Thursday, June 28, 2007


I have to pick up a suit from the cleaners today. We are going to a wedding Saturday.

The cleaners we do business with is ran by a greedy nervous Caucasian man that I am sure is the owner also. He has about 6 or 7 Asians working for him and I don’t think any of them can speak English. You always see them in the background folding, pressing, and whatever else they do. They remind me of a crew of bees in a hive fanning and caring for the lavas.

There are two women that can speak broken English. One looks matronly and probably in her late 40s, the other one looks to be a teenager, and somehow has similar traits of the other one – I wondered if the oldest is the mother of the teenager. When the bossman is unavailable either two will do what he normally does… take in clothes to be clean and of course deliver clothes when someone comes to pickup an order.

All the rest of them I think cannot speak but one word of English. That one word is “Customer”. Several times I have walked into the store and the first Asian to see will holler out “Customah!” and the bossman will instantly appear from the back – or one of the two females I described will gracefully come up to the counter.

I think with most of them not speaking English is the way he prefers it. They can’t communicate to fuss about being underpaid and overworked – and maybe even crowded living conditions.

The owner/bossman is a tall fellow. He has a very nervous look about him… he might be a nervous wreck trying to overlook all the business operations, the cash register, and extended lunch breaks.

The other day while carrying my suit to the cleaners I noticed a van with a back door opened with a young guy putting bundles (clothes probably) into it. The van had a “for sale” sign on it. Standing beside him, with a smile on her face, was the matronly Asian lady talking to him.

I immediately decided the young Caucasian fellow was the owner’s son. He was tall like his father – just not as age-thick. When I walked inside after the “Customah!” alarm went off the bossman emerged from doing something in the back - rolling in his money or whatever and he noticed the matronly Asian talking to his son. He didn’t look too happy about their socializing. He kept glancing at them while keying in my order on his new computer system. I wondered if he was wondering if she wanted to know about the van for sale – or was it something else they were talking about?

The nerve of them! Time is money!

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Blogger kenju said...

The owner of my drycleaners is (East) Indian and most of her employees are Latina. I don't know how they converse either.

5:57 AM  
Blogger ET said...

If you have at least one person in the group that can understand some English, it is probably a piece of cake to tell that person yours instructions and he or she can relay it on to the others, like:
"The ass-hole wants you to fold the sleeves to the right" Or maybe, "Ass-hole said he is going to dock you an hour worth of work the next time you take too long in the bathroom".

7:33 AM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Everyone who works at every dry cleaners in Manhattan is Korean. Maybe a few delivery guys are Latino, but generally Korean. In the wake of the VA Tech shootings, I was disturbed by a NY Times article that casually mentioned that all Koreans like working in dry cleaning so that they can go to church on Sundays. I found that to be a little racist. Maybe they work there for the same reason that Italians and Jews worked the garment trade - that's where they could get jobs with their language skills? Call me crazy for thinking that, but your story just seemed to verify my hunch.

6:50 AM  
Blogger ET said...

I don't know, but I think it is possible these non-English speaking Asians are working to pay back their boat ticket to Amerika.
Back in colonial times they called in Indentured Slavery.

11:11 AM  
Blogger ET said...

I didn't mean Indenture Slavery. I meant Indenture Servanting - there is a difference - I think.

11:21 AM  

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