The first overseas trip I ever took was when I was in my mid-20s with two of my best friends from junior high school, Ben and Tom.
We spent three days in London and six days in Paris. Fighting every urge to overpack, I took just enough clean clothes to get me through about half the trip.
London was wonderful. After visiting some sites, we took the Chunnel train from England to France.
Paris was amazing. We were staying in a beautiful boutique hotel, The Hôtel du Quai Voltaire, which Ben’s father had recommended.
The hotel is on Quai Voltaire, a street on the Left Bank overlooking the Seine with unparalleled views of the Louvre across the river. Our quaint room had a small balcony (an important detail to this story).
After three days of sightseeing, I was running out of clean clothes, so it was time to do some laundry. Since this was my first time in Europe, I asked Ben how laundry in a hotel was done.
He said it was just like doing a load of laundry in a Laundromat in the U.S. They would pick up the laundry bag, return it and charge by the load.
I only needed to wash a few pieces to get me through the rest of the trip, but, following Ben’s advice, I figured that if they were going to charge me for a full load anyway, I might as well get my money’s worth, right?
So I filled the hotel’s laundry bag for pick-up.
At the end of a great day at the Louvre, we headed back to the hotel to change for dinner. Instead of the laundry bag that I had left on the bed, in its place was a neat little tower of packages, each beautifully wrapped in Kraft brown paper and tied with twine.
As I opened the packages, I noticed that all of my clothes were cleaned, pressed, and exquisitely individually wrapped. Not just each of my shirts, but each pair of underpants and even each pair of socks.
My initial thought was, “Wow, Parisian hotels are amazingly elegant, even with mundane things like laundry.”
Then, I noticed the bill sitting next to the small tower of packages. The bill for DRY CLEANING (not washing) each piece of clothing was 550 francs, which at the time was $110.
My mind was busy trying to calculate the ft-lbs of energy that would be needed to throw Ben, a much larger guy than me, off the balcony over Quai Voltaire, and into the Seine.
My entire vacation started to be ruined until Tom calmly gave me a piece of advice that I still apply today.
“Gary, look at it this way,” he said. “For $110, you’ve bought yourself a story that you’ll be able to tell for the rest of your life.”
Whether you like this story or not, I don’t care. I just need to keep getting a return on my $110 investment.