Freudian Slips: Taken To the Cleaners

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

January 01, 2006

Taken To the Cleaners

My son stared at the sizeable clothes pile by the front door. “What are all those clothes doing in a pile?”
“They are waiting for me to take them to the dry cleaners for your mother.”

Jimmy asked, “Why isn’t mom doing it?”

“Your mom no longer does business with the $1.47 Cleaners.”

“You could have fooled me. They are mostly mom’s clothes.” He said confused. “I don’t understand. What is the difference who drops off the clothes? Mom’s clothes are still being cleaned there.”

I took a deep breath. Nothing in our house is ever clean, cut, and dry cleaned. I explained, “This is complicated. Your mom had a disagreement with management over destroyed apparel so she is not allowed back. That doesn’t mean me. Your mom has solicited my involvement to exploit the little known fact that we maintain different last names. Instead, I am schlepping her clothes back to the same store. Your mom is generously paying for my dry cleaning if I go in her stead. All I got to do is sneak the clothes in under the name of Tornatore. They will never know the difference. He-he.”

Jimmy continued probing. “If they ruined mom’s stuff, why don’t you just go someplace else?”

“Excellent question. Your mom says that would be too expensive.” I scoffed.

“Besides, the way your mom remembers it, she wasn’t evicted. She chose not to use them. In a way, your mom is just changing her mind. That leaves me to do the dirty work, to pardon an expression.”

“Ha-ha. But what if they recognize mom’s clothes?” asked Jimmy quizzically.

“Not a chance. Kid, you worry too much. I’ll put one of my suits on top. It will be fine.”

I walked back into the kitchen for another cup of coffee. Familiar with the sitcom Seinfeld, I should have guessed Jimmy would add to the folly.

Jimmy was right behind me when he added, “Remember the dry cleaners episode on Seinfeld?”

I chuckled. “Yeah, this sounds a lot like that episode.”

“Joe, don’t let Uncle Leo blow your cover.” chided my son.

Four miles down the road, I arrived at the economy dry cleaners store to drop off the clothes. Slinging the clothes over both arms, I had no idea how much I had taken myself to the cleaners. I realized that in my 43 years of existence I have never done drop off at a dry cleaners. Playing the unwitting part of Jerry Seinfeld, I entered the business. A strong chemical smell permeated the air.

An oriental woman greeted me with a tight smile from behind the cash register. She patiently waited for me to put the clothes on the counter only I didn’t know her expectation of me. Being a fast learner, I plopped the clothes down and waited further instruction. She spread the clothes across the counter, raked her fingers through them, then counted nine garments.

“Sir, what is phone number?”

The woman did not start by asking me my name but I reckoned that to be her follow-up question. I paid no mind. It wound up costing me.

“555-555-1234.” I recited.

As I spoke, she punched my telephone number into a desktop computer. A few seconds later, the woman’s face shot back an ogre’s scowl. I put on my best poker face but realized that my cover might have been blown. Uncle Leo equaled my home phone number.

She pushed the pile of clothes back to me. “No washy-washy, no dryee-dryee.”

“Why not?” I asked.

She pointed to a computer screen that I couldn’t see which must have had a silent alarm I couldn’t hear. Other customers patiently waited behind me for pick-up.

The worker asked, “Wife’s clothes?”

“Ugh, most of them. Why?”

“Wife not permitted here. Wife complain. No service. Bye-bye.”

English as a second language was hanging me out to dry. I nudged the clothes back her way and began shrewd self-serving negotiation. “Okay Okay. I’ll separate my clothes from my wife’s clothes. Just do my clothes.” I removed a silk shirt and two dapper suits from the vagabond group. “See. No problem. Just do my suits.”

She defiantly folded her arms. “Same phone number. Same house. No service. Out!”

Our banter attracted a male manager, who came over to assist her employee.

I summarized the impasse. “If you are in charge of this Gestapo, you’re doing a bang up job. You’re willing to discriminate against me because of something my wife may or may not have said? You have no beef with me. I got dry cleaning for you.”

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” ordered the manager, who pointed to the front door from whence I came. “Right now. Get out!”

As my son predicted, this turned into a Seinfeld episode after all. I decided to quote directly from the popular episode.

I joked, “I’m not asking for a 10% discount, just dry cleaning.”

“Same phone number. No dryee. Out!”

I scooped up my clothes and removed myself from the premises without a police escort. I got to say I was embarrassed but I could not figure out exactly what for. I threw the clothes across the backseat of my car in complete frustration. Now that I had just been taken to the cleaners, it was off to the bank to deposit a State of NJ Treasury check into my bank account. Both my name and my wife’s name appeared on the front of the check. Both signatures endorsed the back of the check. Idling at the drive-through window, I sent it through with a whoosh from the courier system. A few minutes later, a static voice over the bank’s intercom interrupted my mental replay of the folly at the cleaners.

“Who is this other name on the check?”

“That would be my wife. We have different last names, I am sorry to report.”

“Is your wife in the car?”

Apparently my wife was a wanted woman in these parts. “Not at the moment but I happen to have her clothes with me, if that will do?” I held up a nice blazer that my wife looks absolutely hot in.

“The clothes don’t mean anything.” replied the baffled teller. “She needs to be with you?”

F$5k! Diane couldn’t be with me at the dry cleaners but she had to be with me at the bank. “Ugh, my wife has stepped out of the blazer for the moment. She is at work. Honestly, we are man and wife, and wife signed over the check this morning.”

“I am sorry but her name is not on your bank account.”

“Come on. Work with me. It is for Deposit Only.”

“I am sorry sir. If you have no other transactions, could you please pull up?”

I recalled the critical common denominator from the dry cleaners. “If I told you we have the same phone number, would that make a difference?”

I couldn’t launder clothes or money. I couldn’t get my dry cleaning done with the same freaking telephone number as my wife but yet I couldn’t deposit our money into the bank with her wet signature. By day’s end, my best interpersonal conversation came from the
Nazi postal worker.



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