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Thursday, December 30, 2010

He’s Probably Described Us to the Police by Now

I went to the Laundromat with Mary Monday.

It had been a number of years since I’d had to use one, so she felt the need to prepare me.

Mary cast a critical eye at my clothing. “You may be overdressed.”

“Overdressed?”

“Well, for one thing, you’re wearing pants.”

“I wear pants a lot.”

“Yeah,” she says. “But there aren’t any stains on them. You appear to be putting on airs.”

I start to laugh.

“I’m serious! We need to maybe find you something with an elastic waistband and a cigarette burn in the crotch.”

“That reminds me – what are you doing for New Year’s?”

“Don’t try to butter me up. And you’re not wearing jewelry, are you??”

“Oh, come on,” I said. “I think you’re exaggerating.”

“Maybe,” she said. “But maybe not.”

A trip to the Laundromat begins with a single step, followed by hundreds of other steps. Seven loads of clothes were piled into the back of my car, detergent, hangers. Accommodations were made to ensure the availability of copious amounts of quarters.

“I just feel like I should warn you. This place is always weird.”

I start the car, put on my seatbelt, insist that Mary put hers on as well. “What kind of weird?”

“Well, a couple times ago I ran into Vince Neil.”

“Vince Neil, singer-for-Motley-Crue Vince Neil?”

“Yup. Even went up to him and told him that he looked just like Vince Neil. You know what he said? He said “Well at least I don’t look like that bastard Sammy Hagar. I hate that SOB.”

The drive to the Laundromat took just minutes. Located in a strip mall built in the 60s, it‘s the only business open.

I get out of the car and walk around to let Mary out of the passenger side. My car, long known for its peculiarities, its front end held together with shoe laces and shims, no longer opens from the inside on the passenger side. Mary sits patiently while I come around and let her out. “Thank you so much,” she murmurs.

We unload the car, we get inside. We sort lights, darks, and Jon’s ridiculously greasy work duds. Mary has identified her favorite washers (“the proven machines”) and we are nearing the end of our stay at the Laundromat when He comes in.

But it’s not Vince Neil.

He is small, wiry, dirty. His matted hair juts out from under a dark blue stocking cap. There are crumbs in his beard. “Aaaaaaaauuuuuuuccccccccccccchhhhhhh.” He has cleared his throat, as he will continue to do. Our eyes meet. They are bright blue. He bares his teeth at me. “Aaaauccgheghhhh. Garbin flapping rightwing carport.”

He sets his hamper down, pulls out bedding, stuffs it into a machine. “Aaaucccghegh.” He pulls a bank bag from the bottom of his hamper. He mumbles rapidly. Coins clink audibly against each other as he finds the proper number of quarters, pumps 12 of them into the high-capacity washer.

Mary walks past me. “I had nothing to do with this,” she hisses.

The throat-clearing/gargling sounds have taken on a querulous tone. His head and shoulders disappear as he digs through the hamper.

“Aaagheccccccchh. Farflung wife! Dargun dadgum reactionary pixie stix.” The washer with his bedding in it is agitating as he leaves.

I look at Mary.

“He lives over there,” she is pointing at the large house kitty-corner from the Laundromat. “I think it’s a boarding house.”

“He left his change,” I say. I pick up the bag. There’s probably 40 quarters in it.

“We’ll run it over to him if he doesn’t come back by the time we leave,” Mary says.

Twenty minutes later, he is back. He is holding another blanket and he is angry.

Mary looks at me and I nod. “Are you missing your quarters?” Mary asks him. “Do you know you left your quarters here?”

“Aaaghcheggggggh! Farbin flippen crock bottom! Grackle copper! Stealin! Stealin!”

“No,” I say. “We didn’t steal them. You left them here.”

“Aagheeeech! Robbed! Obbin freabin robbed!”

“No,” Mary says. “Really. We wouldn’t take your money! It’s all still here, see?”

Nothing we could say was good enough to make him believe we had not tried to steal from him, despite the fact that his bag of quarters was right where he left it.

