As you may recall, I’ve been trying to find friendly, decent laundry and dry-cleaning services at a decent price. (Or, at least at a price that the provider and I can agree is correct.)
Last week, my wife said to me, “Hey, you should try that place at Buena Vista and Victory! It’s only $1.39 for shirts!” At other locations, laundering and pressing a shirt has run between $2.65 and an astounding $3.65 a shirt. These prices have driven me to wonder at times whether I shouldn’t get out of the writing/talking/creative-marketing business and into the laundry business. So $1.39 sounded good, perhaps even [he turns toward the camera looking wary] too good.
So two weeks ago, I dropped off a jumbo bag of dry cleaning — about two dozen dress shirts plus a London Fog jacket. Why two weeks ago? Because they told me the order would take a week to process — and, yes, that seemed like the rest of my life in dry-cleaning time, but to save more than a buck a piece it sounded comparatively good — and because I was busy and went out of town for a few of those days.
When I picked up my order, and paid the extremely low price of just over thirty bucks (!) for an order that, had it been placed with the upscale dry cleaner here in town, would’ve equaled the downpayment on a Maserati, the count wasn’t quite right. Counting tax, they charged me thirty-five-something; reference to the dropoff receipt in my hand showed a balance due of thirty-six-something. Shades of my last dry cleaner! (Again, see here and here.)
I said, “Are you sure you’re charging me enough?” (I know: I can’t believe I said that either.) “My receipt says $36, but you’re charging me $35.” (I’m rounding for the sake of my sanity and because it’s late and I need to go read comic books soon so that I can regain that sanity.)
“$35 is right,” the woman at the counter said. “When you dropped off your order, we miscounted the number of pieces.”
Cue internal uh-oh in my head.
But I took my laundry home, figuring that at some point I’d notice if a shirt was missing.
Then, on Friday, when I was getting dressed and looking through my freshly laundered dress shirts so as to pull one sure to impress important visitors (or, at least, to distract them propitiously), I came across this:
No, this is not my shirt.
Not only would I not wear this shirt, to be thought of as someone who would wear this shirt is like being falsely accused of murder. Because someone who would wear this? That person has something wrong with them.
Yes, that is some washed-out shade of turquoise.
Yes, the shirt has stitching courtesy of a place that boils moonshine. And those stitches have huckered.
And, yes, those are epaulets. I last wore epaulets at age 14, and regretted it then. If I ever wear them again, it will be when I’m on safari.
Even if we were surviving an apocalypse — from zombies or intelligent apes or the Tea Party — I wouldn’t wear this shirt.
This shirt has an identity crisis. Too rough for business and too “classy” for changing the spark plugs in a tractor, it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Except it apparently no longer wants to be turquoise, because that’s wearing off. This isn’t a shirt I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in — this is a shirt I wouldn’t want to be seen wearing while alive. I’d have to leave the country.
But I still couldn’t figure out what I was missing. They’d sent me this — as an honest mistake? Or as a malicious prank? Either seemed possible. Then, last night, after a hard day of ordering my three children around painting my office on the weekend for free while I caught up on important paperwork, I decided to reward them by taking them to a movie I wanted to see. (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” On a scale of 1 to 10 as a movie, it gets a 7; on a scale of 1 to 10 as an Apes movie, it gets a 15.) I went to pull out my windbreaker for this little excursion and that’s when I found it — missing.
Yes, my London Fog windbreaker — at a cost of $45, but a value infinitely greater than the off-blue-green monstrosity above — was missing. That was what I’d dropped off to the discount dry cleaner and not gotten back. Sure, I thought, they charge $1.39 a shirt — but at the complete cost of your jacket!
This morning, I drove over to the dastardly dry cleaner, homely third-party shirt in tow. I did my best to affix a smile. People make mistakes, after all. And this was one of them. I just tried to imagine what recourse they would offer because, after all, my windbreaker was gone. Would they credit me its value? If they did, would I want their credit? Did I want to come there again? If they offered me cash for it, and I took the cash, what dry cleaner would I try next time? I was tired of searching for dry cleaners! I have other things to do with my day, like complain about supermarket checkers and people who take forever to make a right turn even when there’s nobody in front of them. I marched into the shop, the off-off-(off-off) green-blue epauletted shirt held aloft like a dead rat, and told them that I’d picked up my order recently and somehow, somehow, this had been in with my clothing and that I was missing a jacket of a certain color.
“Oh!” the same woman at the counter said, “we have it right here.” And she went back and fetched it, bagged it, and handed it over, depositing it in front of me, it looking as cool and stylish and orange as ever.
I can’t imagine how anyone would think that someone with this jacket would wear that shirt. Yes, I feel insulted, but also richer for the experience. Because the shirts cost only $1.39 each.