What Happened to the Laundry?


A few days ago, I was doing our laundry in the basement of our small apartment building. After washing one load, I put it in the dryer, filled the washer with a second load, and went back to our apartment.

I came down an hour later, expecting to find both washer and dryer cycles finished. Instead, I found them still going. The LED on the washer indicated that there were still forty-seven minutes remaining in its cycle. I interrupted the dryer cycle and found that the clothes were still very damp.

What was going on?

My first thought was that I'd forgotten to turn both the dryer and the washer on after loading. I had previously done so occasionally, on one machine or the other, but never both at the same time. Since both machines were now running, of course, there was no logic to my thinking, but it took a while for that to sink in.

It took me a bit to realize I should open the washer to see what was in there. I was surprised and a little confused to find clothes belonging to someone else.

How did they get there? Then I noticed a basketful of our dry laundry on top of the washer. Where did that come from? Had I forgotten even to put the clothes into the washer? Had I forgotten to turn the washer on, which encouraged another person to empty our dirty laundry from the machine and start washing his?

The best way to figure that out, I thought, was to check the dry clothes in the basket to see if they were clean or dirty. It wasn't obvious to me. These were the dark clothes and I couldn't remember whether I'd put the light clothes or the dark clothes into the washer first, so that didn't help me figure out whether they were clean or dirty. I then reasoned that the clothes in the basket should be warm if they'd just come out of the dryer, but they were only slightly warm in the middle of the basket, so what did that mean?

I see now that, as I tried to make sense of the situation, I somehow couldn't keep these few bits of information simultaneously in my mind.

  • I'd waited an hour, but both machines are on.
  • The washing machine indicates forth-seven minutes left in the cycle.
  • The clothes in the dryer are still damp.
  • A basket full of our dry clothes sits on top of the washer.

I stood there going back and forth in my mind, checking the dry clothes, trying to figure it out.

Slowly, bit-by-bit, I realized: Someone else had come down, taken my dry clothes from the dryer and put them into my empty laundry basket, then put my wet clothes from the washer into the dryer and finally started washing his clothes.

Even after I thought of that possibility, however, I wasn't sure; it seemed a little complicated. I left the dryer going to finish its cycle and took the dry clothes to our apartment, but the uncertainty cleared only slowly.

I had been confused, of course. In previous episodes of confusion, however, I'd realized I was confused during the confusion. This time I became aware only gradually after it was clearing.

In reflecting on this, I notice how episodic my confusion is.

I'm lucid the overwhelming majority of the time: Over the weekend, I gave a short talk without notes and led a discussion for an hour and a half without trouble; I can usually figure out computer complication or keep our finances in order. At our church yearly budget meeting, I was helpful in clarifying some complications. I haven't had much trouble writing this post and explaining (in a hopefully unconfused way) the state of my confusion.

As a general rule, I'm not confused at all, and then suddenly something like this happens.

As usual, my laundry-room episode didn't bother me emotionally. Things like this are still more fascinating than troubling, and I've learned to let them go. In addition, episodes of obvious impairment resolve those fragments of uncertainty that still bother me after all the tests that were normal.

I'm having these episodes more often, though: putting the cabinets together with my son Kai, confusion on the train , and now this.

It's nothing dramatic like getting lost and it's a very slow and uneven process, but the impairment does seem to be worsening.

An author and former physician, Dr. David Hilfiker was diagnosed in 2012 with a progressive mild cognitive impairment. His doctor thought it was Alzheimer's but additional testing proved this initial diagnosis to be wrong. Now David must learn how to come to terms with the reality of worsening cognitive issues that appear to have no cause.

Watching the Lights Go Out

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I was beginning to think I was losing it myself until I realised that the real problem in our home was from theft. A person who we had employed for years was the guilty party. It took me a long time just to even come to terms that it even could be a possibility that this person that we trusted for so long could do this but now things were so obvious. Why didn't I see it earlier? My mind is at ease.....at least for now when I see things that aren't right because I know that that was obviously put out of place to cover things up. Wow! What en eye opener for us.
David, thanks for the article, ah the challenges of a common area laundry room, take me way back in time. Believe me over the past few years I have had befuddled moments where things just didn't make sense. I know with aging our brains slow down and it takes us longer to figure things out.

I read with interest about putting together a cabinet. My sig other and I put together a cabinet "some assembly required" which was a challenge, more so to him as he never has figured out over the years how to even open a tool box, never had learned how to fix things around the house, and has no memory issues except for normal age decline moments. So in my book, what you were doing through seemed quite normal :)
When I was in college, people thought I was weird because I would stay in the laundry room while my clothes went through the cycle. Maybe that was a good idea after all (since I would have been freaked out by something like this)