We left ten minutes later, the backseat of my car loaded with freshly laundered, freshly folded clothing.

He watched us as we drove away.

The Laundromat: Here we thought it might be a weird experience for us.

Turns out that it was weird for everyone.

39 comments:

Tracy said...

Well Pearl, you always cease to amaze me! Laundrymats are scary places for sure! Glad you got outta there with your pants intact!

Simply Suthern said...

You should have Mary bring her quarters and her laundry to your place. I know, No Vince Neil and no story material.

When you say high Capacity, do you mean for clothes or quarters? 12? Wow. Maybe that aint alot. I've never washed clothes like that. Yea I know, I dont get out much.

Simple Dude said...

Ahhh.. the laundromat. The place our underpants go to get clean and dreams go to die.

SD
simpledudecomplexworld.blogspot.com

Sioux Roslawski said...

Now I know where you're going to be hanging out, when you're in need of new writing material. Those reactionary pixie stixs will get you every time...

There were some laundramats built that were called "Duds and Suds" and the attraction: There was a "bar" or a little sort of restaurant, so you could buy and drink beer while you washed your clothes. I guess being in a drunken state would make doing laundry in the laundramat a pleasant experience...

Symdaddy said...

That'll teach ya, ya great big nubbin-duxtie!

Ya can't just walk into a gittibity-mat and think nothing gonna flab-dabbin happen!

Silly noodle!

Eva Gallant said...

Laundramat experiences are always memorable. I haven't been to one in years, but I don't miss it.

bruce said...

i used to look like Sammy Hagar...now i look like richard dreyfus...but dreyfus in between "Hooper" and "Mr. Holland"...

great post as usual...

oh crap, i have to fix my dryer, or i will be similarly accused of stealin'

BTW...I gave you and award..stop by the JADIP site and pick it up..if'n you want to...

Bruce
bruce johnson jadip
evilbruce
stupid stuff i see and hear
Bruce’s guy book
the guy book

Flea said...

Iggy iggy iggy! Ew! Actually, I like going to the laundromat every four or five years. Usually when there's been a major illness sweeping through and the laundry is so piled up that it would take weeks to do it. Or we're traveling and need to wash. Or the dryer breaks. Stupid broken dryer. It's a great place to people watch.

a Broad said...

< Mary sits patiently while I come around and let her out. “Thank you so much,” she murmurs. >

I love Mary. This is so perfect.
I will continue to try to avoid laundromats. Even if they don't even have them where I live now... there is always the possibility that I will move again and there will be one in town... which I promise to avoid.

That Janie Girl said...

Holy crapola, Pearl. I think I'm gonna let you have my "it's never boring around here" tag.

Don't say I never gave ya nothing. (Three negatives - I'm rockin' it out this morning!)

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl, the laundromat is never my favourite experience. Noisy, steamy, smelly, and full of in-bred mutants plotting to suck the marrow from my bones. Perhaps. Glad you made it home, soldier! Indigo

Mamma has spoken said...

I've had to use the laundromat a couple of times before.
It wasn't as nice a time as you had.
I had to go home and take a nice long, hot shower...

Wow, that was awkward said...

Isn't there some song about 'watching the laundry go round?' Even if there isn't, I remember sitting there staring at the washers and saying that over and over again. It may have even been out loud. I may have been one of the crazies.

Andrew Green said...

Ah, Miss the laundromat....
Since I moved into a house with a washer and dryer, life hasn't been as much fun.

AT the laundromat, you can be as careless with the machines as you want because they're not yours!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I swear, every laundromat has the same cast of characters, no matter WHERE it's standing. And all these people's cousins are hanging out at the DMV.

HumorSmith said...

Garbin freebin frippin laundromat spin doctor

Sweet Cheeks said...

I have fond memories of the laundromat circa early 70's...just a kidlet then, of course. I loved the smell of fresh laundry soap and softeners, the steamed up windows and watching how many people bought cigarettes from the vending machine. Remember that from back then? As if the sign posted on it, "Must be 18 years of age to purchase" was ever acknowledged.

