I have a pretty extensive music collection on my near-full 160GB iPod
Classic and sometimes I run across something that I haven’t heard in a
long time and wonder why I haven’t.
This morning I’ve been listening to Depeche Mode
a live concert album they did in Pasadena, CA, in 1988. It reminds me of
my first job.
Back in high school, when I was 14, I got a job at a local dry cleaner.
I actually got notified of the opening through a long-time friend of
mine and, for a time, we both worked there,
though he left before I did.
It didn’t start out well, at least, it didn’t in my 14-year-old mind. My
first task, on my first day, was to get a bucket and brush and scrub
the walls in the tiny bathroom in the back. Pretty nasty.
As time went on I got more responsibility and, after a year or so, was
tending the shop solo. I wasn’t running the equipment, but after the
folks doing the actual cleaning and pressing had gone home, I’d stick
around and handle the customers coming in to drop off or pick up clothes
- write up the order tickets for people, play cashier, that sort of
thing. I can still remember the general pricing structure - $3.80 for a
shirt/blouse to be dry cleaned, $0.50 extra for silk or rayon because
they needed to run in a separate load and took extra care when spot
cleaning; $1 for a washed/starched/pressed men’s dress shirt.
When folks weren’t coming in, I’d clean the place - sweep up the lint
that accumulated on the floor, mop, wipe down the equipment - and
prepare things to be cleaned the next day - separate clothes into
different bins based on which load they needed to run in, undo all the
buttons on the dress shirts to be washed and bundle them into bags for
washing, and so on. Eventually I got to a point where I could run the
washer for the shirts and the Permac dry cleaning
You’d get to know the customers who came in, what they usually brought
in, how often, and so on. There was one lady who always came in driving
this Porsche 964 Turbo with
rear fender vents. We always looked forward to that - it was the coolest
car we’d ever seen. She offered to take us for a ride in it, but none of
us ever took her up on it.
It’s amazing some of the weird skills you pick up when you work places.
I can still usually tell by feel if something has silk or rayon in it,
even blends (faster than checking the label when pricing things). I can
unbutton all of the buttons (sleeves, collar, front) on a button-up
shirt in a couple of quick movements (gotta be unbuttoned for washing
Anyway, hung on the back wall, above the giant washing machine (actual
washing with water, for the men’s shirts), was this boom box with a tape
deck. It was covered in the oily lint that got all over the place. The
speakers were detached from the body and hung about four feet on either
side of it. On the Saturdays when I was there minding the shop, I’d
break out my 101 tapes and pop those into the boom box. I listened to
them enough that they got demagnetized in places and the tape was sort
of stretched and weird sounding in others. With Depeche Mode cranked in
the background, I’d get into a work flow and take care of business.
It’s weird how music can make you remember stuff. Now, every time I hear
101, it’s like I’m back at the cleaners on a hot Saturday afternoon,
waiting for that Porsche to roll in. Maybe this time I’ll take that