Dry-Cleaning in the Twenty-first Century

or, How modern technology wastes our precious time

Place:

A small, new dry-cleaning establishment in Georgetown.

Time:

The present.

Dramatis personnae:

Robert Hanrott, trying to get his household chores completed as quickly as possible, so he can get back to writing stuff like this; and a keen young woman sales assistant, standing eagerly in front of a computer.

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R.H:

Good afternoon. So you're new here. It used to be a video store.

Salesperson:

We've been here three months.

R.H:

I've just got a pair of men's pants and a pair of women's slacks.

Salesperson:

Can I have your first name?.

R.H:

First name? Oh, well, I suppose so. Robert. (Thinks: were I to ask for her name would it constitute sexual harassment from the customer?)

Salesperson:

Your second?

R.H:

Hanrott.

Salesperson:

Your address?

R.H:

Is this necessary?

Salesperson:

We have to do this in case we have to deliver.

R.H:

But I only live two hundred yards away.

Salesperson:

You never know. It might snow. Your phone number?

R.H:

Well, I suppose that's reasonable. 342-0189.

Salesperson:

Email address?

R.H:

Why would you need that? Or is this an FBI office I've stumbled into?

Salesperson:

We like to send you details of special offers.

R.H:

You mean ten percent off fox-fur wraps this week?

Salesperson:

That sort of thing.

R.H:

But I don't have any fox-fur wraps. Nor does my wife.

Salesperson:

You can get twenty per cent off of thirty white, semi-starched collarless shirts at any one time. It's a great deal.

R.H:

Is this for me-me movie directors? Do you offer shaves and hairdos as well?

Salesperson:

You don't have to give me your email address if you don't want to.

R.H:

What else does your computer want to know?

Salesperson:

Your age, like, 20 to 30, 30 to 40?

R.H:

Put 75, Caucasian, eyes blue, skin dry, complexion mottled, weight 185 pounds, seen better days.

Salesperson:

Whoa, you're going too fast...

R.H:

...very married, Sony flat-screen TV and DVD machine, Acura car, and no interest in public personalities.

Salesperson:

Now you're teasing me.

R.H:

Who's teasing who exactly?

Salesperson:

(handing over a receipt): Here's our website address. You can go online and check the progress of your cleaning, and message us if you wish.

R.H:

Why would I do that?

Salesperson:

Maybe you want to change instructions, like, about pressing, for instance.

R.H:

At last! Something to do with my spare time.

Salesperson:

This way you don't have to waste time leaving the house.

R.H:

I can see it now, an isolated idiot sitting in front of a screen, wondering if the dry cleaners have put creases down the front or the sides of his trousers. It takes him seventeen minutes and thirty five seconds for him to work out how to send a message to say he's handed in the wrong pants. You have to be joking. This modern capitalism system and its technology are already using up too many hours of my all-too-short life.

Salesperson:

It's made the economy very productive. That's what my Dad says.

R.H:

Productive, you say? Just think, I only came in to leave two pieces of clothing for cleaning.

End Act One

 

Will I go online to check the progress of my dry cleaning? Will I spot a fantastic offer on my white tie and tails? Wait for the next futile episode of "The Curse of the Computer at the Georgetown Dry-Cleaners", or "They Only Do This to You Because they Can".