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Greek-American Stories: Going to the Cleaners

Sunny Sunday found all five guys seated in Dixon’s, coffees in hand and the usual tray of donuts centering the table. It was John who first mentioned about a friend they all were acquainted with, needing help in his cleaner’s store. “You know Nick! We see him at church festivals and on the holidays. I go there because it’s handier since it’s close to my store. I just pick up my suits and Penelopi’s stuff and just take them home to Queens in the subway.”

“He told you he needs someone to help him out at his store?” asked Dimos, stirring his coffee. John nodded and waved his hands. “Just for one day a week – Saturdays.” Kipreos’s head rose up. “When I went there last week, he asked me, too. I told him I’d ask around. I can’t do it. I work all day Saturdays.”

“He mentioned it to me, too!” said Yiannis. “I went to pick up Areti’s coat and dress which cost me a few bucks. He told me how busy he always is every Saturday said he’d charge me half price on anything I bring if I found someone.”

Hearing that, George, who’d enjoy nothing more than hearing that Yiannis would be finally working, spoke up with enthusiasm.  “What a good idea, Yiannis! It’s just for one day! And, you’d get a break on Areti’s and your clothes in the bargain. I hope you’re giving it a long, practical thought.” Yiannis, deep in thought, nodded. “I am! And, I’ve been thinking about it since he asked me, a few days ago. Like you say, it’s only one day a week. No big deal!” Dimos said, “If it’s just for one day how many hours? It’s not for a lot of hours, is it?” Yiannis shook his head. “No, he said it’s for about six hours. And, all one had to do is match the numbers on the ticket and find those numbers on the rotating rack. He showed me. It didn’t look so hard. He takes care of the register. So, there’s no getting nervous about giving the customer the wrong change.”

John, having given the idea some thought, said, so, it’s easy work and not a lot of hours, either. When he asked you about it, what did you tell him?” Yiannis, reaching out for a donut, said, “I had an idea! I told him I’d give it some serious thought.” George, anxious to hear his decision, asked, “what did you decide?” Yiannis shrugged. “Believe me, I thought long about it. I had to think about how much needs to be done in the house every Saturday, the food shopping that’s done on that day, too. There’s a lot to consider. I told him I’d give him my decision Monday, the latest.”

George leaned back, trying to picture Yiannis working – even one day a week and couldn’t. So, to make it sound more attractive, he told him, “that’s tomorrow! I think you’d better get in touch with him soon. Someone else will grab the chance to make a few bucks for just one day a week.”

Giving it long and serious thought, his head lifted, “Oh, I’ve made my decision. And, I‘ve come up with the only right decision, guys. Give me credit for being practical, too.” John, hope glimmering in his head, began to see Yiannis in a different light. Imagine! Yiannis giving thought to being employed. Dimos, too, was beginning to hope that Yiannis would start giving himself some self-importance. Kipreos readied his hand to give Yiannis’ shoulder a congratulatory slap when he announced, “Believe me, guys! I tried to fit that day in some way, not only to help out a friend, but the deal is too good to refuse. But, my Saturday schedule. is very crowded. But…” he pushed his empty coffee cup away. “It can’t be done. Areti is too busy Saturdays to work one more day.”




My fellow TNH colleague Theodore Kalmoukos often uses the word “tragicomedy” to describe phenomena that are pitiful and laughable all at once.

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