The Proverbial Dry Cleaner

I keep mentioning the dry cleaner as the type of person I should be talking to. So when I actually went in this morning to drop off my dry cleaning, it was hard to avoid thinking about it.

I bit the bullet, looked up at the TV they have on CNN all day long, and led with…

“Hey, I bet there’s one group of people pretty psyched about the oil spill in the Gulf– the dry cleaners!”

I thought that was pretty funny for off the top of my head but all I got was a pity laugh. So I asked the guy who’s handled my dry cleaning for the last year and a half, “Hey, what’s your name?”

He said it was Ramon. He already knew my name from his computer screen but I introduced myself anyway. We talked about the oil spill, how his brother has a restaurant in New Orleans, and about how dry cleaning works. Not too deep but he did give me some extra 40% off coupons for next time.

When I pick up my dry cleaning tomorrow I’ll see if Ramon has any thoughts on that city manager down in Bell who was ripping off the whole town.

Gunther and I

We hung out last night. I ran into Gunther at the mailboxes and he was like, “Fletcher!” and I’m like, “Gunther!” like we were old friends.

I was going to leave it at that but then he said, “You ready for that beer?” Before I could answer, he teased me. “Or wine.”

I was like, “Right now?”

“Unless you’re busy.”

Yeah, right. I think season one of Party Down on my Roku can wait. So I changed and went over to 302.

Turns out Gunther is a pretty weird dude, but in a cool way. He looks like a surfer, but he’s actually got a masters in economics from Berkeley. But does he use that degree to teach or work at the federal reserve? No. He sells shit on eBay.

Not like that girl in “40 Year Old Virgin.” He doesn’t sell other people’s stuff. And he doesn’t sell his own shit. He just scours eBay all day long for “undervalued assets” and “arbitrage opportunities.” He doesn’t care what the item is as long as it has a value that can be semi-objectively quantified and for some reason the bids are not meeting that price.

For example, he says the number one area where an auction gets undervalued is when people misspell the item they’re selling. So he actually has an algorithm that looks for common misspellings in the auction title, like “Genuine Piage Watch” (it’s Piaget) or “Jimmy Olson #1” (it’s Olsen). It doesn’t turn up on a normal search so no one bids on it. Gunther buys it below market and turns around and sells it again. He doesn’t just buy misspelled items–there’s a lot of reasons why an auction fails to sell at market price, like ending the auction at 3:00 in the morning, for example. But when the seller misspells the items in the description, they’re just asking to be taken advantage of, according to Gunther, because “money should flow from stupid people to smart people.”

I was pretty skeptical. I kind of beat around the bush for a while before I just came out and asked, “Do you really make money doing this?” Gunther was totally frank and honest. He said he made about eighty grand last year. Okay, not gonna buy any islands with that kind of money, but then he pointed out that he only works two hours a day, tops.

That blew me away. Naturally I asked him what he did the rest of the day. He said he reads. He sees a lot of movies. He’s writing a book on economics. And he goes hiking with his girlfriend Monica. (I was wrong, she doesn’t live there. Just stays over a lot.)

Of course, Gunther’s apartment was crammed full of junk that he’s in between buying and selling, so the place looks like one of those crazy people’s houses where they find the dead body two weeks later under a pile of newspapers. But on the other hand, there was a lot of cool shit to check out. We read Jimmy Olsen comic books for a while and got a pizza. It was cool.

Lesson learned: A little initiative goes a long way. All I said to Gunther originally was, “Hey, we should hang out some time.” And guess what? We did. How’s that for taking control of your life.

Elevator Girl Still Has No Name

I’m pissed because I was alone in the elevator with her and I just couldn’t muster the courage to say something. I almost did but she looked like she was in a bad mood or something. I don’t know. It just wasn’t the right time. I’m making excuses here but whatever. You try talking to the most amazing girl in the world within the next nine seconds.

Bao Guy Has a Name

It’s Scott.

I was back at the mall getting lunch at the sushi place and the guy spotted me.

“Hey, sweet and lo guy. Come back for more plumberry tea?” He obviously remembered our one and only conversation and called on it like normal people do.

I explained I was waiting for sushi and he made some joke about me being a traitor. Then I said, “Hey, I’m Fletcher. What’s your name?”

Turns out when you tell people your name they usually tell you theirs in return. We talked for five or so minutes until my buzzer buzzed and I picked up my sushi. I learned he’s up for a guest starring role on some new sitcom.

Scott seems like a cool guy. I bet he knows a ton of people and that I’d hit it off with some of them. Not sure how to become “friends” with him and get into his life without seeming gay. Is that weird? I don’t know how to make friends anymore. Too bad we can’t just have our moms schedule a play date. I’ll have to ponder this. How to take our relationship to the next level.

