Many single people who live in an apartment or condo go to the laundromat to do their laundry. Hell, there are even comedy shows at some in some of the bigger cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. I used to be one of those people, but no longer. In fact, I am quite afraid of doing so.
When I was still in college at Wright State University and living alone in a studio apartment in Dayton, OH, I frequented a laundromat down the street. This was an interesting time in my life, the year was 2002. I had begun doing stand up comedy again after a three year, crazy religious melt-down, studying social work, going to hell because I was so selfish hiatus. After I came out of the haze of over zealousness, I took to the stage again via an improv group I had almost accidentally joined in town. After our first show at Wiley’s Comedy Club in downtown Dayton, I realized I did not like sharing the stage with other people that much and the original dream of being a stand up comedian that I had buried under post apocalyptic end times fears had been rekindled.
I would like to say that I am completely over this ultra-whacked out phase and have moved on from feeling like Jesus is coming back at the softest breeze ruffling through the leaves of trees in an eery way on a dark pre-storm afternoon, but I would be lying. If mother nature catches me walking outside, alone or even at the darkest of night and pieces of trash blow by me in a sneaky way, my first reaction is to go to the Our Father prayer in case this really is the moment where all hell literally breaks loose.
Funny thing about being raised Catholic and having a grandmother that fills your head with premonitions of the great battle of good versus evil that will DEFINITELY take place during her lifetime (she will not tell her age to this day, even to her children, but suffice to say mid 80’s is accurate) is that you live the rest of your life walking on egg shells. Not just ordinary egg shells, either. These are egg shells comprised of every single sin, big or small, mortal or venial I have ever committed in my lifetime. Not even ballet shoes made of love and forgiveness can dance around those.
I remember for a time I could not even leave the bedroom in my house for fear of sinning. I just knew that if I left the house I would sin and that is when Jesus would decide to come back, right at that moment and catch me mid-sin and then I would burn for eternity. If this sounds crazy, it is because it is. Only problem was that at the time it was more real than anything I could see or touch. And I was doing a lot of touching, which only made it worse.
One time in particular stands out to me as the darkest moment of my enlightenment period. I was lying in bed, Bible by my side and as I stared at the ceiling a car was driving down the road. The headlights of the car shone through the trees in my front yard and cast a moving shadow across my dark rooms walls. I was so deep into my own mind of being a sinner and having spent so much time attempting to be famous and selfish that I did not see the shadow of leaves and branches on my bedroom wall, I saw the demons from the movie “Ghost” coming to take my soul to hell. I was paralyzed in fear and could feel my soul being sucked down from my body into the depths of hell at that very moment. I could not scream as I was out of breath. I knew at that very moment that I would spend an eternity paying for horrible sins. This lasted for about thirty seconds before it passed.
Once it did pass, I wiped the tears from my face and grasped the Bible laying next to me with what most people would consider to be a death grip, but I am not so strong or tough as most, so it was more like a grasp of a four year old child tugging at your pant leg to try and show you something in the next room. I took the Bible and hurled it against the wall. I had reached by breaking point. The purpose of religion in people’s lives is like a puppy or cat, to add enjoyment. It had become a burden, religion paralyzed me from living. I would not go to the grocery store to buy food because I thought that I would see a beautiful married woman and want to fuck her in my mind, mortal sin. I was taught growing up that to think of committing a sin was just as bad as committing it.
We all have our breaking points with things and thankfully, I had reached mine with religion. I turned on the lights in my room and splashed some water on my face in the bathroom. I immediately called an old high school friend and went to a bar for some drinks. It was the most awkward night out I have ever had, which is saying something. I had forgotten how to talk to people, be around people in general. I was a complete weirdo. But, I was committed to getting some kind of normalcy in my life back, so I continued to go out and try to leave behind this fear of being alive and thinking that Jesus was just one turn of the corner away from standing in front of me with a sad and disapointed look on his face.
I should note also that as a very young child I was at the very least delusional due to all the things “Grandma Jesus” had told me. I believed I was the next chosen leader of God. In my six year old mind it went Moses – Jesus – Ryan Singer, from Dayton, Ohio. So, as you can imagine the reverse indoctrination process was a long one and still continues to this day. This is what I was dealing with and doing before I got back into stand up comedy.
Back to the point, I was headed out on another seemingly bland night to do laundry at my local spot. I was taking Kung Fu lessons at the time, working full time as a waiter and going to school full time as well. I gathered up my dirty things and my backpack with homework and headed out, it was about 10:30 at night. I always like to do anything in public places at night, less people. As I had hoped, I was the only one there at this small little joint. I put my clothes in the washers and got to reading by text book on 18th century British Literature. Time passed somewhat quickly as it always does when reading such a mind-grabbing book.
I put my clothes in one dryer to try to save on quarters. I sat back down. Then he walked in. The laundromat was very small, about the size of a school classroom. It was on the corner of two not so busy streets and I was sitting in a chair up against the far wall that gave me a view of the intersection outside. There was a view because the front of the building as comprised almost entirely of windows, like one of those television walls you see in the Sports Bet sections of a casino in Vegas. It was more than easy to see almost everything happening inside if you were driving by, even though few cars would be at Tuesday night at 11 pm.
The guy who came in seemed about my age, mid-twenties and proceeded to walk up to the washers and dryers directly adjacent to the ones I had and was using. I know there is not a book about laundromat ettiquete, but if there was it would say on the first page, “when entering a laundromat with only one other person there, use the machines as far away as possible from that person as to not cause uncomfortable situations.” There were a row of washers and dryers stacked atop of one another that ran down the middle of the room, effectively halving off the space. He did not read the ettiquete book.
