Mid-week, after work, I usually do laundry. For many years, I’ve been going to a laundromat near my sanctum sanctorum. The manager and the staff all know that I’m a regular. Last year at work, on a stifling hot summer’s day, I took a flying leap over a furniture dolly that ended in a hard fall leaving me with a monumental bruise on my right leg. The next day, while wearing shorts, I visited my laundromat to do my wash. The bruise had entered the abstract expressionist painting stage. I walked past one of the clerks, a gruff squat woman, who was reading a newspaper. I said, “Hi.” She muttered the same from behind her periodical. When I was walking out, she lowered her paper and asked, “What hell happened to your leg?” I was unsure if she meant “what in the hell happened to your leg?” Or, did she look at this massive discoloration and think, “That looks like hell”? I appreciated her concern. She’s a tough love type.
Lately, the regular staff has not been around, and the new clerk is someone who speaks little English. A week ago, when I was in the middle of folding at 7:30 at night, she asked, “You done?” I said, “I’m folding. Don’t you close at 8?” She said, “I want to go home.” I said, “So do I.” She walked away. I did not feel any love.
This week, I make sure to finish faster should the clerk want to shutter early. I again appear to be the only customer. When I am waiting the final few minutes to pull my load out of the dryer, a guy that looks like Weird Al Yankovic’s brother enters.
He has something bulky tucked under his arm; a folding bike.
He is also the Sock Terrorist.
The Sock Terrorist pulls out his sopping wet laundry from a washer and slaps it on the folding table. In return, I want to slap him. Who does something so epically inconsiderate in a public laundromat? I suffer in smoldering silence and then my dryer stops. I proceed to fold at the sliver sized folding table reserved for Ken-doll sized apparel. The Sock Terrorist finishes doing whatever oddball sorting he is doing on the serious folding table. I consider finishing my folding at the big kid’s folding table, but it now looks more like a small pond, so I remain put at the space reserved for doll house residents. The Sock Terrorist tosses his load in the dryer I had just used. He has his choice of twenty dryers, but he specifically chooses that one. I am quite sure this is an intentional decision.
That is because I suddenly realize that I’m missing a sock.
In the midst of the Sock Terrorist’s load I can see my sock in what is now his dryer. The musical cue at this moment is a downbeat. I have to address this sock matter to the Sock Terrorist.
Me: Excuse me, my sock’s in your dryer.
Sock Terrorist: (tone dripping with false surprise) Really?
Me: Yeah, see it, the brown one?
Sock Terrorist: My, my. You’re going to have to wait.
Then, I notice that he’s deposited 42 minutes worth of quarters and it’s 7:40.
Me: Do you realize that she closes at 8?
The Sock Terrorist exploits this question to make his Donald Trump meets Pepe le Pew move.
Sock Terrorist: Not for me. Tell you what, give me your number, let’s work out your sock situation together tonight. Sound good?
In response to this proposition, I resist hurling every morsel I’ve ever eaten since exiting the womb. Instead, I resort to Plan B and continue conversation with this dweeb.
Me: I’m not giving you my number! I just want my sock! When you pull your stuff out of the dryer, please give it to the clerk and I’ll get it tomorrow.
Rebuffed, the Sock Terrorist clutches his bike in furor.
Sock Terrorist: (livid) You work that out with her!
He is possibly thinking that I’ve blown a phenomenal encounter, the chance to find myself romanced by a geek with gold card-style laundromat access, whose signature drink is Grey Goose & Sprite, and favorite foreplay maneuver is tying his date to a chair scantily clad in a ball-gag. Just as the Sock Terrorist exits in a huff, the clerk approaches.
Me: What time are you closing tonight?
Clerk: (In perfectly clear English.) I don’t speak English.
Me: My sock is in that dryer. That guy with the bike just now –
Clerk: What guy with bike? No bike in here.
Me: That was a bike. It folded.
Clerk: Like towels?
Me: Yes. That guy has a bike that folds like towels. My sock is in his dryer. See it, that brown sock? I want my sock. What time are you closing tonight?
Clerk: I don’t know what you’re saying. I close at 8! Always close at 8!
Me: This doesn’t have to be a big deal …
What I was really thinking was a variation of a recent Joe Biden quip, “This doesn’t have to be a big fucking deal.” Biden’s inability to contain himself from swearing enthusiastically when he embraced President Obama at the Health Care bill signing ceremony did amuse me. This ceremony might now be remembered as the swearing ceremony. I so wanted to swear at all of these idiots throughout my entire laundromat ordeal, but unlike our Vice President, I instinctively know, there are times when YOU DON’T CURSE. I especially don’t curse when I want something, in this particular case, my sock, and I would like to think if I ever embraced the commander-in-chief in front of an open microphone at the presidential podium, I would not gush, “This is so fucking cool!” But, hey, I’d think it.
To conclude my sock debacle, the clerk writes on her hand, 8:15. I interpret this to mean one of two things, she is closing at that time or she wants me to read some Bible passage about lost socks. I return at 8:10, dreading to see the Sock Terrorist again. Has he cooled off and is he now going to try to seduce me with Zima and Pez? Or, has his seething escalated and he is planning to beat me with a solid brass Bob’s Big Boy figurine? Fortunately I miss running into him. The clerk hands me my sock and I am free to bolt.