Sunday, October 17, 2010
Sunday Afternoon Laundry
In 1975 I was renting a house in the Ocean District of San Francisco. My landlady lived next door but had lived in the house I rented for many years and had created beautiful gardens. The back yard was totally filled with flower gardens except a small walkway in a horseshoe shape. I remember there were the largest most beautiful red poppies growing in the garden.
I had a black cat with yellow eyes named Poncho. When he was a kitten he used to hide behind the old couch in the living room a lot. When my girlfriends would come over for our sewing group, he'd run out and bite someone on the leg and run back and hide behind the couch. Eventually he outgrew that habit, thank goodness.
One Sunday afternoon I really needed to do the laundry since I had no clean clothes. Since I had no washer and dryer I had to go to a public laundromat. I had a large wicker laundry basket I had purchased at Cost Plus. Remember Cost Plus? I think it was the forerunner to World Market. Anyway I packed my laundry in the basket along with my soap and carried it out to my car, a 1954 Firedome De Soto. I loved that car. It had a hemi engine and the most comfortable two-tone blue, mohair upholstered seats.
I remember I had one of those white woven fabric purses with a zipper. The purse really had no form other than that of what was placed in side it. I'd put off going to the laundromat as I really hated the task. For some reason that day I didn't want to to the laundromat even more because I had the feeling someone was going to try and steal my purse. I couldn't get the feeling out of my head. You know how you get those feelings every once in a while. Well maybe you don't, but I often do.
Anyway the day was getting late and I had barely enough time to get there and get the laundry done before the laundry closed. Even though the feeling about my purse being stolen was so strong, I decided to go to the laundromat anyway. I was completely out of clothes and I had to go back to work the next day, Monday, and wouldn't have another chance to do the laundry till a week later. I told myself I'd keep my purse on my arm the whole time and not set it down under any circumstances.
So off I drove to the laundromat in my 1954 De Soto and put my clothes in the various washers and put the soap in each washer all in assembly line fashion with my purse dangling from my arm the whole time. Then when the clothes were washed I took each load out of the washer and put them in the rolling wire carts the laundromat had with my purse on my arm. I put each load of laundry into a dryer, again with my purse on my arm. It was late Sunday afternoon and hardly anyone was in the laundromat. Most folks had already done their laundry and gone home.
Finally my clothes were dry and I went to the front folding table and started folding my clothes, again with my purse on my arm. By this time my arm was getting really tired with the weight of the purse while I was folding my clothes, but I kept the purse on my arm. Finally I had the sheets to fold. You know how hard it is to fold sheets they are so long. And your arm is never long enough to get them folded neatly. I thought I'd just put my purse inside the basket for a second while I folded the last sheet. After all my wicker laundry basket was right beside me and there was no one around.
So I put my purse down while I folded the last sheet and as I was about to put the sheet into the basket, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a movement near my basket. The next thing I saw two boys about 17 years old or so running by the front window and one had his arm up. I didn't see what he was holding, but I knew he was carrying my white woven purse. I dropped my sheet and ran out of the laundromat running after them as fast as I could. Back in those days I was in really good shape and could out run just about anyone. But the boys were tall with longer legs than me and they had a head start on me.
They ran down the street and around the corner and down a couple of blocks. I ran down the street and around the corner and down a couple of blocks too. Then they ran around the corner and down a couple more blocks with me following behind them. Somehow they were loosing me. They must have been track stars or something. All the while I was yelling at them saying they could keep the money just give me back my purse, that I needed my medicine (I didn't have any medicine, but thought that might convince them to drop the purse). Then I was yelling I needed my car keys and house keys. They never missed a step, but kept on running, so I followed as fast as I could.
They ran across a school yard towards a school and it was there they split up but I knew which one had the purse because he had his arm up holding it in front of him. But I saw I wouldn't catch him because he obviously knew the neighborhood better than me. I figured once he got to the school buildings I wouldn't be able to see which way he had gone. I stopped running, out-of-breath, not believing what had just happened. I felt a little anger and foolishness at myself for not listening to the voice which told me about my purse being stolen.
All of a sudden I realized I had no house keys, no car keys, no identification, and not even a dime for a phone call. As I was standing on the side of the street a family came up in the car and parked it and got out. I told them what had happened and asked if I could use their phone. They said sure. As we were walking up to the front door, a white 4wd pick up with big tires drove up and a guy with a big black beard and one of those popular Afro hairdos of the day got out of the truck and walked up to me and handed me my purse.
I was flabbergasted since I had not seen this truck, or any vehicles for that matter, as I ran after the two boys who had stolen my purse. In fact there was no traffic on the road in that neighborhood at all late on that Sunday afternoon. I started exclaiming, "Thank you, thank you, over and over again to the guy" and "How did you get my purse back" and saying, "Let me give you a reward".
The man just held up the palm of his hand in an all encompassing type of gesture which said "No problem, don't worry, no reward necessary, and no need to exclaim" and he walked off without a word. He never spoke a word, but just got in his truck and drove away, leaving me standing there dumbstruck. The family standing there was dumbstruck too. I asked them if they knew the guy or the truck and they said they'd never seen him or the truck before. As I walked back to the laundromat, I looked in my purse and nothing had been touched, it hadn't even been opened.
The photo of the young man is one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art of an ancient Egyptian Fayum mummy portrait and does look quite a bit like the man as I recall his face. Every once in while when I remember that day so long ago, I'm still dumbstruck by the whole incident and by my incredible luck.