I paid little attention to him as I was engrossed in reading about Heidegger and the likes. It should also be noted that when I sit in a chair, I sit the most comfortable way possible, with my top crossing leg snuggly over my resting leg. Many men consider this to be “feminine” or argue that “my balls are too big to be comfortable like that.” I politely disagree with you, Mr. Big Balls. So, this may have sent out the wrong impression to the guy who came inside. That is when I heard it.
“Ooops! Not again!” He exclaimed. “What am I going to do?”
I will admit that this piqued my curiosity, but I marched on with my reading not lifting my eyes even the slightest bit. You know how you have peripheral vision on the sides of your eyes? Well, you also have it up and down, too. So, even as I was reading I could see the basic image of him standing in front and slightly to left of me – about six feet away. Now, the tension and anxiety I am feeling is being raised exponentially. What the hell is talking about, oops? Then he begins to mutter some things that kind of sounded like this:
“I guess I’ll just do this. I’m going to have to.”
After he mutters these words, I cannot believe, will not allow myself to believe what it is I think I am peripherally seeing. It would appear and kind of sound like he is disrobing. Taking his clothes off. I refuse to let myself believe it. Why would he do that? The whole wall is windows and anyone driving by could see. I think there is no way he could be doing that. But, just in case, I pretend to keep reading but in my mind I am going over my first three Kung Fu moves that I will use on him in case he tries to nakedly beat me up and/or rape me. What seems like twenty minutes passes, but I am sure it was probably not even a minute and he is still fidgeting around and what was once a peripherally dark image has become very pale. This was my second hint that he probably had taken his clothes off.
I still have not been able to make myself look at this point. No person in their right mind would get naked at a laundromat. My anxiety is translating into shaky hands and and increased heart rate. “I am going to have beat the shit out of this naked guy,” is what I keep thinking. I have never been in a fight before, let alone with a naked guy. Then he takes a couple steps toward me. This can’t be happening. “Stand up, throat jab, knee to the head, elbow to the back,” those are my three moves locked in the chamber and ready to fire. And then he speaks:
“What you reading there?”
What kind of fucking question is that? First of all, don’t talk to me when you’re clothed let alone naked. Secondly, it was a huge text book with the title written in huge letters on the cover, it is obvious! I try to play it cool:
“Just something for school.”
I thought this might be enough to get him away from me as I said it my best dickhead voice, short, stern and deep. You know, to let him know that I am a man that could kill him if I needed to. It did not work.
“You got anything I could read?” He asks.
This is when I look up. All of my fears realized. He is COMPLETELY naked. Aboslutely nothing to cover his everything. Sidenote: he was in desperate need to invest in some clippers. After the initial shock wears off, which luckily only took about a second or two, I realized I needed to go big or go home. I spread my peacock (bad choice of words) feathers and puffed my chest out and lowered my voice as deep as it would go:
“What the hell are you doing?! You’re naked! You’re at a laundromat in public!”
“I…I’m…I spilled on my clothes and had to put them in the wash-”
“I don’t give a fuck what you did! I don’t know who you think you are or who you think I am, but I will fucking destroy you!” (I’m really hoping he will buy my bluff at his point so I do not get sexually assaulted)
“I don’t think you heard me! Get the fuck out of my face or I will fucking destroy you!!!”
At this last threat of destroying him, he becomes very scared and makes a quick move to turn and run away. As he runs by the table where people fold clothes and place their detergent, he grabs a box of Tide and uses it to cover his ass as he runs outside. Two things: first of all, why are you covering your ass when you just put your junk within three feet of my face? And secondly, if you spill dry detergent on yourself, you can just wipe it off! His whole premise was flawed in needing to get naked in the first place. I do not go home and change when I drop the candy Nerds on my shirt and/or pants or get naked.
I immediately stood up, shaking almost uncontrollably. I grabbed my still wet clothes out of the dryer and stuffed them into my laundry bag and packed up my books as quickly as possible, like I was trying to get as much money out of the vault before the cops showed up. I braced myself for the walk outside and jogged to my car and sped off like that one guy from that one classic rock song that gets a flat tire down south and has to go into some bar where they do not like hippies with long hair or gay dudes. When I saw he was naked, that was the moment my hat came off and the racist rednecks saw my long hair, luckily for both of us the bluffs we used worked.
I got home and still could not believe what had happened. For a moment, just a moment I felt kind of bad for the guy. Maybe this was his “coming out” party and did not know he could just go to a gay bar and get laid by just being there? He had spent months working up the courage to come out and the only way he could think of diving into the world of gay sex was to expose himself to a stranger in a public place and hope it worked. We’ve all been there, right? But, then I thought that it might not have been his first time doing this. Maybe it has worked for him before? I have heard, like we all have the truck stops are havens for gay sex, but I have never heard of the laundromat being one. Fill in your litany of predictable jokes here.
I felt so strange when I got home. I actually felt like I had been assaulted sexually. I know I was not really, but it still felt that way, so I called the non-emergency police line. This is exactly how the conversation went, I will never forget it:
“Dayton Police Department”
“Hi, I would like to report a man exposing himself in public.”
“Your name, please?”
<I will spare you the boring details part here>
“So, I was doing laundry alone at the laundromat and this guy came in and just got naked in front of me. He asked to borrow a book and I yelled at him and ran out.”
“When did this happen, sir?”
“Within the last 10 minutes. He is sitting in his car naked as we speak probably because his clothes are still in the washer.”
“Can you describe the man?”
“Yeah, he’s the only guy at the laundromat without ANY CLOTHES ON!”
“Sir, can you describe him please?”
“He’s naked! He’s a naked white guy with brown hair. Brown hair all over!”
“Okay, sir. We’ll look into it.”
That is why I will not go to laundromats anymore and still hesitate to leave the house. Even when I try to live a clean life, clothes or otherwise, it always ends up dirty.