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the nightmare of laundry lane

today’s laundromat – foto by Smith

It’s a hard life in the laundry lane, and getting harder every week.

The closest laundromat to us has a Dairy Mart attached to it. Last week as I started our weekly load (I do our laundry, Lady cooks), a Grandfather came out of the convenience store dragging by the hand a seven year old girl who was screaming she wanted candy. They came into the laundromat and for 90 minutes the girl screamed, cried, yelled, cursed as her Grandfather prevented her from running back to the store. When she tried to escape, he held her in his lap, whereupon she turned on him and hit him, bit him, spit on him, cursed him with a never ending supply of fuck yous, all the while snot running out her nose. It was the worst temper tantrum I’d ever seen.

The Grandmother and the girl’s father were also there. Grandma, who was doing the actual laundry, suggested her son hold his daughter and calm her down. The twenty-something son refused, sat down and started either texting or playing games on his fone, totally ignoring his screaming daughter and disappointed mother. The Grandfather through it all kept talking softly, kindly, gently to the girl as he held her prisoner on his lap, to no avail. Every so often he’d sit her on the chair by herself, but each time she’d take off for the store and the candy, so he’d pick her up and put her on his lap, trying to pin her arms so she’d stop slugging him, trying to keep his forearms away from her biting teeth. Spittle and snot and screams everywhere.

Then an older stranger woman who didn’t know them (she’s the busy body motor mouth TV religious show watching woman who drives me crazy each week complaining there’s only one station on the TV) started to threaten the girl, saying “If you don’t quiet down, we’re going to have to take you to the hospital. Is that what you want? You want us to take you to the hospital?”

This went on for an hour and a half until finally they gave in and bought her a Popsicle. As soon as she got her treat, she became still and quiet, sitting by herself, happy and content slurping her bribe. She knew all along if she screamed long enough, they’d give in – and they did. Since they did, I sort of wish they hadn’t waited an hour and a half to do so. The grandfather told the interfering lady that his granddaughter had an “episode” like this at least once a week.

So for today’s laundry I went a day early, hoping I’d at least miss Ms Motor Mouth. Ten minutes after I’d started my wash, a white skinhead came back in from smoking a cigarette outside. As he passed me, an older black man coming the other way asked him if he wanted to buy a gold chain. Skinhead said no, and the man left. As soon as he was gone, the skinhead raced over to his laundry basket where he’d left his wallet on top, opened it and screamed out “That nigger stole my 20 dollar bill.” He raced out but the man was gone. He stomped back in, yelled “MOTHERF*CKER” at the top of his lungs, kicked his laundry basket across the room, smashed every loose item he could find against the wall, all the time screaming nigger this and nigger that. Made me feel ashamed to be human. Then he went next door to the Arabs who owned both places and said “A short nigger just stole my twenty dollar bill.” Of course the store was full of Afro-Americans. Then he came back feeling foolish and said perhaps he shouldn’t have used that term when he was talking to the “towel-heads” because they weren’t all that far from that themselves.

The store owner looked at the security tape and saw not only was the $20 stolen, so was his social security card. The owners told him to call the cops. Instead he took off in his car cruising the streets looking for the thief he was going to “mess up” if he found him, which he didn’t. When he returned, he told me he couldn’t call the cops because he was on parole and they’d only hassle him.

Finally the skinhead calmed down a wee bit and said “Maybe he needed it more than I did,” then admitted it was really his own fault for leaving his billfold in plain sight while he went outside to smoke.

Writing all this “nigger” stuff bothers me, makes me feel unclean, even though it actually happened and is crucial to the story. But this is what I wonder – last night I went to a poetry reading where the two feature readers and most of the audience were black, and as I listened to their excellent poetry, once again I head the word “nigger” pouring from the poets’ mouths – a lot. Way too much. Yet it didn’t make me cringe like today’s skinhead did because his was pure bigotry while last night’s was poetic use and at least had an artistic basis. Yet both resulted from racism from one end or the other.

I have no answers. All I can do is fight my own inner bigotry against those who don’t look, feel or think like me.

But back to the laundromat – each week I go, not only are my senses assaulted on one level or another culturally, esthetically or morally, but one or more machines malfunction because the laundromat is at least 15 years old and the owners are not maintaining the equipment. Last two months or so a washer would count down to 10 minutes left and then stay at 10 minutes forever. This has happened a half dozen times. The first four times I’d beat, knee, shake the machine and eventually it’d start its countdown again, but the last two times nothing worked, so I went into the store and told the owners and 10-20 minutes later when they had a break between customers, they’d walk over and use a key to unlock it and get it going again. So today I used the larger twice-as-expensive machines to avoid that problem, and one of them refused to add my soap to the wash. I had to take handfuls of water from the sink and pour it into the soap slot to get the soap to go down. Not sure it did. Then the two dryers I used were only half hot, so after 30 minutes I discovered my clothes were but half dry and I had to move to two new dryers and put more money in. Assault on my senses, assault on my finances.

Next week I’ll drive twice as far to another laundromat and see what new misadventures await me there.

I swear, since I stopped buying grass, either the world’s decided to treat me nastier, or else I’m not as mellow and merely notice the nastiness more. I’ve been trying to write more positive blogs–in fact originally decided not to write of last week’s temper tantrum–but this it is the it it is, and I know no way to spin it into happy-ever-after-land.

Some say we create our own reality, that it flows from what we are within. If this is true, I really worry about what I am.

This is Smith reporting from the nasty sludge in the bottom of a drain in an old decaying moldy dying abandoned house on Nightmare Lane.

today’s laundromat – foto by Smith

2 Responses to “the nightmare of laundry lane”

  1. Jack McGuane says:

    I read your blog but can’t think of anything to say that might make it better. I have to go to a laundromat soon and I just hope I won’t have the same kind of experiences.

  2. smith says:

    nothing to say. i am an intelligent well educated arts oriented liberal leaning human who has no money, lives in a mixed neighborhood and deal with low class uneducated people. there ways are bound to clash with my sensibilities. i’m not being classist or racist or bigoted, it’s just a fact that their lives are harder and they understandably react in ways that grate against my polite ways. i don’t want to impose myself or my ways on others… and i usually think ahead in order to not bother others – i let cars into traffic, i hold doors for women and the elderly, i politely listen to the most boring inane shit from strangers, i smile as often as possible and greet strangers, i try to keep my opinions to myself whan they disagree with those around me – in other words, i try to be kind, thoughtful, and courteous – the way you seem to be to me and others. but a lot of that is how i was raised, even though we were poor. i don’t know the answer. i just know there’s a lot of unhappiness around and a lot of it has to do with racism and the greedy rich fucking all the rest of us over. my job is to be as pleasant and positive as possible, to brighten my own corner and not get too bummed out by all the shitty assholes fouling the airspace around me.

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