The Dry Cleaners

Mother, Chinese, works in a dry cleaners that she and her husband own. Son, in college, writes poetry in the dry cleaning store, when he’s not listlessly attending his classes.

“Life? What do you know of life? Have you done a day of real work to give you any education about life? You sit there and write on pieces of paper and it’s supposed to be poetry, but poetry is about life and you don’t know what life is, then how it can be poetry?”

Not sure where to go with this. It made more sense this morning when I was in the dry cleaning store, and looking at the woman at the counter, and what I assumed was the husband behind this large metal box with strange knobs on it, and inhaling the strong fragrance of the chemicals floating around in there, I got to thinking, man, this lady’s life sucks. And it seemed to look like that on her face too. She was grumpy, to say the least. Her lips drooped downwards, like there were little invisible weights attached to the ends. She would have made a perfect clown with that face, a sad clown, not a happy one.

I thought to myself, Man, what a life. She collects the dry cleaning, then she does the dry cleaning, then she hands out the dry cleaning and then she tallies up the day’s earnings. Where does it all go? How often does she think about it, why she’s doing it, what’s going to happen tomorrow, or the day after, or at some point down the line when dry cleaning ceases to be as fulfilling as it is today?

Of course, dry cleaning will never cease to be fulfilling. She doesn’t do it because it fulfills her but because it pays the bills. It’s not what her forefathers did; she doesn’t do it for love; she isn’t making a career out of it; and she’s not going to be starting a vast chain of dry cleaning stores.

Maybe her son starts the world’s first dry cleaning store chain, even though he thought he was going to be a poet. He’s an accidental dry cleaning store magnate.

Why are there no dry cleaning store chains in the US? I don’t get it. On Google, a search for “dry cleaning store chains” reveals two in India. Obviously, dry cleaning is big in India, but not really so in the US. It must be something to do with the chemicals used, maybe the regulations are so tough, it’s not very cost effective to run a whole chain of these things and battle each county or city or whatever for the right to pollute it.

So if the Great American Novel must be about something that hasn’t been done already in this country, I can’t think of a better idea than a nation-wide dry cleaning store. Started by an accidental capitalist. The bemused Romantic hero, failed intentional poet and successful incidental owner of a conglomerate of establishments for the lavage of fine clothing.


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