I'm having some work done in my house that calls for the occasional loss of electricity or plumbing. A couple of weeks ago, our washer and dryer were temporarily put out of service. And while I'll admit I don't do anywhere near the amount of laundry my wife does, with six people in our house, I'm all-too-familiar with the Kenmore washer and dryer that serve as the anecdote to a seemingly endless supply of grass-stained jeans, frighteningly soiled onesies and Crayola-streaked shirts. When the smell of dirty clothes began to reach the street, I packed it all up and headed toward a nearby national chain, only to find a crowded parking lot and a line at the change machine. I headed home to wait until after midnight so I could head to the 24-hour Laundromat, which was rarely crowded when I visited it in the past. Although having your own washer and dryer is nice, it can never match the convenience of an empty Laundromat. I appreciate the possibility of clean clothes any time, day or night, with nothing more than a walk down into my basement. Still, I would gladly give up that convenience for the "all-at-once" approach at the local laundry facility. That's what I found post-midnight when I entered with enough dirty clothes to dress a small army. Laundry days helped break the monotony of summer tours when I marched -- sure, you were still stuck with the same group of people, but for a few hours, you were able to take a break from the practice field or bus. But even when the corps-member-to-available-washing-machine ratios worked out, laundry day was still a challenge. To meet that challenge, it required a break from our normal routine. For the most part, the "old guys" sat in the back of the horn bus -- unless we were doing laundry. Then we'd hijack the front seats and sprint to the first available washer. Sometimes, laundry days brought unexpected joys. Once, during a midsummer camp in DeKalb, Ill., we broke for laundry after a morning rehearsal. Most of the corps hit one of two nearby laundry facilities. My bus partner and I, though, didn't even bother hurrying to the buses, thinking all along we were going to his sister's campus apartment to wash a couple of weeks worth of smelly T-shirts and one or two towels. But alas, his brother and a few other guys had already claimed the spot. With the buses already departed for laundry facilities in town, we walked about 500 feet to the nearest apartment complex, which just happened to have a pool. With a row of washers and dryers 25 feet from Olympic-sized summer refreshment, we enjoyed the best laundry day on record. Of course, tales of scantily clad coeds and unlimited Long Island Iced Teas made for good gym-floor banter, even if we drank warm Orange Crush from the pop machine and swam alone. There's something about laundry facilities that make people incredibly territorial. After all, if you're used to doing your laundry every Wednesday night at 9 p.m., until the one Wednesday you find a building filled with tan and obnoxious18-year-olds, you may get a little annoyed. Of course, if you're the owner, the only thing better than a building filled with tan and obnoxious18-year-olds is the money they'll pump into your machines. So as I sat alone at around 1 a.m. in this 24-hour Laundromat on the Northwest side of Chicago a couple of weeks ago, I realized that there are few things more inviting than a room full of empty washers and dryers, even if I wasn't with my friends. With about three extra-large Hefty bags full of stink, I proceeded to take over enough machines to do the job in one cycle. It was washing nirvana -- all of which came crashing down when a group of intoxicated guys from an apartment complex next door showed up to finish their case of MGD Light. I learned they'd been kicked out of their place by an angry and tired roommate, who suggested they do some laundry while finishing their beer. We did the smile-and-nod thing when I noticed a Madison Scout sweatshirt in one guy's pile of clothes. "This thing? I think it's my roommate's," he said. "I guess I should wash it for him." Then he and his buddies sat around, did some wash, finished their beer and smoked a few cigarettes. So there's my drum corps tie-in -- me, with all my drum corps experience, trying to get out of there as quick as possible to keep my Downy-fresh clothes from smelling like they had spent the night at an Irish pub -- after all, nothing says, "Daddy loves you" better than a smoke-scented baby blanket -- while another former member was sleeping at home, getting someone else to wash his clothes. Marco Buscaglia marched from 1978-1989 in the Cavaliers' organization. He can be reached at marcobuscaglia@hotmail.com. 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