past is not a section featured on the school website.

I also wanted to tell you about the brutalist TV room that burst forth from the front of the building like a pustule, but this is not an architecture blog, and it is getting late.

Where were we? Yes, it was 1990-something, and I was one my way to do laundry. The stairs entered the basement from the old section slightly before the junction with the newer section, and you had to walk through a set of double doors to reach the newer basement and the laundry room.

There were eight washers. Typically, I’d find they were all empty, and typically, I would use four or even five—simultaneously.

I went to a large state university. The ratio of washers and dryers to on-campus students felt low. People who washed clothes on Sundays derived a thrill from competition and conflict that I will never understand. Even on weeknights, students eyed each other as they hovered around machines nearing the end of their cycles like lions around an injured gazelle. Ouf, and if you weren’t there to collect your clothes when the buzzer dinged, you could expect to find them chucked on one of the beat-up tables from God-knows-where.

On a Saturday night, the tables were both empty and dry. I’d find a beat-up-chair, also from God-knows-where, pull it up to one of the tables, roll up my sleeves, and study with a sense of purpose I struggled to find at other times.

Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t study in the laundry room on a weekend night more often. In retrospect, trying to have fun at college parties was often the least fun part of college.

I guess I know myself better now. I’ve been doing some research and some writing most of the night. And now it’s time to move the wet clothes in the washer to the dryer. At least I can go to sleep before they dry.