I've written before about weirdoes at the laundromat, but as I sit here doing laundry in our own household machines I recall there were many as-yet undocumented but unsettling encounters. It was a 24 hour place, open to all, so all kinds of people showed up. If you were there in the early morning and wanted to have a sexual encounter with a sweaty trembling tweaker you were usually in luck. Not that I ever availed myself, you understand, but they made their presence and their proclivities known.
If you went on a Saturday afternoon you'd always have to contend with the big ruddy guy in the muumuu who didn't wash his clothes in the machines. There was a large sink the custodian washed his mop in; it was always kind of cruddy. And Muumuu Man would dump his laundry in there, pour on detergent, and turn on the faucet. He'd also smoke inside even though there were No Smoking signs everywhere. Once he stood right in front of the only exit, blocking the path with his big circus-tent-looking body, smirking as people tried to get around him. Oh, Muumuu Man.
One night was particularly noteworthy. I put my laundry in the machines and went for a little stroll around the nearby park. It was dark out, and I heard a howling that I took to be a dog. Eventually, though, the howling resolved into a phrase: "I DON'T WANNA GO BACK TO PRISON," over and over again. I went back inside. A bunch of cute college kids were doing their laundry and chatting. They were mostly white females and black males, and clearly very happy to be together. It was nice to be on the periphery of such a warm crew; like sitting near a campfire.
Then a scraggly hillbillyish guy came in, looked at them with a manic grin, walked all around the room, loudly slammed a top-loader lid, and stormed out.
Light nervous laughter. "That was random," one of the kids said.
Then the guy came back in the door with a thick branch in his hand.
"Now yew all get on out of here," he said. "We don't want yew messin' with our women."
One of the young black men said something appropriately inappropriate. The ridiculous person left. One of the kids called the police, who drove around but didn't find the guy. I wonder if he ever went back to prison.