Just back from my new laundromat and I am smiling. Not because of the clean clothes -- or not just because of them. I get a huge kick out of the lady who runs it. When my old laundromat went out of business a couple of months ago, I was disappointed. The place was handy to my house and the liquor store, and over the last couple of years I'd enjoyed chatting with the people who worked there -- the wide-eyed superfriend, the tattooed demon, the tough old denture-smacker ... all of them. Laundry staff seem to be different from other types of service worker. More personable, somehow. Fewer boundaries. Maybe because they spend so much time with other people's intimates? Anyway, my disappointment at the ending of these relationships vanished the following week when I drove uptown to the new place, and was greeted at the door by the lady in charge. Good afternoon, brother, she said. I've been called lots of things in my day. (Twerp a couple of weeks ago, but I am not talking insults here.) I don't get Mister or Sir very often, thank heavens, but older guys will call me Buddy or Pal. (Older ladies -- especially if they work in a diner -- call me what they call everyone regardless of age or sex : Dear.) Younger women will call me nothing or You, men will call me Man or Guy. My kids' contemporaries have been known to call me Ed's Dad (Seriously -- Hi, Ed's Dad, is Ed there?) But I don't think I have ever been called Brother. Bro once or twice, in a dim light, thinking I was younger (Yo, Bro, pass the -- oh, hi) but not the full fraternal. I like it. The laundromat lady has a regal bearing but a warm friendly face. She speaks excellent English with a faint accent suggesting that it is not her first language. But whether she has uses brother as a slightly wonky piece of idiom, or whether she has adopted it consciously as her own greeting, it suits her well. Have a wonderful afternoon, brother, she said to me today. And I did.
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