Thursday, October 6, 2016

Frightening Things at the Local Laundromat

My washing machine has died. It didn't go peacefully either. No, it was rather violent and savage. In the middle of a spin cycle, the drum came loose from whatever magic of mechanical engineering keeps that thing from flying free and causing wreckage. It screamed in agony as it went, too. Horrible death. Very tragic.

My dryer followed soon after, like a widow who can't bear life without her companion. They were a pair, after all. Unlike her partner, the dryer slipped away quietly. We didn't even know she had left us until a good three days later when the stench of the mildewed clothes that we had trusted her to dry came wafting out of the laundry room.

We are a family in mourning. Your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated, but please don't send flowers. Instead, make your donations of sympathy in the form of quarters, because laundry must now be hauled by the truckload to the local laundromat, at least until we find suitable replacements, which is hard, because we were rather attached to the ones that left us so suddenly and without warning.

Laundromats are interesting places. Lots of quirky people hang out there. Like the older woman who sings gospel music at the top of her lungs as she folds her unmentionables, and the middle-aged man who meticulously lines up all of the rolling laundry carts, or the weird guy who doesn't actually have laundry, but comes in just to watch his soaps on the big screen TV.

Laundromats are a great place to people watch (and I'm not talking about watching the people on the Soaps). There's nothing else to do while your laundry tumbles, and if you've forgotten a book to hold your attention, there's nothing else to really do. I find myself listening in on other people's conversations with intense interest similar to that of the NSA. I actually think I've learned most of the lyrics to the old lady's favorite hymns.

This week, while lamenting my lack of reading material and debating an impulse purchase of junk food from the vending machine, I zeroed in on a rather disturbing conversation. A young, overly-tattooed mother, complete with wobbling curious toddler (who was also contemplating the vending machine) was having a passionate discussion with another woman who barely spoke English. They were talking about clowns.

Oh, God!
I don't mean the fun birthday party clowns who twist balloon animals and juggle hacky sacks. These women were all up in arms about the recent creepy clown sighting in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

A few weeks ago, several children reported that a clown with a red nose and bushy hair tried to lure them into the woods of a Winston-Salem neighborhood. He apparently offered them treats if they would follow him. An adult claims to have heard the clown, but didn't see him. A few days later, the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office received an anonymous call claiming there was a clown lurking outside of an elementary school. Turns out the report was false.

These two women were visibly shaken. There was real and serious fear as they both yammered back and forth about how dangerous the world was becoming, how they needed to keep their children indoors at all costs, how they weren't going to let their babies be abducted by clowns who would do god knows what to them.

I can understand why they were so concerned. I mean, Winston-Salem is at least 3 hours away from our small town (two and half hours if you drive like my husband). And no one was actually stupid enough to follow a strange clown into the woods. But we all know children are very reliable sources, especially children who've heard a rash of creepy clown sightings in other states. After all, everyone knows children these days have no imagination. It's been completely squashed by public school and helicopter parenting and mindless video games. And just because no one with credibility actually saw that clown outside of that elementary school, half a state away, doesn't mean it wasn't actually there and didn't have nefarious plans.

I get that clowns are pretty terrifying. I've had my fair share of clown-inspired nightmares. No one should trust a dude with over-size shoes and questionable fashion sense. And anyone who's seen Clownhouse or Killer Clowns from Outerspace is going to be a little wary of trusting anyone in pasty white makeup. But locking your kids away, hovering more protectively than usual, because some vague reports of clowns in wooded areas is trending on Facebook is rather extreme.

There have been reports of clowns terrorizing people in more than ten states now. But if you read the actual news stories instead of trusting the dramatic over-reactions of mothers at the local laundromat, it is easily apparent that the threat isn't very real. Almost none of the sightings were confirmed by police. Most of the clowns didn't attempt to harm anyone. Most were only staring at people. Almost none were armed (excluding the two clowns armed with explosives that robbed a Memphis bank on September 28). There have been large numbers of threats on Facebook, but most of them have been since shut down. Several of those were discovered to be school kids attempting to scare other school kids. You can read the full list of recent creepy clown sightings HERE.

If we make an honest assessment, our children are not in any real danger. Most of them have watched enough horror films to know not to follow random circus performers into the forest. To be honest, everyone dumb enough to don a clown costume this Halloween are the ones in real danger. Redneck vigilantes all over the South have already vowed to hunt down and control the creepy clown population good ol' boy style.

It's ridiculous really, that parents are wasting so much mental energy on a threat that may be disturbing, but isn't very real. Believe me, there are plenty of real threats to our children that don't stir up nearly the kind of laundromat or social media chatter they deserve.

For instance, the United States has suspended talks with Russia over Syria, while Russia expands bomber patrols near U.S. bases. And Russia is currently engaged in a large scale drill involving 40 million people that some think could be in preparation for dealing with a nuclear strike. A US war with Russia is a far greater threat to our children (and Russia's too) than vague reports of clowns hanging out in wooded areas.

Also, the United Nations has declared that the rise of "superbugs", or antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, are a major threat to modern medicine. They are, as England's chief medical officer described, "the greatest future threat to our civilisation." Moms, step away from the hand sanitizer.

And let's not forget the rising rates of childhood obesity. It's basically a public health crisis. As more and more children pack on extra pounds, they are developing adult illnesses like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. We are basically killing our children, no clowns necessary.

So all of you well-meaning mothers who are frightened for your kids by a few random reportings of circus clowns, you are a greater threat to them by locking them inside where exercise is nearly impossible and junk food abounds.

Besides, I've seen some of your precious babies. A few laps around the woods being chased by a balloon-wielding Bozo might actually do them some good.

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