My laundromat has orange benches. Occasionally, homeless people sit there and rest. At first, I wondered why the laundromat owners didn’t kick them out. But then I learned the homeless people were just waiting for their laundry.
Clean clothes are important. But I think the homeless people are there for something else. Two dollars buys you the ability to re-join society for a 30-minutes wash cycle. A quarter buys you seven minutes of normalcy, and dry socks.
I often go to the laundromat with my dog, and I feel guilty because she has a better quality of life than these people. The only thing my dog doesn’t have is freedom; she is always attached to a leash. But that’s changing. She’s 12 now, and she’s never run away, so I decided to take off the leash. These days, she walks down the sidewalk like a human being, except the part where she urinates on trash. While she hasn’t changed her route since being free, she does hold her head a bit higher.
I first had the idea to take off her leash when I was thinking about my grandfather. A few years ago, we took away his driving privileges, but we left his black Honda Civic in his parking space. One day, I asked him if he needed anything from Target, and he said, “Oh, I already drove there yesterday.”
We quickly sold the car. And, after that, he slowly gave away control of his life. It became necessary when he showed signs of dementia. But, a few times, we caught him hiding small amounts of money around in his room at the nursing home. It was an attempt to have some hold over his own life.
Anyway, my dog is getting old. Soon, she won’t have the physical or mental ability to have control, like Grandpa. So I figured if I don’t take off the leash now, she might never get a chance to be free.
Of course, I know my dog doesn’t know the difference between being free or not. That’s why she travels the same path, with or without the leash. And I know she doesn’t hold her head high because she’s gained freedom; it’s because her leash isn’t weighing her down anymore.
And, of course, I know my grandfather didn’t actually hide the money to keep control; turns out he just wanted to save something to give his grandkids for their birthdays.
And, of course, I know homeless people don’t go to the laundromat to feel normal again — at least according to the ones I talk to. They go because they really want dry socks.