Okay, enough serious stuff. True story:
We took two pillows to the cleaners to be cleaned, because if you try to wash pillows and dry them in your home dryer, they end up all clumpy, plus you nearly start a fire in the dryer. I've tried this and swore never to try it again. The cleaners told us that it would take about a month. So we waited patiently for a month and finally got the long-expected call: "Your pillows are ready to be picked up."
My husband picks up the pillows and is slightly weirded out by the fact that they sure look an awful lot different from the way that he remembers them. He remarks on this to the girl, who checks the name and assures him that they are, indeed, his pillows. He brings them home and asks me what I think. I concur: They aren't our pillows. The cloth is totally different. It's not soft. It's sort of crinkly feeling and not nearly as nice; there is stitching I don't remember along the edge. They're definitely not the same pillows.
So I call up the cleaners this morning and also, after getting the number, the leather company to which the cleaners sent the pillows to be cleaned. (I guess that's why it took a month.) They both explain patiently to me what this is all about. See, cleaning your pillows doesn't mean cleaning your pillows. It means that they literally take the pillow completely apart, take out the stuffing, put the stuffing through an (unnamed) "process," then put that stuffing in totally different cloth, throw the cloth part of your pillow away, and send the result back as "your pillow," cleaned.
What I want to know is this: How do they decide that the stuffing is the essence of the pillow? What makes them conclude that, in order for them to be carrying out the cleaning of "your pillow" that you requested, the stuffing must be processed and sent back to you, but the cloth--which is, after all, what you encounter more directly on a daily basis--is disposable, so that it's the same pillow if it has the same stuffing but has totally and recognizably different cloth? I mean, this is a sort of deep philosophical question. And why should they assume that I will agree with them that the stuffing, stuffed into totally different cloth, is in essence the same pillow?
There's a practical question, too. I would have thought that the cloth, being the kind of thing that normally can be dry cleaned anyway (right? you send clothes made out of cloth to be dry-cleaned?) would actually be easier for them to process than the stuffing. If they have a fancy way of processing the stuffing, which ought to be the hard part, why don't they just dry-clean the cloth in the ordinary way and put the two back together?
It's all beyond me. But I don't think I'll be sending any other pillows to the cleaners. They never come back again. Just these strangers.