I was in the laundromat this morning, with clothing in the washer and Keith Olbermann’s visage on the overhead television. Soon it became clear the program was Howard Kurtz’ Reliable Sources, and the panel was discussing Olbermann’s departure from MSNBC.
“What’s happened?” a seventy something white haired woman, who appeared to my right, asked out of nowhere. Soon I would realize that she might have been to my right but was positioned to my left.
“They fired him,” I said. Her eyes burned with intensity; her pinned back hair seemed even more severe.
“That’s terrible,” she said. “He’s terrific. I love him. He is so smart.”
I didnt say a word.
“You must be a Republican,” she said, staring at me. Was it condescension?
Some time later, I was transferring clothes from the dryer to the folding table I had chosen. Carefully, I folded the khakis and jeans, shirts and underwear that my son and I would be wearing the following week.
I then came to the sheets. In this week’s load were some very high count white sheets with stripes designed into the fabric. I had bought them on sale at Macy’s and am particularly fond of good quality bed linens.
Just as I picked up the flat sheet, the white haired woman appeared again. “Here, let me help you with that,” she said. Again I shrugged as she took the other side to the sheet I had begun to fold. She was unable to match the other corners and dropped her end to the floor. When everything finally matched up, it was clear that there was a patch of grey dust on my newly washed sheets.
“Oh, I just did that in my own laundry room, where the floors are dirt. It’s also a mud room.” She gestured to her load, a comforter which was either too large or too filthy to be washed at home. Her point was also that although they would deign to help someone like me, people like her didn’t go to a laundromat. Nowhere, however, did she apologize for dropping my 400 count Macy’s sheets in the communal dirt.
Perhaps I should have explained to her that only an Olbermann fan would try to fix someone else’s situation, harm it, and then walk away convinced that despite her mistake people like her were smarter, and better, than the rest of us.
I could have said a lot of things. My father used to say that some people think their solid waste doesn’t stink. Then he would add: But it’s their gas that gives them away. That may not have been exactly how he put it, but I kept it to myself, put the laundry away, and put the laundromat and the white haired woman in the rear view mirror.