When i first moved out to the homestead i did not bring my washer and dryer. I left them back at the apartment for a few months. When my friend and her husband could help me move the units with their trailer, they joined me. Only problem? The tiny house had a stacked unit in it and there was only an outlet for a stacked unit. There was no outlet to support the washing machine, only the dryer. I needed an electrician. Until an electrician rewired my tiny house, i was not going to be able to use the washing machine that was now in my house. I was not carting it back to the apartment either, especially since the trailer left with my friend and her husband. I did what i thought was the only logical thing to do. I went to the laundromat. I started going to a laundromat each weekend. It was such a hassle. I had to stay with the clothes until they were done so i couldn’t run any errands or do any chores for a few hours while the clothes went round in these big metal drums. I was constantly trying to get the grocery store to exchange dollar bills for quarters or buying things with cash instead of card; trying to get a twenty dollar bill broken up a bit so i could have at least two quarters. I kept forgetting laundry detergent and having to shell out for the individual packs in the ancient dispenser. And there was always somebody weird hanging around just waiting for conversation. This one guy told me i looked like one of his students but wasn’t so it would be legal for us to date. Another guy admitted to me that he had laundry units at home and they were in perfect working order, but he chose to come here and pay to do laundry just to have the opportunity to “pick up chicks”. I could not for the life of me understand why someone would pay to come to such a place if they had working appliances at home. I made the mistake of voicing my opinion that there were other less expensive and more interesting places to “pick up chicks”. He clarified, in case the situation wasn’t awkward enough, “i like to look at all the women’s bras.” Yeah. You try spending 2 hours in a room with that conversation. Surprisingly, it was none of this that turned me away from the laundromat in the end. It was a crazy person with a crew of buddies and a tree saw. One day i was standing in the laundromat waiting for my clothes to dry. I had finally gotten rid of the weird guy that was old enough to be my grandfather and kept asking me questions about my heritage to make sure we weren’t cousins before deciding if he wanted to ask me out. There was just me and an older woman putting clothes into a washing machine on the other side of the room. A beat up SUV pulled up outside and a group of guys began emerging from the vehicle. They stretched their arms and legs and then the driver stood up on the side of the vehicle and untied something long from the roof. It was a saw on a stick, the kind landscapers used to cut tree branches. The man untied that and lifted it down off the roof. At first i thought he was just going to secure it better on the car and tie it down. However, he lifted it away from the vehicle and began walking towards the laundromat. The other men followed. The woman across the room said in a low voice, “something’s not right about them dear. Something’s not right about them at all.” I looked up at her but said nothing. I was quietly assessing the situation. I didn’t keep a habit of panicking about things, especially when there was reason to. I had learned long ago, if one acted like prey in front of a predator, they would be prey. The man with the tree saw came into the laundromat. His buddies waited outside the door in the parking lot. He walked in, took a look at the soda machine, the laundry soap machine, poked his head into the bathroom, came back out, poked his head in two more times, came out, went all the way into the bathroom, examined the door, and left the building. He paced in the parking lot, some of his buddies gathered around him and some were looking at us through the window. The woman whispered to me, “he’s gonna rape us i bet. That’s probably why he keeps going in the bathroom. He’s checking it to see if there’s a window or a door lock. He’s probably canvasing the place so he can drag us in that bathroom and rape us.” I told her, “calm down.” She said, “i don’t mean to alarm you but it just isn’t right. Something’s not right with them. None of them have quarters or laundry. They didn’t use the bathroom or buy a soda, so what are they doing here? What did they come to use here? Not laundry machines…”. They were watching us intently through the window now. She was right. They were not here to do laundry and it was not looking like the odds were in our favor as the group went back to the vehicle and retrieved more landscaping equipment with sharp pointy edges. She began to panic. I was losing her. She put her hand over her mouth and said a little too loud, “Oh my God. Oh my God. They’re gonna rape or kill us. Oh heavenly father, Lord above, hear my prayer. Protect us from these evil men who would do God knows what to us. Deliver us from the trouble the Devil would bring on us today Lord. Have mercy, Lord, protect us.” I said, “Be quiet. Do your laundry. Pretend you don’t see them.” She said, “We have to get out of here hun. Forget the laundry. Just take it out wet.” I heard her and i agreed with what she was saying, but we were far outnumbered and there was nothing else located in the parking lot. It was not a well trafficked area. We needed to play things as smart as we could, because in a regular hand to hand combat scenario, outnumbered as we were and with my machete in the car, we were not going to win. The sign had said “no weapons”. I obeyed the sign. Turns out, crazy homocidal people usually don’t. I suspect these guys were either on or off some meds. The guy with the tree saw spoke to himself, a lot, about nonsense. He was having highly charged, nonsensical, ranting conversations with himself as he paced back and forth, walking in and out of the bathroom, all