This is three part series called “The Way I’ve Been Perceived Lately”
I’m working backwards.
I just got back from the dry cleaner in my building. I was in a bit of a rush. I’m watching an important Red Sox game on ESPN at the office.
I walked in and gave the Counter Guy my name. He said, “Kirkman…that sounds like a famous name?”
I thought he might be from the future because Kirkman certainly is a famous name someday.
He said, “Kirkman Soap! They sell it at Costco!” I said, “Oh, yeah? I knew there was a Kirkman Soap Company in the 1800’s but they still make it?”
I said my usual Kirkman Soap lament, “Well, wish I was related to that Kirkman clan.” (I’m from a long line of working class greenskeepers, cops, firemen and used car salesman. No Kirkman men wear suits, except the used car salesmen, maybe.) He said, “Well you may not be rich but you’re a down to Earth person. Most of the people in this building are mean.”
I wondered. Were most people in this building mean? Why didn’t he consider me mean? I’m mean, sometimes I’m real mean. I’m happy he thought of me as down to Earth, that is true, as mentioned in previous blogs, I do plan to continue bagging my own groceries when I’m famous. However, he made me feel that being “nice” meant being a pushover. I really doubt the thousands of other people in the building are all mean, I’m sure they are 1.) successful 2.) in a rush.
I’m in a rush but I guess I didn’t come in with any frenetic energy.
He started telling me that he’s not really a dry cleaner, but a psychology major and really a Real Estate Agent. I said, “Two good businesses. We all need homes and good mental health.”
He didn’t cheer up. He said, “I can’t even get past the job interviews.”
I said, “Well, in this job market, it’s amazing to even get so far as an interview.”
He darkened more.
(Why wasn’t my positive attitude working? I thought it might even scare him off. He’d think, “Wow, she’s a guru. I can’t load my shit on her.”)
He leaned in. He was paying attention to himself now, missing the stain I pointed out on my skirt that he needed to mark.
“My grandmother’s father was very rich. They owned streets in Mexico. She married a guy who was from the lower class and her father disowned her.”
I pointed to another stain, trying to act impatient now but tolerant. “Too bad. Well at least she was happily married.”
He frowned and threw my skirt in the bag without marking the stain.
“No. My grandmother was abused by my grandfather.”
I said nothing.
He looked at me and said, “Physically.”
Oh. I said nothing. A man came in behind me. I could feel his energy. He was in a suit and in a big rush. But he wasn’t rude. He just seemed ready to pick up and go. He held his credit card in his hand. My transaction was done, once The World’s Saddest Dry Cleaner typed up my ticket.
He began typing with one finger, pounding the keyboard.
“And then my father abused my mother. Patterns.”
I kept quiet knowing that whatever I said would egg him on.
My silence also egged him on.
He kept tapping. “I’m not repeating the pattern. I’m off the chart.”
I wasn’t sure if he meant he was gay, if that’s what off the chart means. Perhaps it meant he just wouldn’t beat a woman.
He said, “Listen honey, don’t take any shit from men. You don’t need to.”
He had a far away look in his eye and he stared at his computer. I looked at the guy in back of me and smiled hoping to convey, “Don’t worry. I’m not taking shit from men. I’m not confiding in the World’s Saddest Dry Cleaner, I’m just trying to drop off my coffee-stained clothes.”
The guy raised his eyebrow at me and sort of nodded, “no”, as in, “you poor stupid woman who lets herself get abused.”
The World’s Saddest Dry Cleaner yelled over the sound of the printer, “Girl! You don’t take no shit from men! NOTHING! You don’t need them! You work in this building you must be successful right? You are a nice person, a good person. I’m a psych major, I can tell these things.”
He was completely speaking to his mother and grandmother in his head but pointing at me. I felt like I was back in acting class at college. I felt like I had to either applaud or rub his back awkwardly.
I took my slip. “No, I won’t take any shit from anyone.”
I started to leave.
Impatient Man said, “I’m in kind of a rush.”
And World’s Saddest Dry Cleaner motioned to Impatient Man when he wasn’t looking and said to me, “Rude!”
I was right. People who come in with an agenda, to clean their clothes and get out, were considered rude. I walk in fresh-faced and unassuming and I maybe make one or two polite comments and suddenly this guy can see through me. I’m a nice person. I’m a good person. I’m no one’s pushover.
I’m not taking any more shit from men or Sad Dry Cleaners you hear me?