I’m looking for a washateria. Washateria. Even the name is funny. Which prompted me to look up the etymology of the “teria” ending, which evolved to mean roughly “help yourself.” Well thanks captain obvious, I’m feeling a little cranky about needing one already and if I had someone else to do my wash I would not be looking one up. Help myself.
My online dictionary also said that washateria is a mainly southern word. Which makes me wonder what they call these places up north? And helps explains the text I sent my sister while I was doing my laundry that read, ” Why do I feel always like a redneck when I’m at the washateria.” Perhaps it is because I have entered this place carrying my clothes in black trash bags? Really, you think? I don’t own any of those convenient laundry baskets that I know you can pick up at any WalMart very easily. ( I can hear my mother saying this in my ear.) I think longingly of my lovely matching (champagne-colored, really lovely) washer and dryer set I have at home…that I can’t use right now. Sigh.
My washateria experience was brought on by the effects of the recent seventeen inches of rain in this part of Texas on a thirty year old septic system. Don’t ask. We’re getting it looked at. So in an effort to “help myself” into doing my growing pile of laundry I began looking for a local washateria. I live in small town west of Dallas/Forth Worth in Texas. Small enough that I found a family-owned place about ten minutes from where I live.
I liked this place the first time I drove up to it. Why? It was not crowded. I hate small, crowded places where strange people try to start conversations with you. Anti-social I know. I have my Kindle in my purse as a safeguard against this but I breathe a sigh of relief when I see it is not crowded and not claustrophobic. Front glass doors wide open, back door open. Ceiling fans purring. Plastic flowers waving in empty detergent containers lined up on the shelf between the machines. The wall at one end of the place is painted with a giant Texas flag. On the back wall is a mural replica of Remington’s A Dash for the Timber. The office is locked up with an “emergency” telephone number taped to it. Clean wire rolling laundry carts and clean folding tables. Whew!
At regular intervals the owner, a very practical lady who looks in her early forties, breezes in and goes through her routine. Every time she comes in, and I do mean every time, she wipes down the top of each machine and looks in to see if anything is left in it. She dust mops the floor and empties the trash. All that unremarkable enough but it is the next part of her routine that got my attention. She greets anyone who is in the place. I mean every person. Every time. “How are you today…do you need any change?, How’s your mom feeling?”…She knows her regulars and their family history. I dreaded this exchange at first, but I soon realized she also can tell who wants to talk and who doesn’t. Another sigh of relief. And since I’ve been there a few times, we talk. She offers to reimburse me when one of her dryers stopped heating up and I told her about it. Who does that anymore? And she offers to run to the bank to get change if I need it. ” I won’t have one of those change machines in the place. Just an invitation to get robbed.” She told me she took over the running of the place after her parents who had owned it since the 1980s. She says it was important to them to run a decent place and points to their picture framed on the wall. She waves to me as I leave.
I’m thinking that even after I don’t have to, I may visit this washateria again. It reminds me of a time when people took pride in their work and how they treated their customers. Maybe, like the word washateria, this could be a southern thing, but then again maybe not. Whatever it is, I no longer feel like a redneck when I go there. I feel welcome.