The dry cleaner

This morning I was thinking about something I need to pick up from the dry cleaner, something pretty ordinary for anyone anywhere, right?

Well, it turns out this is not always as mundane as it could be, at least not for me.

We’re about to celebrate our fourth anniversary in Canada, and although the pandemic years don’t count as regular years, settling down has been quite a journey. Little by little, we are getting used to running all kinds of errands, which I believe is key to strengthening this sense of belonging to the place we’re living in.

So, this is the story behind something as boring as going to the dry cleaner:

In 2019 I started noticing that some of our jackets needed this service, but for some reason, I didn’t look around for a dry cleaner. Instead, I kept putting them in a suitcase we never used.

When the pandemic started, no one wore this kind of formal clothes during the lockdown, so it became the perfect excuse to not touch that orange block at the end of the closet.

Two years later, when the virus (kind of) let us return to our everyday lives, we moved to our new house, and when I was putting everything in order, the suitcase appeared again. I didn’t hesitate and set it aside immediately, but this time next to the door. I was going to take it to a dry cleaner once and for all.

I found a small shop owned by an introverted but polite old Chinese man who barely speaks English.

– Hi, I brought these jackets; you can’t imagine how long they’ve been waiting for a thorough cleaning!

He smiled at me, checked them carefully, wrote a note on a pink sheet, and asked me if I needed them for a specific date. I smiled in return and said there was no rush.

Isn’t it the most mundane encounter of all?

Well, yes and no, because as soon as I walked out with the pink note in my hand, I felt a bit more citizen of this place. That’s why I mentioned earlier that the day-to-day activities make you feel at home; this is how the foreigner-touristy feeling vanishes away.

Since then, I’ve come back twice to this Chinese man’s dry cleaner. He always smiles at me, asks if I need my clothes back for a specific day, and gives me my pink note. And I always walk out with that piece of paper feeling touched, somehow inspired.

I love how both of us, with our broken English and two very different accents and ages, come across, interact for less than five minutes, and smile at each other before continuing with our everyday activities, building a life many miles away from where we were born.

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