of dead cats and laundromats

This afternoon, I had lunch with my mother and my grandmother. It’s a Sunday tradition dating back for what seems like the beginning of my life of Sundays, but that can’t be entirely accurate. In any case, there we were, having lunch, and this man at the next table in the restaurant was holding forth. First about somebody’s guts, which isn’t really what I want to hear about when I’m having lunch, but it was hard not to hear him, because he was right next to me and he was talking in that voice that some people have, that voice that’s in love with itself. This voice is usually a bit loud and unceasing, since people who speak in this voice are typically convinced that everything they have to say is absolutely fascinating and important to everybody on the planet, the irony being, of course, that nothing they say usually is. He moved on from talking about someone’s gastrointestinal woes to someone else’s functional alcoholism, and then somehow got onto the subject of farmers selling eggs. Perhaps the functional alcoholic also sold eggs, I don’t know. I was trying my best to tune him out, though I mostly failed rather miserably at it, which is how I heard him say that he was traveling up north (I wrote about this once before on a former incarnation of my blog — in Michigan, up north is a concept more than an actual location, though I think we would all agree that it begins before the Upper Peninsula) and he took the back roads all the way up there and, I QUOTE, “You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting someplace that was selling eggs.”

After he left the restaurant, I looked at my mother and said, “People say that, about swinging a dead cat, but what I can’t figure out is why the hell anybody would ever swing a dead cat to begin with.” Really. I know I could research this on my own, but WHERE DOES THIS PHRASE COME FROM? My mother theorized that perhaps the distance of a swinging dead cat is a unit of measure, like the redneck version of a cubit. I believe there would be too many variables in this for it to be a reliable unit of measure, because cats come in different sizes and if I were to swing a dead cat, though I can’t possibly imagine why I would ever do such a thing, my reach would be shorter than if a really tall person were to swing a dead cat. My mother brought up an interesting point, that perhaps instead of swinging the cat by hand, the cat might be attached to some consistent length of string — a tether of sorts — that would make the variable of arm length a moot point.* But the main thing I wonder — aside from why anyone would swing a dead cat in the first place, that is — is whether or not this cat has rigor mortis.

And then this afternoon, I had to wash a quilt. It’s a big, heavy quilt, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to wash it here at home without making the washing machine explode into many angry pieces, so I took it to the laundromat. I haven’t been to a laundromat in ages, but they’re all pretty much the same, yeah? There’s something retro-timeless about a laundromat. I took my camera, because there’s something I love about all those rows of washers and dryers, but I ended up not taking very many photos in favor of being hypnotized by the line of clothes spiraling in dryers in the wall across from me. I did make friends with other people at the laundromat, which was nice; one can’t have too many friends. It was largely uneventful, my trip to the laundromat. I got some reading done when I wasn’t staring at clothes in dryers, that is, and it ended up being a rather pleasant way to spend an hour. I wish I had something more clever or interesting to say about it, and I’d leave it out entirely, but mentioning laundromats means that the title of this post rhymes and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that.

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* Have you ever heard people say “mute” when they mean “moot”? I hear it all the time, and every time I do, I die a little inside. I wish that people would stop it, because if they don’t, I’m afraid I’m going to be nothing but an empty lifeless shell by the time I’m 35.

5 thoughts on “of dead cats and laundromats

  1. If the man at the next table had been making mute points, you wouldn’t have had nearly so much to write about.

    As for swinging cats, we don’t exclusively swing dead ones here. We just swing cats. Or, rather, we would if we had room to, which never seems to be the case. You never hear anyone say there’s plenty of room to swing a cat.

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  2. P.S. Of course, I had to look it up. That’s what editors do. I don’t know whether to be relieved or slightly disappointed that the “cat” is etymologically most likely to be the cat o’ nine tails.

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  3. Oh. That makes sense, the cat o’ nine tails thing, because it’s not totally illogical to swing one. And yet I am still perplexed as to how that turned into a dead cat. HOW, ANDY? HOW? I think I saved it from being logical after all. Yay for me.

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  4. I think the cat died because it doesn’t make as much sense to swing a live one. People are always changing sayings they don’t understand into things they sort-of do. It’s like a big game of telephone. So when people don’t know the word “moot,” you end up with mute points. (You like how I tied it all together there at the end?)

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