Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Incident

My blog posts are usually filled with smiling vacation photos and/or lush landscapes. And I do have more of those to share, but we have yet to upload the photos.

For now, I need to retell an anecdote that I mentally refer to as simply 'the incident.' I feel the need to record it now, a month after it happened, so that it doesn't morph dramatically over the years. Truthfully, it's dramatic enough without my imagination filling in the gaps of memory.

One crisp Saturday morning, my mom and I went to pick up my dry cleaning from a shop I'd used occasionally.
We handed the lady our claim ticket, but there was still confusion about where my items were. Eventually, the owner, an Asian woman in her fifties or so, found my blouse and work trousers.

Immediately, my mom and I thought that the shirt looked off in color. When I brought it in, it was close to an eggshell white, but now it looked pale yellow. We tried to discuss this color issue with the woman, but she didn't offer any helpful solutions. When she wasn't wandering away to help other customers, she told us, 'you need to speak to the dry cleaner.' Hold on a moment, we thought she was the dry cleaner.

It seems that the actual dry cleaning is done by someone else, but the woman didn't indicate when that person would arrive or if they could re-clean it. We were pretty annoyed by then because the woman kept ignoring us to help other customers while our issue remained unresolved. My mom asked what we should do and I decided we should pay for the trousers and either bring the blouse to another dry cleaner or try to hand wash it at home. For all I knew, the blouse was ruined.

When the woman realised we weren't paying for the blouse, only the trousers, she quickly turned her attention back to us and flipped out. She grabbed the dry cleaning out of my hands and we started in with a heated tug of war. She was adamant: yanking and yelling about 'you not pay!' I was stunned, but it was nothing compared to what came next.

I finally won the tug of war and we were about to walk out of the shop when she grabbed my mom's purse! Looking back, I still can't believe that this happened. She put it behind her on a shelf where we couldn't easily get to it. 'Excuse me!' we said. 'Ma'am, give me back my purse!' We were completely shocked.

My mom went behind the counter and tried to take it back and the woman responded by fighting her for it and moving the purse again. After prying the woman's hands off my mom's poor arm, we finally had the purse. Realizing she was fighting a losing battle, the woman started shouting that she'd call the police. 'Call them!' we shouted back. We knew that she'd likely be at fault as she stole my mom's purse and then tried to assault her.

Practically dazed but intact, we left the shop while the woman cursed after us. She screamed the 'f' word and then said something like 'second hand' meaning to insult my blouse.

Now here's where it starts to get interesting. In the light of day, yeah, you guessed it: my blouse was fine. Not discolored or ruined. I don't know what happened, but we could have sworn that the blouse looked absolutely yellow in the shop. Was it the yellow walls, fluorescent lighting or the plastic covering that made it look so off? I guess we'll never know, but we started to feel a bit bad at that point.

My mom considered slipping $7 (the absurd amount of money in dispute here) under the door the next day, but I told her we couldn't. That lady had taken her purse and assaulted her! Thoroughly shaken by the incident, we tried to laugh it off the rest of the weekend.

Mom's big takeaway from the incident is that $7 isn't worth a physical fight with a middle aged dry cleaner (although in the end it felt more like a fight for the purse). My lesson learned? I sure as heck don't live in the land of the customer is always right. This customer will never look at that blouse the same way.

Friday, August 06, 2010

One Week in California

The true purpose of our trip to California last month was to celebrate Nic's graduation, but after two days of that, we were left with five extra days to hit up some our favorite spots in the golden state.

About two weeks before our trip, I was possessed by a nostalgic whim to revisit Knott's Berry Farm, my favorite amusement park. Knott's earned the honor of being my favorite park not because it's the nicest (that's Disneyland) or has the best rides (that would be Six Flags). In fact, I like it precisely because, when compared to the Magic Kingdom, Knott's is a little bit grungy, almost grungy enough to be retro/hip, but not quite. Knott's is consistently cheaper and less crowded than Disneyland and sells their signature Knott's Boysenberry Juice alongside other soft drinks, so really, what's not to like?

Much like Wayne's World is my favorite movie, Knott's is also my favorite park because I've created a lot of fond memories there over the years. There's a sweet, drooly picture of a three year old me playing in one of those nasty ball pits in Camp Snoopy, the section of the park reserved for wee ones. I remember visiting Knott's with Allison and Debby O'Connor for Alli's tenth birthday and being completely terrified of "the big rides." Alli poured on the peer pressure and by the end of the day I was reciting the mantra 'there will be a tomorrow' to manage my fear of Montezuma's Revenge. I loved it.

We spent several summer days there during my middle school years. A couple of friends had season passes and I remember showing up at the park with a complete change of clothing (socks, underwear, shoes) in my backpack. My dear friend April couldn't get enough of Big Foot Rapids, the white water rafting ride, and we'd run from the exit back to the end of the line, riding it until we were completely drenched.

Well, this year there was no running from the exit to hop straight back on the ride only minutes later. Unfortunately, the park was too crowded for us to ride anything more than once. In fact, we were at the park all day, but only got on six rides. Upon arriving I quickly learned that our tickets purchased online were cheap because we chose to visit the park on the same day that every other middle school in Orange County did.

This put a slight damper on the day because middle school students are well... middle school students. They think they're quite clever and adorable when they jump the queue and there was a lot of screaming; even for an amusement park with thrill rides, there was a lot of screaming. Our party of four decided early in the day that we wouldn't tolerate anyone cutting in front of us in line. We didn't accept excuses such as 'I need to go with my group' and nearly got into a scuffle because of our stubbornness.

We had just joined the snaking queue to ride Montezuma's Revenge when half a softball team tried to cut in front of us. We told them that this wasn't okay and their mama bear got really bent out of shape.  She was armed with plenty of nonsense arguments: 'they're just little girls and you're adults.' Yeah, and we think everyone, regardless of age should take turns. Anyway, she asked her male companion who we later began to call Number One Dad, to get involved. Though the words coming out of his mouth seemed to agree with us, he was angry and decided to teach us a lesson (and set an incredibly poor example) by cutting in front of us. As you can imagine, the rest of the wait in that line was awkward, but Number One Dad was from that point on an excellent reference point and butt of all jokes.

Knott's had changed, but not dramatically so, since my previous visit. Though a self-proclaimed 'huge weenie' about roller coasters, Kat summoned the courage to ride most rides with us. I even dragged the whole crew on Big Foot Rapids despite their reluctance to get wet. We tried out a couple of new rides, too: Pony Express which is poorly designed, uncomfortable and generally sucky and Silver Bullet which is perhaps the best roller coaster I've ever ridden. Silver Bullet is the type that suspends you from the top and leaves your feet dangling.  It took you through plenty of loops and corkscrews, but didn't bang your head around which was brilliant.

I wanted to stay until the park closed, but our visit was cut slightly short by Nic's need to see the Laker game and Mickey's desire to get the hell away from middle school students. I couldn't blame either of them, really. In the end, I still love Knott's, but made a vow never to return unless it was a random mid-week day in the spring or fall; school days at the park are just too hectic.

Almost two months later, the rest of our week in California was a happy blur. We shopped, went swimming and played games. We celebrated my birthday by going out for In 'N Out burgers and my brother taught me the coolest trick: ordering a neapolitan shake so that you don't have to decide between chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry, you get all three!