My friend Dave from college is in town this weekend, so at least I’ll have something to do.

Mailbox Guy Has a Name

It’s Gunther. Seriously. Here’s how the conversation went down:

“Hey, you’re in 302, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen you around. What’s your name?”

“Gunther.”

“Fletcher.” [ed. note: I have decided it’s okay to reveal my first name. Hi. I’m Fletcher.]

We shook hands. It was cool. But I needed more.

“You know, we should hang out some time. I mean, as friends. You know, ’cause we’re neighbors.”

I started losing my nerve. Maybe because I couldn’t read him I just kind of assumed this wasn’t going well and I got nervous. I literally blurted out: “I’m not gay. This is not a homosexual thing. I just meant two dudes drinking beers or whatever.”

I was turning red. I added, “It could be wine.”

But as you probably guessed, my fears were unfounded. Just me being neurotic. He was totally cool. He said, “Yeah, cool. We should totally hang out.”

Now I don’t know if that’s just someone being polite–like, what’s he going to say? “Sorry, not interested.”–or he was being sincere. I’ll only know for sure when we actually hang out.

The Cop

Okay, so check this out. I’m grabbing lunch at Baja Fresh on San Vicente and I see a cop having lunch by himself. He’s in uniform and all but he’s eating alone. So I go up to him and I say, “Hey, don’t mean to bother you while you’re eating, I just wanted to say I really appreciate what you do.”

He looks up at me with a big mouth full of Dos Manos burrito and says, “Excuse me?”

I explain, “I’m just saying I appreciate you putting yourself out there every day to keep people like me safe. I just thought you might like to hear what people are thinking.”

And then he says, and here’s the twist, ready for it?…

“Can I see some I.D.?”

Seriously. Can I see some I.D.

Like I’d have to be on crystal meth to say something nice to a cop. No wonder everyone hates cops.

I Need a Girlfriend

It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting here watching the fucking “Transporter” on Spike. I checked in with Paul, he’s going to some party and didn’t exactly say, “Hey, come along.” I sometimes hang out with my friend Neil at work but it’s usually just with a bunch of work people.

I know a few more people obviously but it’s not like I am entertaining offers here.

What’s wrong with me? I am an interesting guy. I’ve been told by girls that I’m good looking. I’m not fat or bald or weird. I make good money. I live in a decent apartment in a cool neighborhood. So why am I sitting home alone 9 out of 10 weekends?

I feel like this whole Project is a good idea in theory but in practice, it’s feeling more like a so-what. Yay, I talked to the dude at the mall. Ooh, gee, how is my life going to change if I talk about the weather to the old lady in the Pinkberry.

It was so much easier when I was in school. In high school, duh, the girls are just throwing themselves at you. And in college, there’s classes, activities, parties… I mean, the whole place is set up for meeting people. But no one tells you when you get out, you’re on your own.

Looking back on it, I feel kind of dumb for wanting to graduate so badly to go out and be independent. You know what? Being independent sucks.

I met Amanda through Paul’s sister. Maybe I should ask him if she’ll set me up. I don’t know. I just don’t want to be some loser on awkward dates I met on Match.com.

I need to get over the fear of talking to hot girls. Who knew the Blue Eyes incident would have such lasting trauma. I mean, it’s not like I am going to pick up girls in bars, but I think I should be able to talk to cute girls without being creepy. I’ve got some degree of game, don’t I? It’s not like I want a girlfriend who likes the guy from a dumb movie who has some sort of line that’s so cool it’s not even considered a line. Whatever, I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore. I just need to stop being a complete fucking pussy and talk to some girls who might turn into something more significant.

It’s not like I’m just saying this because I’m horny. I mean, yes, I could use some lovin’, and I know this is going to sound sappy, but I really just want someone to hang out with. Some companionship. I guess I’m just lonely.

Mailbox Guy

Near miss tonight meeting the guy whose mailbox is next to mine at my apartment complex. I’ve seen him dozens of times and yet it never occurred to me till now to talk to him.

He’s a little older, maybe mid-thirties, kind of a surfer dude with long hair, and I think he lives with a woman because I always see them together.  Anyway, he must live in my building because that’s how the mailboxes are arranged.

Didn’t happen tonight because just as I was going in with a comment about that World Cup octopus, he got his mail and took off. So it would have been awkward to be like, “Wait, dude. Hold up. I want to pretend to like sports with you!”

It’s weird when I think about it. I live in this huge apartment complex in Brentwood–there must be a few hundred apartments here–and I’ve lived here for two years, yet the number of neighbors I know is exactly zero.

Makes me excited to start changing that.