Mentioning unmentionables

I picked up my dry cleaning a week after I’d requested to have it ready. For some reason, the clothes I leave at the cleaner’s disappear from my closet and my mind the minute I tell the clerk to “Have a good day.”

Thursday was a banner day. Not only did I finally remember to stop by the dry cleaners, I also knew I had three items to retrieve. But when I reached into the car to hang the clothes, I saw four hangers under the plastic.

Now, on a rare occasion, I’ve arrived home from the cleaners with an item of clothing belonging to someone else. So, I patted myself on the back and thought, “Ahha, caught it this time–right in the parking lot.”

I held up the bag. The extra hanger was easy to spot because it didn’t appear to be sporting any clothing. Further inspection revealed a small, clear plastic bag looped through the wire neck. Folded neatly inside the bag was a pair of underwear–women’s underwear.

My underwear.

A yellow tag, safety pinned to the waistband, assured me that, “Yes, your underwear has been most sincerely and thoroughly dry cleaned.”

Mentally, I retraced my steps. I’d thrown the clothes bound for the cleaners onto the bed–beside the things I’d just removed from the dryer. When I scooped up the pile to head out the door, I must have grabbed more than I realized.

I could have inadvertently picked up a t-shirt, a dishtowel or Gary’s boxer shorts. But, no, I snatched up a pair of my—as the nurse at a summer Girl Scout camp called hers years ago—unmentionables.

I laughed. I laughed out loud. I laughed all the way home.

Then my mind went wandering. I wondered what went through the clerk’s head as she separated my clothes? Did she think to herself, “One shirt, two pairs of pants, and one pair of underwear,” as though she sees them everyday? Or was it more like: “One shirt, two pairs of pants and…and…and—UNDERWEAR?”

I pictured her holding them up, the smallest bit of waistband pinched between her finger and thumb. Her glasses propped up by the tip of her nose, eyes squinting as if to say, “What’s this?”

Women’s lingerie comes in all styles, shapes and sizes. So, the good news was this particular pair was of the everyday, boring variety. And they were already clean.  I wondered: Are there people who dry clean their underwear? Maybe there are those who do. I am not one of them.

Wait a minute. I guess I am now one of them—just not on purpose.

My washer’s delicate and hand wash cycles have done a fine job over the years. I honestly don’t own anything in the category of underwear on which the tag reads,“Dry Clean Only.”

It occurred to me that clothes undergo a number of steps, and therefore pass through a number of hands during the mystical process of dry cleaning. So, I looked up “How Dry Cleaning Works” on I love that site.

Sure enough, up to seven people had the opportunity to take one look at my underwear, double check the name, and say, “McCutcheon. Nutcase.” My unmentionables were officially tagged, inspected (great), pretreated, dry-cleaned, pressed, folded, and packaged.

Someone actually steamed and pressed my underwear?

Did the Underwear Bomber think to have his shorts cleaned and starched before he filled them with explosives?

As for my very special pair of dry cleaned underwear–I don’t know whether to wear them or frame them. For now, they are in a drawer. The yellow tag, secured in place by its safety pin, speaks to me on a daily basis.

It says, “You are human. You are human….”


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