Friday, May 29, 2009

Fun at the Laundromat?

Alright, Max generally goes to the laundromat for us. With his extended vacation this week, I either went or ran out of clothes and since I have to be in church on Sunday, running out of clothes is really not an option. I haven't spent much time there since Max's ankle surgery in 2007. Funny. I ran into the same man that I ran into the last time I was there.

So, I unloaded my clothes into a couple of washing machines and headed back out to the car to sit with the dog and read a book on my Kindle. The machines are right in front of the window and I was able to watch their progress. This should be easy. Uh huh.

All of a sudden I saw a beater old car drive up and a man got out carrying a very small kitchen trash bag barely filled with clothes. He had another bag or two in his hands. He walked into the laundromat and wandered for a few minutes and I realized that I recognized him. This poor man actually had to run an empty cycle through the machines the last time I was there. His OCD is terrible. He wore plastic gloves to transfer the clothing into the machine and threw everything away that had come with him.

He set everything down on an empty machine next to the machine in which my clothing was being tossed and washed. And stood there. All I could think was "Oh no! I'm using this poor guy's machine and he doesn't know what to do?" Fortunately, I could tell that the cycle was nearly finished. I walked back in and he stood there staring at me.

Hmmm ... I'm not terribly comfortable with pulling out my 'necessities' with him staring, so I gave him a gentle, intimidating stare, hopefully telling him to 'Move on, there's nothing to see here.' He didn't. Alright. Fine. You wanna stare, I'll live with it. I gathered up all of the wet clothing, found a dryer, tossed it in and went back to the car.

Now remember, I can watch those machines. He used my two machines, but didn't actually run an empty load through. He did, however, bring in wipes to clean out the machines. He ran the wipes over them several times, laying them on the machine on which he had placed his 'tools' for the day. Over and over he wiped them out, and then, into one machine placed 3 shirts and 2 t-shirts and in the other machine a couple of pairs of khaki shorts and some socks. I watched as he actually ran the washing machines twice to clean those clothes. Everything that had come into the laundromat with him went into the trash. All of the wipes, his gloves, the bag he brought the clothes in ... everything. I feel so badly for him!

However, that doesn't lessen the fact that he was creeping me out. I went back in to begin pulling clothes out of the dryer and get them folded and he began hovering around me. He walked back and forth and kept ending up close to me. Mind you, I'm nowhere near his laundry. I'm clear on the other side of the laundromat. I tried to smile and I said, "hello," thinking that if he needed to engage me in conversation, I'd give it my best shot. Finally he asked how many days were in the month of May.

That one startled me. "31," I responded. He was concerned because he needed to get new plates for his car and it was going to rain on Monday. "Ok," I smiled and turned back to my dryer, hoping beyond all hope that he was going to walk away and not watch me fold all of my clothes.

I've often wondered at my compassion, yet lack of willingness to engage with someone who so desperately needs human interaction. I feel terrible that he has to face this life day in and day out and that he has no idea how to move beyond himself and into the normal world. I know that I'm not alone in this regard. People who are outside of our sense of normal generally force us to rethink things and we avoid that at all cost.

We prefer a homogenous society where everything is the same. We like to be able to walk into a Walgreen's anywhere in the country and be assured that we will find what we need or into a McDonald's and know that a Big Mac is going to taste the same in Dalton, Georgia as it does in Omaha, Nebraska.

Unique, different, odd. Words that describe how God created us, but those same words cause us to be uncomfortable with each other.

No comments: