When we were growing up we didn’t have a washer and dryer at home and would have to go to the Laundromat every week or two weeks to wash. “Las Lavasolas” as they were called. They were a green building with a smiling sun logo painted on the side. I didn’t notice until years later they were right in front of a strip club that had a Persian theme, my sister and I just called it Aladdin’s castle. The Aladdin’s castle is another story. Right next to Las Lavasolas was my favorite convenience store, Good Times. Good Times was a local convenience store to El Paso they were all over Alameda street and as far as I know don’t exist anymore. The best part about going with my mom to do laundry was being able to go MAYBE go to Good Times and get an Icee..or some chips…or corn nuts. It wouldn’t always happen but when it did it was awesome.
On one occasion in between the washing and drying of a couple of loads the change machine at the laundromat broke. My mom was stressed out trying to secure a set of dryers and she asked me, 7 year old me, if I could go next door to the Good Times and ask for change. “Si no te quieren dar cambio compra algo y pide cambio en pesetas” she told me, if they don’t want to give you change just buy something and ask for the change in quarters. She handed me a 5 dollar bill. I don’t think I’d ever held a 5 dollar bill in my hand. I was so excited. I told my sister to come with me and we rushed over next door. I didn’t even ASK for change instead I rushed over to the corn nuts and grabbed a bag of ranch then rushed over to the icee station where I found my sister standing there. I told her to get something and she came back with a small bag of corn nuts herself, as I finished filling up my icee I turned to her and said “Is that it? get something else!” I was drunk with my newfound wealth. She said “ I don’t know if I should get a soda or an icee…” “GET BOTH!” I said as I grabbed a bag of hot cheetos.
We both carried our treasure trove of snacks to the cashier and he ringed me up I don’t even remember the cost but I handed him the 5 dollar bill and got back like three coins. None of them were quarters. My heart sank. I slowly walked back next door my younger sister next to me happy holding her soda in one hand and icee in the other. I walked into the laundromat and made eye contact with my mom immediately she looked at our arms filled with 5 dollars worth of convenience store goods and she asked for the change. I gave her the three coins and she was furious. “WHAT DID I TELL YOU?” she didn’t scream but it felt like she did. “You spent ALL the drying money….BOTH OF YOU GO TO THE CAR” she handed me the keys and my sister and I went to the car presumably to think about what we had done wrong but instead we both had the best time eating all our snacks as mom took all the wet clothes out of the dryers into our bags and baskets. It was honestly one of the best moments of my childhood, my sister and I traded corn nuts and I offered her some of my chips and I remember her taking one sip of soda then one of icee and smiling. I saw my mom looking at us as through the big window as she finished loading up the last of our baskets with the wet clothes, she smiled, her anger was gone. In that moment we really were rich.
When we got home she made me help her hang clothes out on the clothes wire and this story became one of those that we tell over and over again. I don’t think I was ever trusted to get change again.