the while carrying his saw on a stick and looking in various washing machines. One of the other guys occasionally swore out loud in a raised voice as if someone had said something that pissed him off, but nobody i could hear had said anything to him. The woman had her cell phone out. She was texting somebody. Suddenly a black pickup truck pulled up in the parking lot and parked facing us through the window. All of the guys migrated over to the truck. They left us. The woman seemed calmer now. She had gotten her wits about her and was thinking with a rational head. She said, “Did you see them all go to the truck like that? They were up to no good, and now that my husband’s here, they wont be able to do whatever they had planned without an audience. My husband just texted me. One of the guys is telling him they like his truck. The guy asked if he wanted to sell it.” She gathered the last of her soaking wet laundry in her basket and walked slowly past me, “i told my husband not to leave until you made it to your car. I’m going to my husband’s truck. You go too, because once my husband leaves here, they will not be this friendly. He is the only thing keeping them in check.” I nodded. She said, “may God bless you.” I said, “and you as well.” I put my wet laundry into my basket, grabbed my keys, hoisted the basket onto my hip, and walked calmly out the door towards my car. I saw the door to the pickup close. She was in. The truck remained. I loaded my basket in the back seat, then opened the front door, climbed in, and locked the doors behind me. The first thing i did was grab my machete. I was angry i had been parted with it in order to follow the societal rules that do not allow weapons in places of business. If i followed the rules and the criminals didn’t, what did that make me? A sitting duck. I placed the machete on the center console, satisfied that the fight would at least be fair now. The truck began pulling away. I followed its example. The woman’s husband tipped his hand in an acknowledging wave as he pulled out onto the main road. I did the same shortly after. Behind me in my mirror i could see the men loading into their SUV and pulling away from the laundromat. Whatever purpose they had, it had nothing to do with the laundromat. I didn’t want to know what they had planned but the woman was right. It had something to do with us. There was nothing in the laundromat they wanted now that we were gone. I thought how lucky we were that the woman and her husband only had one car and that her husband hadn’t gone far when she texted him to come back. I made a rule right then and there. With the exception of work and the local grocery, if the machete wasn’t welcome, i wasn’t going. I had never been so angry in my life. It didn’t matter how well i sharpened my weapons. If they were in the car they were not going to be of much use to me. I hated that i was outnumbered. I felt like i’d been caught with my pants down on the porta-john. I was never going to a laundromat again. At that moment i had a trunk full of sopping wet laundry and while i was glad to walk away from a situation that felt like it could have gone way farther south than it did, i had to figure out what i was going to do to dry that laundry. I drove to home depot. I told the employees i wanted to build a laundry line between two trees. They kept directing me towards what was basically an oddly shaped metal drying rack. I knew what the problem was. I hadn’t found Sally. Sally would know what i was talking about. Sure enough, i found Sally helping someone in plumbing. She took me all over the store and picked up everything i needed to construct my own laundry line between two trees. There was plastic coated rope, u-bolts, and clothes pins. I said with gusto, “yes! That’s exactly what i need.” She smiled, “yep. Glad to help.” Off she went because there was already a line of other customers waiting for Sally’s help, though there were plenty of people standing around in orange smocks with nothing to do. I went home and stood on a chair in the yard next to a big cedar with my machete hanging from my hip. I was so angry. I could defend myself but not void of weapons. What was i going to do, blind them with detergent and steal the tree saw? (The thought had crossed my mind). So i picked two trees in the yard and as the sun grew lower in the sky i stood on a chair and attached one side of the string around the tree trunk, securing it in place with 3 u-bolts. Then i hopped down off the chair and drug the string across the yard to the other tree where i pulled it tight and stood on my tippy toes on a chair to wrap it around the second tree trunk against a branch to hold it at a certain height and secure it in place with the remaining 3 u bolts. I hung all of my wet clothes on the line with the package of clothes pins. I finished pinning the last one as the sun set behind the trees of my neighbor’s property. Confident that the clothes would no longer mildew, i took the dogs inside the house and sat down. It was only then that i let myself think about how lucky i was. Some people just make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and the backs of your arms. Sometimes its as if you can feel the ill intentions oozing out of someone’s pores. I didn’t know what those men had planned but i knew it was something sinister, something we had narrowly escaped. I thought about the woman. I had told her to be quiet. I was trying to use my street smarts to get us out of that situation. She asked God.
I hadn’t thought to ask God that afternoon in the laundromat, but i think about God every time i hang the laundry now. I think about how he let me walk out of that laundry mat and return to my dogs. I think about how i’m not buried in a shallow grave somewhere in the woods or in the back of a semi headed for mexico. Every time i hang the laundry and the dogs run back and forth under it i think how lucky i am to be here witnessing these shenanigans. It may not have been me that asked, but i am thankful God answered.