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Archive for April, 2016|Monthly archive page

Confronting your greatest fear

In Children and Family, Health, Local News, Opinion, psychology, Uncategorized on April 26, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

In the aftermath of the 1974 Xenia tornado, people in surrounding communities did what they could to help with the cleanup. Although my father was a teacher at the vocational school at the time, he also had heavy trucks so we went to help as well.

Everywhere you looked was devastation. Stunned families cried or stared blankly as broken water mains sprayed the splintered remains of unrecognizable homes. It was horrific. Even as a first-grader, what I saw that first day among the shattered remains of Xenia was inexorably seared into my memory and cultivated a fear of storms that’s hard for me to, even now, put into words.

During my first couple of years of college, I was fortunate enough to live at home and commute. One after class I went home and settled in to watch a movie and scarf down some drive thru before hitting the books. It was a dark, rainy day and the sky had that “look” about it.

Ever since that day in 1974, I’ve been keenly aware of unstable weather, as if I had some kind of built in, biological barometer in my head and this was one of those days when that sense was at its peak.

As I plowed through my burger and onion rings in front of the TV, the power flickered several times, but I did my best to ignore it. I was home alone, and as the wind and rain picked up, the trees in the valley surrounding our small farm it sounded like wild animals roaring in the distance.

At one point, I ventured out the back door and stood behind the house, watching the clouds off to the southwest. The wind became still. The rain stopped. It was dead quiet. I walked to the other side of the house for a better view on the far side of our barn. And there it was. About a hundred yards away, spinning down from the sky to the pasture in front of me – a tornado. It was small, gray, kicking up debris and dancing its way across the field in front of me as if with some kind of purpose in mind.

The 1974 Xenia Tornado was one of hundreds in a massive storm outbreak on April 3.

The 1974 Xenia Tornado was one of hundreds in a massive storm outbreak on April 3. This is probably the most famous photo taken of the giant twister from Greene Memorial Hospital by Fred Stewart.

I was frozen; not with fear, but with fascination. There it was, right in front of me, the thing I feared most; no, more than that. It was the only thing I’d ever been afraid of. Any normal person would have bolted to the nearest cellar. But I didn’t. I stood there, motionless.

A moment later, the funnel met the ancient wooden sideboards of one of my dad’s old farm trucks and they exploded into splinters with a sound like the cracking of a dozen brittle bones. I still didn’t move. I wasn’t afraid at all.

It seemed like it took an eternity for it to cross the 10-acre spread of pasture field, but it was probably more like 30 seconds. It bounced across the road a quarter mile away, circumvented one neighbor’s home completely but then crashed into an adjacent barn, destroying it in the blink of an eye and scattered bits of wood, sheet metal and hay for miles. I stood there, still motionless, taking it all in.

And as quickly as it came, it was gone. After it wrecked the barn across the road, it dissolved into nothing. A moment later, I realized I was being soaked by rain but still staring off across the field. It left a path of small debris along the way and mashed down the high grass as if some kids had tromped a trail through the field. But it was over. And any fear I once felt of these storms was gone.

As I got older, I studied everything I could about tornadoes, even going on a few local storm chases back in school. Over the years, I faced with two more of the swirling monsters but no longer fear any kind of storm. Today I am respectful of their power and unpredictability and still have a sixth sense when things aren’t right in the wind. The best thing any of us can do during Ohio’s tornado seasons is to be alert and prepared.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, the Laundromat

In Entertainment, Opinion, psychology, Technology, Uncategorized on April 1, 2016 at 11:55 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOLadies and gentlemen, I ask you to consider … the laundromat. There everyone’s equal; people will wear to the laundromat what they’d never be caught dead in anywhere else. I’ve always been fascinated by this microcosm of society, brought together for a single purpose, neither religious nor political, but instead hygienically motivated.

Sometimes referred to in various regions around the world as a launderette, washateria or a washette, “Laundromat” was the name originally trademarked by Westinghouse Electric Corporation for its washing machines, blending the words, “laundry,” and “automatic.” The word has since become the generic term for a self-serve, coin laundry, as “Kleenex,” has for tissues, so today the word is rarely capitalized when you see it.

They say that smells serve to remind us of the past more strongly than any of the other senses. The laundromat aroma hits you as soon as you step through the big glass door and the humidity and overwhelming spring-fresh smell of fabric softener consumes you.

Near the door, a bulletin board offers local tree trimming, babysitters and the latest pyramid company. Almost immediately, you see the long bank of massive, stainless steel washers.

12915298_10153793618889342_84962637_oThose big glass-windowed machines always reminded me of the open maw of some massive mechanical monster chewing an endless piece of frothy bubble gum. Round and round it goes, sloshing and gurgling the dirt away. Before you can put them to work, though, you need change. No debit or credit here. Coins only!

After engaging in bill-flattening ritual necessary so the machine will accept your money, laundry doers eagerly approach the great and powerful change machine. People stand before it feeding in bills with some level of excitement I have yet to comprehend, as if playing some kind of slot machine guaranteed to pay off.

Forget your detergent? Fear not! Another machine offers bite-sized samplers of the most popular brands, like one of those multipacks of breakfast cereal, urgently needed – and incredibly overpriced. Gotcha!

Once the clothes are in and the familiar sound of water rushing in begins, it’s time to wait. Some people read, others socialize and still more eat… the whole time.

Vending machines stand proudly in one corner, displaying their offerings of soda, candy and chips. I have to wonder just how old that coconut snowball must be and why is there a wrapper on that candy bar from the 90s? I’ll pass.

My appetite squelched, I glance through the “left” and found basket. It’s a dilapidated laundry basket with a sign on it indicating that the mate to your favorite pair of blue and pink socks may not have been “lost,” so much as abandoned – on purpose – by your wife – who hates them.

Wash underway; I grab a seat on one of the colorful, hard plastic molded chairs, permanently affixed to a steel frame like the benches on a carousel. A unique fixture in Laundromats, they force you to sit in uncomfortably close proximity to your neighbor. At last, my loads are done, properly washed and dried. Time to fold.

It’s my belief that a folding table is a bit like a stage where patrons put on the show of looking as if the careful folding of even the most insignificant garment is of utmost importance. I can’t imagine anyone really takes that much care and effort at home.

Eventually, my hope is to remodel the laundry room in my house to be outfitted like my favorite self-serve laundry, sans the coins. I’d have folding tables, a washtub and stainless steel machines. Although, I have to say, I’m not sold on the front-loader, I’ve always been a top-loader man myself… just saying.

I can only imagine that running a coin laundry is a tough job. But, they do have the Coin Laundry Association, a non-profit organization serving the needs of the industry, complete with support events and even a magazine.

Since you never know where or how inspiration might hit you, here’s something to consider. As I write this for you, I’m sitting in a local coin laundry. I can’t tell you its name but it’s clean, well maintained, and offers some great top-loaders, if you’re into that kind of thing.


Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com.