Humor by Greg Schwem

I strode into my local dry cleaner and awaited Gary, the proprietor. After a minute or so, he emerged from behind a rack of neatly pressed suits, covered in plastic bags. He was sweating profusely, just one of the downsides of working 12-hour shifts in a summer chock-full of triple-digit afternoons.

"Are you picking up today, Mr. Schwem?" Gary asked. There was no need for me to produce a ticket; after years of service, he knows my name.

"Not today, Gary," I replied. "I just came in to ask your views on the designated hitter rule."

"Excuse me?"

"The designated hitter." I repeated. "In baseball. Are you for it or against it?"

"Well, uh, nobody's ever asked me. Most customers ask if I do alterations."

"Don't change the subject, Gary," I said impatiently. I need to know now. In favor of it or against it?"

"Uh, in favor of it?"


"Wait, where are you going, Mr. Schwem? You've been coming here since 1993."

"True, but I'm not sure I can continue doing business with somebody who doesn't believe the DH cuts down on strategy and managerial decision-making."

"Why are we having this conversation?" Gary asked as nervous perspiration began mixing with the work-related sweat on his forehead.

"Relax, Gary, I was kidding," I said, breaking into a grin. "But I'd be careful about letting your customers know your personal beliefs on hot-button issues from now on. You're aware of the brouhaha at Chick-fil-A, right?"

"Can't say I am," Gary said. "When you run a small business and work 70-hour weeks, you don't always have time to watch the news."

"I'll fill you in," I said. "Dan Cathy, the company CEO and the founder's son, recently stated his opposition to gay marriage. Now gay marriage advocates are demanding boycotts. Social networks are ablaze over his comments. Celebrities are tweeting about it."

"Like who?"

"That guy from 'The Hangover' movie, for one. Ed Helms. He tweeted, and I quote, 'Chick-fil-A doesn't like gay people? So lame. Hate to think what they do to the gay chickens. Lost a loyal fan."'

"I'm confused," Gary said. "Mr. Cathy never said he didn't like gay people. He just opposes gay marriage. I'm opposed to cigarettes, but I'm still friends with people who smoke. And what the heck do Mr. Cathy's political beliefs have to do with his ability to cook a chicken sandwich, wrap it in paper and hand it through a drive-thru window with fries and a Diet Coke?"

"Beats me," I said. "Gary, you're the best dry cleaner in town. I'll keep coming to you even if you favor lowering the drinking age to 12 and support mandatory texting while driving. Nobody gets coffee stains off my ties like you do."

"I appreciate that," Gary replied. "Man, I was nervous for a minute. If it meant keeping you as a customer, I was ready to change my view and say, 'I oppose the designated hitter.'"

"Hey, Gary, did I just hear what I thought I heard?" said another voice.

"Mr. Sullivan. I didn't even see you come in," Gary said. "I have your suits ready."

"Don't play nice with me, buddy. I just heard you say you were against the designated hitter. Apparently you LIKE watching a game featuring pitchers who look like they are defending themselves against imaginary muggers when they swing a bat. I can't believe I've been letting you starch my shirts since 1981. Does the Facebook community know about this?"

"I'm not on Facebook."

"Well I'm going home and creating a Facebook page right now urging everybody not to set foot in this place anymore. Excuse me while I step outside and photograph your establishment."

"You're messing with me, right?" Gary asked, not entirely sure what the answer would be.

"Yeah, I'm messing with you," Sullivan said. "I was outside and heard you talking with Schwem. I feel your pain, Gary. I run a restaurant and I'm afraid to talk with customers about anything other than the daily specials."

"I pride myself on being friendly with my customers," Gary said."I know their interests, their kids' names, their favorite vacation places. That's why I'm successful. Am I just going to have to say, 'no comment' now whenever somebody comes in and asks me anything non-laundry related?"

"It seems we're heading in that direction." I said.

"Everybody just needs to chill out," Gary said.

"I agree," Sullivan said. "Gary, when you close for the night, why don't you come over to my place for a beer? And a meal. It's on me. Greg, you can come, too."

"That depends," I said.

"Depends on what?" Sullivan asked.

"Artificial turf. For it or against it?"

"Shut up, Greg."

Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad

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