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Bergman's bungle turns brilliant at Safeway

I was ripping through a list of Saturday errands before summer vacation. Keys made. Check. Laptop packed. Check. Tennis racket. Check. The old shower curtain mom asked me to bring. (Another story.) Check.

Normally a dish-soap, wash-it-in-the sink skinflint, I had broken down and taken a favorite cotton dress to be cleaned by Bergman's -- at Safeway in Georgetown. A treat to myself. A small luxury I could afford.

I had exactly five minutes before my flight to pick it up. The sales representative, Brenda, flipped the switch with agility as the racks twirled around.

The Georgetown Dish
The Georgetown Dish

She produced a pudding-color brown and beige goulash sack that vaguely resembled my beloved, sparkling, Banana Republic patterned dress. "What????!! Who??!!" I stuttered. I sputtered.

My beautiful, crisp brown-and-white dress looked like mud. Steam puffed from my ears. My faced turned pink, rose and red. I fumed.

Brenda urged calm. "Someone will call you."

"Someone will call me??" I repeated at a higher octave. I didn't want a call. I wanted my dress back. Punished for spending money when I should have used my hands and my kitchen sink! Swatted for my laziness! Punked for washing a dress the easy way!

I wanted to take the poor, defiled dress with me. "If you take it," she said, "you might not get your money back."

My money back??? The value of the dress was not in money. It was in YEARS. It was in CONVENIENCE. It was in "YOU CAN'T FIND FAVORITE DRESSES LIKE THIS!"

Standing there as Brenda tried to console, I shook an imaginary fist at the Banana Republic gods in the sky. The one-time reliable, affordable clothing source had NOT FOR YEARS produced anything I liked as much as this special dress.

I cursed. I stomped out (as loudly as I could in ballet flats). I left Reagan National with a roar -- on a turbo-prop.

In the following weeks, acceptance started to creep in. "Things pass in and out of life," I told myself. "Let go."

I had worn the dress on dates. I wore it to parties when I wanted to look good. I wore it to feel beautiful.

"Don't be a baby," I scolded. "It's just a dress."

I started to convince myself I had outgrown that dress. "It's a little young for you," I said. "It had stains." I was getting there.

Weeks went by. I thought about other things. The season would be changing...sometime.

But I had to settle the bill with Bergman's. They would pay for the dress if it was ruined, Brenda had said.

The dress had cost me maybe $150 ten years ago. Would Bergman's give me $50? Was it worth anything to them? To anyone but me?

I steeled myself for a detached, business-like conversation. Toughen up, I told myself. You're over it.

Five weeks later, walking quickly, I leaned against the counter on another Sunday afternoon. Brenda stood there, just like before. There was no one around. "I'm Beth Solomon," I said, calmly. "Last month, I brought my

The Georgetown Dish
The Georgetown Dish


I saw a mirage. Was I dreaming? Was I seeing things?

Of hundreds of garments, a beautiful, crisply white and brown dress hung behind Brenda.

I did a double-take.

I didn't want to believe it. Was it my dress? No.

"Is that MY dress?" I gasped.

"Miss Solomon?" Brenda asked. She spun around to see what I was gasping at. "Oh yes, that's your dress." She remembered every detail about our encounter weeks before.

"How did they fix it?" I asked. "I never thought..."

Brenda didn't answer. She went to the cash register. "You were upset." She smiled.

"What did they do?" I asked, bewildered. "I can't believe it."

"No charge for that, Miss Solomon," Brenda said, a twinkle in her eye.

Brenda, always wearing a slightly beatific smile, had become a full-on perchloroethylene angel.

Thank you, Brenda. Thank you, Bergman's. Thank you. Thank you.

I swept the dress out of the store. It looked so beautiful, waving in the breeze. I wanted everyone to see it. My dress was saved!

"Do you see this dress?" I wanted to say. "It was saved! It was salvaged! It was reborn!"

No one seemed to pay attention as I waved the dress around.

It's a little young for me. And kind of stained.