Her name is Cwisteen which I think means Christine in Chinese. I asked her her name once and that’s what I’ve been calling her since. She’s ALWAYS in the store alone and she always asks me “was yu fone numbah Mistah Weems?” when I enter. I have shirts, ties and suits that I have cleaned there weekly. It’s on my way TO and FROM work and I can’t argue with the convenience. She will always tell me, “u pay lateh, u pay lateh!” when I pick something up. I assumed that she was always too busy to figure out my bill each time.
I have been going to her religiously for over five years now, except when I boycotted her one winter because she lost a jacket of mine. I eventually came back with my neckties between my knees because with her pricing, I could buy a new jacket to replace the missing one anyway.
Last Monday morning traffic was light and I was running ahead of schedule. I stopped in to drop off a suit and blurted, “Good morning Christine!”startling even ME with my cheerful tone. After the usual phone number inquiry, she stated that “yu owe sixty fow dowahs.” Still not quite awake and my hearing not well lubricated as of yet, I muttered, “What did you say?” “Sixty fow u owe. I cut u break, you give me sixty okay?” she asked making eye contact. “U take sukah. Take two sukahs,” she said pointing to a hand painted basket loaded with “dum dum” lollypops.
I wondered silently if she was subliminally calling me a sucker? I get paranoid about things like that. Once I was in a Chinese restaurant and I noticed several waiters mumbling in their native tongue, giggling and pointing in my direction. I assumed they were making fun of my large almond shaped eyes, my thick dirty blond hair and my huge package. I picked up my fork with continued nervousness as I finished eating my sesame chicken.
“How bissniss?” she asked as I gave Christine my debit card. As she swiped it, I answered “fine,” took three dum dum lollypops, carried my suits to the car and went to work.