"Hello? Good afternoon, miss." The voice sounded pleasant enough. I looked up from the kitchen island from where I was working on the computer and saw a man who looked like Ken Berry peeking through the front screen door. Typically, I don't even open the door to anyone over 12 unless I absolutely have to, and in those cases, I usually talk out the first floor window, over the shrubbery. But I was working a cross breeze this afternoon and the front door was open. I talked to him through the locked screen door. His name was Cliff, he worked for Dependable Cleaners (I saw the van in the driveway) and he was here to tell me about a new drop-off/delivery promotion they were running. I tried to head him off, saying I work at home and my wardrobe, consisting of yoga pants and fleece, was entirely machine washable. He was not dissuaded. This guy was old school, robotic and overly rehearsed, part Willy Loman, part Orlando Jones selling magazine subscriptions in "Office Space." He never strayed from the script, although he did appear genuinely offended when I told him I used Dryel.
Long story short, he held up a Dependable Cleaners nylon laundry bag and told me to hold onto it. I could leave it at my side door on Tuesdays and Fridays if I had any drycleaning and the van would pick it up and drop it off. He then held up two coupons for $10 off the first two orders. There was neither a credit card number nor commitment required on our part. I still told him I really had no need for it either way. Undeterred, he asked if my husband would use the service. Doubtful, I said. He's been going to the same drycleaner in West Roxbury for years and is unlikely to switch as it's near the Middle Eastern bakery. "Well, why don't I just leave the bag and you can ask him," Cliff says. If neither of us want the service, we can just leave the bag with a note saying so. Fine fine fine. Give me the damn bag. I just wanted to get back to work.
Well, I should've never accepted the damn bag. I hung it up in the laundry room then immediately forgot about it. Then the calls started. The following Tuesday afternoon. Private name/Private number. It's Cliff. "Did you forget?" Forget what? "The driver said there was no bag at the side door." Oh, right. I had no drycleaning. "OK. Friday, then." I told him not to bother as I'd have nothing Friday either. This didn't matter. Like clockwork, every Tuesday and Friday, he calls and/or leaves messages. "You know, those coupons are going to expire if you don't use them" etc. Last week, he called at 9 p.m. and seemed angry when James answered the phone. "Can I speak to Kate?" "Who's calling?" "Is she there? "Who is this?" "Oh, never mind." Then he unceremoniously hung up. "You've got to go down there. Do you want me to go down there," James said. This was getting ridiculous. By now, this had been going on for weeks, yet each Tuesday or Friday, I was nevertheless forgetting to leave the bag with the Dear John letter to Dependable Cleaners by the side door. Mostly because in between these harrassing incidents, Dependable Cleaners was the furthest thing from my mind. Or maybe I was subconsiously gaslighting Cliff. For whatever reason, I seemed to forget about Cliff's calls almost immediately after, much like the initial screen door sales call.
That is until Cliff showed up at the house this week!!! Passive aggressive, palms up, shrugging. "Not one blouse? No Pantsuits?" (Pantsuits?) "Surely you must have some things that need drycleaning. You DO have Dryel in the house. Why do you buy Dryel if you don't have things that need drycleaning?" I almost chucked a hoodie at him to make him go away. I closed the door without a word. I'm heading down there this morning -- bag in hand, possibly swinging -- and telling Dependable Cleaners - and Cliff - in no uncertain terms, to frig off. If I go missing, you know who to look for.