I am a prudent guy; okay frugal. Actually, some people call me cheap, but they are just folks who do not appreciate ascetic satisfactions. Regardless where I rest near the bottom of the proliferate scale, I am out of my element in the world of luxury. But here I am in China, a wealthy Westerner staying at the Nanjing Hilton about to make a presentation to the mayor. It’s time I upgrade my look. I decide to send my wrinkled black suit and white shirt to the hotel laundry instead of just pressing it myself. I am not fond of spurious services; valets parking my car, curbside skycaps or hotel laundries. But I am in China – they specialize in laundry.
I call in my order first thing in the morning, check off my three garments on the triplicate form, stuff my suit and shirt into the laundry bag and am pleased to see it gone when I return from my morning swim. I go to work all day at the affiliate architect’s office with whom I will make this presentation. When I return after a long but satisfactory day my suit pants are hanging neat in my closet, crisp as a spring morning. But where are my shirt and jacket?
Across the room, my shirt and jacket sit balled up in a pair of beautiful boxes. Apparently, the laundress found defects on these articles, stuck post-its on the offending areas and returned them untouched. I am so tired I go to bed, but my dreams are full of the mayor shaking my hand with disdain while he fingers my wrinkled suit and eyeballs my stained shirt.
In the morning I get out the iron and press my clothes. I do an adequate job. In the bottom of the shirt box I find a beautifully laundered and ironed handkerchief, carefully wrapped in a cellophane sleeve. I notice that the triplicate sheet has been modified to indicate four garments rather than three. The laundress rejected my coat and shirt, but she did a lovely job on a neglected handkerchief.
Next time I decide to upgrade my look, I am going to peer into the mirror, realize there’s only so much I can do with what I’ve got, iron my own clothes and forgo this aggravation. A guy who can’t even manage to get his laundry done in China has no finger on the finer points of life.
Chinese Laundry Box with crumpled shirt and beautiful handkerchief in Nanjing, China