Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Laundromat Lady

Lord have mercy, do I have a story to tell today.

I'm at the laundromat last night, and among the other patrons is a 30-ish 40-ish woman accompanied by her five young children. All seems to be business as usual, until the lady becomes upset and starts making a scene because a machine has supposedly eaten her money and isn't working. Sista is literally crying and yelling and cussing and banging on things. On the one hand I'm alarmed (I'm on the phone with Ma when the lady starts up, and Ma even advises me to get in my car and wait, or just leave and come back to get my clothes later.) But then on the other hand I'm also wondering what this woman is going through, because people don't get angry like that just over some laundry. "I'm so f*cking mad right now. This laundromat is p*ssing me off!" and "Y'all just took my money! I want my money back!" and "This sh*t just keeps happening! I'm tired of this! I'm too old for this!" and "My kids need clean clothes! I'm not leaving here until my kids' clothes are clean! Call the police or whatever, but ain't leaving!" I've never seen anyone go off in public like that before, but I can't help thinking that this isn't just much ado about nothing...

She calms down somewhat and apologizes to the attendant for going off on her, after the attendant has calmly and patiently gotten everything sorted out. But then she's still fussing to herself and her kids that this laundromat sucks, the machines aren't working, that they aren't cleaning her stuff right, that she's going to have to go home with dirty clothes and sheets, oh my God, oh my God. And she's still muttering to herself and her kids, "My heart is hurtin'. I'm not feeling good. I can't deal with this.  Something ain't right, something's wrong with me for me to be getting mad and yelling like this. I need to get out of here. I'm not coming back here no more. Come taxes I'm getting my own washer and dryer."

This is not a deranged lady. This is common everyday human pain, distress, and frustration. We all have these feelings. Hers just so happened to come out of her and be expressed in a public place that normally prizes quiet, calm, getting business taken care of, staying out of people's way, and leaving without having caused any disturbance. Maybe she was just having a bad day, or a bad week, a bad few months, maybe even a bad couple of years? We don't know. The woman may have disturbed the peace last night, but who can honestly say to themselves that they've never felt the urge to just let it all out and be heard (recognized), even if that meant making a scene?

Sure, people are definitely responsible for how they react to situations, but when folks do go off, can we really blame them? Can we really look at them crazy as if they're the only ones who've ever been weary and felt like the world is against them, and who've ever been tempted to break the code of public conduct?

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