Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Wonderment at ordinary things observed is a part of my life, especially when we’ve been out and about together. We seldom leave the house without finding some aspect of human behavior or dress or proclivites at which to wonder and marvel and shake our heads. And talk about then and later. (But only to each other, and out of hearing of the participants).

Once we were driving through a part of town we seldom travel, just riding down the street one nice Spring evening, when two cars passed us, one swerving around and back in, and the other doing the same, causing us to have to brake as he cut back into the small space between us and the car he was pursuing.

Wavering between Does Someone Need Help or Should We Mind Our Own Business and not get in between folks with axes to grind (and possibly knives and guns, as well), we slowed and kept on in our lane, as we could see them ahead, still zig-zagging down the street.

A couple of lights slowed their progress, and as we approached, we could hear a quite loud argument between a him and a her, with strident name-calling and curses and foul words (just a few, but repeated with growing fervor in the heat of battle). She was calling him several unflattering names having to do with his absence from home the night before, and he was shouting back.

Then, from her window flew a large missile, going SPAT onto the pavement in the left lane. He, almost level with her car and shouting at HER from the passenger window, dodged it and it flew back beneath his wheels. More and more of the clumps appeared along the street as we slowly followed the parade, and we realized that it was clothes she was flinging---WET clothes, from the limp flops the pieces made onto the street.

She disposed of a good-sized wardrobe during the distance of several blocks---the stuff was barely blowing in the wind of her passage, and landing like dead fish, scattering jeans and shirts and underwear into that filthy, already-rained-on street. We conjectured not on motive, but on the HOW of the thing---was there a big laundry basket of wet stuff handy on the front seat beside her? And WHY---if she’d been to a coin laundry, why would she ball it all up still wet to take home?

Was it all HIS, or was she sorting as she threw, managing to keep track of her own items as she hurled away his? And if whatever set her off happened while she was washing, did she just wrestle the unwieldy clumps out of the Maytag between Softener and Spin? And how on earth did she lift and carry a basket to the car with THAT MUCH wet cloth in it?

I kept waiting for him to stop and start gathering up his worldly goods before cars ruined the things entirely, but he just kept chasing, as she kept on tossing. It had to have been a last-minute, unsquelchable impulse, all that flopping of stuff out a car window; nobody would PLOT that, would they?

She didn’t bag up every rag he owned and take ‘em to Goodwill, she didn’t Clorox them, she didn’t cut the seats out of the jeans, she didn’t throw them out on the lawn and set them on fire---all of which I’ve seen happen in the real life of a triflin’ husband with a wife who’d Just. Had. Enough.

And we’ll never know the whys and wherefores of that strange, zany bellowing-ballet performed in roaring traffic between two strangers who zipped along screaming curses and hurling laundry. We’ll puzzle now and again over the sense of it, and we’ll mention it to each other whenever we drive down that seldom-used street.

Like the ubiquitous one-shoe-in-the-street, or those pairs string-looped over the light wires, it’s just another one of those little urban observances that we’ll never know the answer to.


Tonja said...

What a sight to see!!!
Once a group of ladies from my church went to New Orleans to work at a homeless shelter. We also did a Vacation Bible School in a nearby neighborhood. One of the first things we saw when we got to the neighborhood was shoes...laces tied together and flung over the wires overhead. Hundreds of shoes! Strange sight. All they would tell us as to why was that they got new shoes and that is what they did with their old ones.

Southern Lady said...

Oh, how funny, Rachel ... and sad, too. I've never heard of the "throwing old shoes over a wire" custom. Interesting!

Anonymous said...

Oops, ladies, sorry to tell you this, but the shoes tossed over the lines denote gang activity.