My Irish Up: Death at the laundromat

Michael T. Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

His neck tattoo stretched to the middle of his cheek, his body type was troglodyte XL and he was so intent at thrusting his laundry through the back of the washtub in the machine next to mine last Monday midnight that I decided to skip the pleasantries and pretend I didn’t see him. Ah, life in the city.

When the coin slot mechanism wouldn’t go all the way in on my loaded machine, I scratched my head, tried again, bent to look underneath the machine, tried it all again from the top — I may have whimpered slightly — pushed at the slotted thing again — and then just stood there, staring at the puzzle.

Eventually, I realized the big triple loader didn’t take quarters.

“What kind of a washing machine takes half dollars? What is this, a freaking casino?” I said to the air, not expecting my cohort to answer, but hoping he might, just to break the tension. (Why was he looking kind of bulgy under his left arm?) I hoped he might be one of those gentle giants you read about, usually in fiction, sure, but certainly a not impossible type to be doing his laundry at midnight in Sin City. But no, the giant was unmoved by the plight of his fellow man-of-the-world. In fact, at this point, I could hear him looking at me in a decidedly sneering fashion. I had packed the machine tight with clothes and now I had to offload the whole shebang, trolley around him a couple of times and load the other machine, just as he finished loading and feeding quarters into his. Mr. T went off to the other side of the room and commenced reading something, which relieved me. A brute, who can read, is my kind of brute.
I was kvetching a little at the new machine since I was inserting quarters rapidly and just as rapidly the machine was spitting them back out. I sighed heavily. I couldn't help it. Out of the corner of my ear, I could still hear Mr. T looking my way. I finally got the thing to accept five dollars worth of quarters, realized that I had forgotten to put in laundry detergent, flipped open the top, and a geyser of water gushed up five feet in the air.

“Whoa, that usually doesn’t happen!” I said good-naturedly, and shut the lid back down firmly. I wanted my new friend to know I wasn’t a total greenhorn at independent living, that I knew my way around a laundromat, as well as the next guy. For some reason, I began to whistle, piercingly. Out of the corner of my eye and over the top of a bank of washers, I could see my new non-acquaintance was still reading, but he appeared to be flipping the pages rather angrily now. I shambled back toward my original machine, sort of trailing a laundry basket by my hip and — that’s when the worst possible thing happened:

The basket caught on the handle of his machine, ripped it open, and soap and water began to pour onto the floor!

I was, remember, unarmed. Unarmed? I was practically unmanned. Cursing softly, whistling desperately, I dropped my basket with a clatter and tried to shut the door. It wouldn't shut! Water was pulsing out, carrying sopping clothes with each wave. A surge of water flooded over the lip, sloshing and gurgling demonically as fabric and soap and all hope of survival spilled onto the tiles. Frantically, I pushed hanging clothes back in. I didn’t have time to check to see if The Champ was looking. (— Damage Control? Mr. Scott? — I don’t think I can hold her, Cap’n!) Well, I finally got the thing closed, tossed my basket atop my first machine and stared at the inch of water and suds — and women’s underwear! — on the floor right under the brute’s machine.

“Oh God! Oh God!” I don’t think I said aloud. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Mr. T stirring, looking up. Was he getting up to come see what the hell was going on with the truly weird Irish launderer across the way? No, no, no, please everyone remain seated! Everything is completely, 100% under control over here! No problems! I know what I’m doing!

Now, what would you do? Apologize, of course, right? Say: “Mr. Brute Sir, my basket accidentally ripped open your machine in the middle of the wash cycle and if there are any damages, well I’m sure I can pay for a new wash! Here are your panties.” Right? That’s what any responsible adult would do.

But what did   do, you ask? Smart aleck, eh?

I quicker-than-lightning stepped on the two pair of underwear and one sock, pushed them on the floor to a spot directly under my machine's door, leaving a snail trail of goo and suds, so that it would look like my machine was leaking and the water had just flowed away in a soapy river under his machine and on down the tilted floor; then I ripped open the door to my washer, quick-jammed the underthings and sock inside, hit WASH — and walked away whistling.

I tell you, city life is a lot more exciting than most people think!

Mike Corrigan lives in Lewiston— unless you happen to be missing a couple of pair of underwear and a sock. In that case, Mike was just visiting from out of town last week and there’s no sense in you hunting him down like a dog.

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