Good times. Good times.
=]

Oilfield Trash said...

Awesome.

You should have taken a bottle of Jack Daniels with you. It wards off evil spirits.

Gigi said...

Well Pearl - it can easily be said that you live in a colorful world.

Pat Tillett said...

GREAT story!
You've got my memory banks working overtime right now. Having been a "fringe" and "on the road" person for a while in my younger days, I've also seen some strange things in laundromats (I'm sure I was one of them). sometimes it was a place to keep warm, dry, or to catch a little sleep. In a general sense, they are good places to stay away from. I'd say only a small percentage of folks who use them are mainstream. I feel a blog post coming on...

Leenie said...

Your post and the comments are outstanding as usual!!! I go there to watch the perverts watch the panties float around in the dryers.

David L Macaulay said...

This post is just far too funny to read at work as people are giving me weird looks.

mrwriteon said...

Have you ever considered a career in writing advertising copy? And I never knew how to write throat clearing, yet you succeeded. And that damn Sammy Hagar, absolutely. Always a DLR man myself. The last time I used a laundromat was in Grenoble, France, right in the heart of the Arab quarter. I fell in love with an exquisite looking woman from the Ivory Coast. She did not return the compliment.

Douglas said...

I have both done my laundry at and slept in laundromats in my younger days. They are not bad for sleeping in.

Argent said...

Ohh, the memories! Haven't been to one of those zoos in years. The ones in the Uk are no different from yours over there -there are no doubt universal laws that govern these things.

Linda Sue said...

Happy Capricorny birthday time! We rock, indeed we do...like reactionary pixie stix! COOL!lauderettes, my favorite places to get to know the neighborhood...and maybe find a great boyfriend...like you did.

Vinny C said...

I wouldn't worry too much. By the time he gets done describing you to the police they'll be looking for Garbin Flappin & Obbin Freabin.

Or Vince Neil & Sammy Hagar...

becca said...

sounds like you had an adventure to remember for a long time ro come

Jhon Baker said...

ah, laundromats, the stories - and there are stories, but all of them boarding on the strange and unbelievable.

Carrie Lynne said...

We have a laundry mat here called Suds. One side of the laundry mat is in fact a laundry mat. The other side is a bar.People like him would blend right into he woodwork.

Tempo said...

She thinks you put on airs and graces then waits while you open her car door like the freakin queen or sumthin...that Mary has a lot to answer for..

Pearl said...

Ah, but Tempo! The passenger door doesn't open! :-)

Cheeseboy said...

I have no idea how you come up with such quality stuff day after day.

Laughed all the way through this conversation. Who would have guessed Vince was hanging out at a Minn. laundromat? I pictured him more as a Jersey laundromat guy.

HermanTurnip said...

The laundromat, the public library and the DMV are three of the strangest places on the face of the Earth. They function as a magnet for the unkempt, crude, crass, bizarre and downright unstable denizens of society. Consequently they serve as excellent fodder for writing material. God help me, but I love these places...

Lynne H. said...

Oh lordy it's been years since I was in a laundromat..but I do recall the place.. Something about the change lady who sat behind the counter smoking pall-malls, drinking hot sodas and wearing electric blue eyeshadow I shall not forget..

Great story Pearl!!!

Happy New Years!!!!

the walking man said...

So did you dress down to go to the laundromat or did you go in that cocktail dress and pearls?

~Tim said...

I love this exchange:

"We need to maybe find you something with an elastic waistband and a cigarette burn in the crotch.”

“That reminds me – what are you doing for New Year’s?”

Kal said...

No one brings a story around full circle with their final line like you do. They aren't posts, they are short stories that should be studied by kids in school. Every damn creative writing assignment I ever get from them seems to end with some Tiger dropping in to kill everyone so I am replacing studying O. Henry (the chocolate bar questions are enough to drive me off my nut) to them studying the 'Best of Pearl - The Cat Lady Chronicles'.

Tammy said...

Oh, I know that man! He shows up randomly and wants to have long conversations in my general direction. Trust me--better to have him think you stole his quarters. Love the post!