Friday, December 23, 2005

Magic carpet

This morning I went to pick up a couple of rugs that I had given to clean to Bergmann's. I had been told by friends that this was a Washington's institution and the place to go for all things related to cleaning rugs. I arrived pretty annoyed already: it had taken a phone call a couple of days ago to learn that my rugs were ready (and had been for more than a month), that after 30 days they could not guarantee that the rugs will still be there, and that the price will be about $ 100 more than I had expected to pay. In addition, when I had told the woman on the phone that I was expecting a call from them telling me that the rugs were ready, she treated me as the worst liar in the area (and I live in Washington DC!). In short, I arrived at the store worried about getting back all the rugs (among them, a rug from my grandfather's household) and ready for a fight.
It does not help that a woman carrying a rug into her car is swearing aloud that this is the last time she comes there. I ask her about her plight and get a tale of lost or badly cleaned rugs. She tells me "This store used to be so good! When it was the four old men. Now it's a disaster!". Maybe this is what my friends meant when they said it was a Washington's institution.

I walk in and quickly get reassured: they still have all the rugs I gave them (including my grandfather's). It is now just a question to check carefully how much they are charging me.
A woman is waiting in the hall as well and it appeared that she had a problem identical to mine: she waited for a phone call from the store while they were waiting for hers. Now they can't find her carpet and she is not happy. I pay and start carrying the rugs into my car. One of them is too big and heavy for me to carry, so I ask for help from someone. A tall black guy with three front teeth missing comes up and grab the carpet effortlessly. As he reaches the car, he looks at the torn wrapper around the carpet and asks "How long ago did you give the rug to clean?" I tell him about a month and explain the misunderstanding about it. He shakes his head "Rugs walk out of here. You should keep an eye on them." He explains that the torn paper is a sure sign that someone, attracted by the large size of my rug, wanted to have a closer look at it. Clearly it was not valuable enough for that someone to risk stealing it. I'm happy although somewhat vexed by the thought that my grandfather's rug (a Moroccan rug from the beginning of last century) didn't pass the test either. Its wrapper is a bit torn but maybe the thieves don't like wool woven carpets. Only fancy Iranian ones.
As I realized what could have happened, the man is explaining the cleaning process. I'm curious about it and ask some questions when he suggests "I can show you the machines if you want." My eyes brightened. A big smile. "Sure!" I say. I lock the car and we walk back in the store. I am not unhappy to see the look of astonishment that the woman at the counter is giving me: I am going where no costumer is allowed. I'm following the man down a flight of stairs and enter a parallel universe. It is a huge warehouse filled with people (most of them clearly South American) folding clothes, loading machines, unloading machines. There is steam everywhere and it smells like a giant laundry room (which it is after all). We walk toward the back and the man shows me a large machine with pipes everywhere. He is pointing proudly to all the tubes. "Warm, soft soap comes from here" "the rugs are hold in place here" "there is water coming out from here" "the brushes clean the rugs here". I imagine the rugs being brushed with the constant stream of warm mild soapy water. The next station is the drying stage. I can see large rugs hung and I feel the hot air blowing onto them. At the other end of the large drying station, there is the "rolling machine" the one that put the rugs into the wrapper, the one that was torn to check the quality of my grandfather's carpet.
I am so happy with this unplanned visit that in return, I invite my host to come and visit my work place whenever he wants. I hope that he likes computers...


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