In 1991, I lived in Buffalo, New York.
That year, the Bills made it to the Super Bowl for the first time. The team was favored to win, and everyone who lived within a 60 mile radius was stoked.
A graduate student at the time, each week, I sat in Wash World for one-hundred-minutes, reading and taking notes as the machines hummed around me.
I’ve never been a football fan, so I swear on a six-pack of Bud Lite when I tell you that I had no idea it was the night of the Big Game when I ventured out to do my laundry that Sunday.
All I knew was that the tiny parking lot was jammed with cars.
Cursing my bad luck, I parked a half-block away and kicked my basket down the slippery sidewalk. The snow looked blue in the darkness. I remember the cold and the way my breath curled in the air.
Inside, I paced around looking for an available washer only to discover every machine was in use. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why it was so dang busy at Wash World. Usually, the joint was quiet on Sunday nights. But that night, more than two-dozen men huddled around a tiny television, which someone had set atop a crooked table.
I glanced at the screen. Oh. I rolled my eyes. A football game.
That night, I tried to read, but the men cheered and cursed at a deafening decibel. A tall dude in acid-washed jeans crushed an empty beer can against a wall.
As you can imagine, this bunch wasn’t diligent about checking to see if their laundry had finished spinning.
When a machine stopped, I waited to see if anyone noticed. No one did.
Standing at the edge of the rug, I made my announcement. “Someone’s wash is done.” I gestured toward a row of white washers. The men sipped their beer with indifference.
I should have left.
But I needed fresh towels and clean underwear to make it through the week.
I tossed someone’s load of graying tee shirts and ratty boxer shorts into a wire cart with wheels, and I continued to listen to them burp and fart and laugh and whistle and swear.
Forty minutes later, I dumped my wet pile into a wheelie basket and contemplated the whirling wall of dryers.
I checked my watch and noted how late it was.
I didn’t want to be in Wash World anymore.
Trapped in a world of testosterone, cigarettes, and beer, I silently prayed that I might own a washing machine and dryer one day, so I wouldn’t have to go out in the cold with a roll of quarters and touch the damp underclothes that belonged to strange men.
When a few dryers rolled to a stop, I planted my boots at the edge of the rug again.
But no one moved.
I had a right to dry my laundry and, game-be-damned, I was going to do it.
I crossed in front of the television.
The men snapped to attention. I might as well have stabbed someone.
“Holy shit!” A scraggly guy in those gawd-awful baggy red, white and blue Zubaz pants clutched his head with both his hands.
“A bunch of dryers stopped,” I said to no one in particular.
Glancing at the television, I noticed a slim figure in white running onto the field. A man on the rug chewed his fingernails. Some of the others pressed their palms together, as if in prayer.
I heard an announcer say something about a player named Norwood; about the 47-yard kick he would have to make. He said he thought Norwood could do it. Another argued there was no way.
I heard all this as background noise.
You know, because I didn’t care about the game.
I just wanted to finish my laundry and go back to my crappy little broken down house.
“I hope he misses,” I grumbled. I didn’t think anyone heard me.
As the kicker’s field goal attempt went wide right of the uprights, I watched the **players in blue** jump up and down, and I heard the announcer say something about the Bills losing Super Bowl XXV.
Looking up, I realized I was the only woman in a room full of men who had just watched their dreams die.
Men who had been drinking.
The man in the baggy pants pointed a finger at me. “She wanted Scotty to miss!”
A beer can whizzed past my face.
Someone called me a bitch.
I thought they were going to kill me.
Apparently, by walking in front of the television and speaking a few words, I had altered the outcome of the game.
It made perfect sense.
A girl’s gotta know when a girl’s gotta go, and that was my time to git.
Abandoning my laundry, I hustled into the darkness. The freezing air slapped my cheeks as I hurried down the street, trying not to slip. Glancing back, I hoped no one was following me. Inside my car, my breath hovered in the air when I finally exhaled.
I went back to Wash World the next day to retrieve my things, but my laundry was gone.
I don’t like to think about what might have happened to it.
These days, I remain uninterested in the NFL.
If we are invited to someone’s house for a Super Bowl party, I stay in the kitchen. At halftime, I emerge to watch the show long enough to be able to comment on it the next day.
And I am careful to never cross in front of the television.
Which team do you follow? Or are you just there for the bean dip? If you don’t watch, what do you do during the Super Bowl? And can I come with you?
**NOTE: I had to Google “Who won the Super Bowl in 1991?” to find out the winning team. It was the Giants. The Giants won. Seriously, I had no idea.