Fear and Pressing in Central Texas

I’m off to a business trip tomorrow and wanted to treat myself to dry cleaning and pre-ironed shirts every morning while away, so I took my load on Tuesday to my local dry cleaner. I dumped the pile of shirts and pants on the counter.

The attendant looked at the pile, then mournfully at me. “Sir,” she said, with a Mexican accent, “I can take your clothing, but it won’t be ready for at least four days.”

The sign outside read “same day cleaning,” and the usual turnaround was about 36 hours. I cocked an eyebrow.

“It’s the pressers,” she said. “They left Monday morning and never came back.” She pointed to a “Help Wanted” sign displayed prominently in the window. “No pressers at all. We just got back Saturday’s dry cleaning. Don’t just take my word for it,” she said as I thanked her for my candor and scooped up my clothes, “is everywhere. Everyone running.”

Two other dry cleaners also had help wanted signs, and I stopped by the next day, hoping to avoid expensive hotel cleaners, with my load at a local family chain. They too had a ‘Help Wanted’ sign on the door.

“Any chance of getting this done by Friday?” I asked.

The clean-cut young man behind the counter nodded confidently. “Not a problem,” he said. “After five today if you liked.”

“So you’ve got no problems with pressers?”

“Nope,” he replied. We’re doing just fine.”

I left lighter in arms and full of hope. Came back this afternoon to pick up the clothes.

“You still have the sign up,” I said to the young Hispanic woman behind the counter. “How’s the work in the back?”

She shrugged.

Then another young man, from the same owning family I think, wriggled past her in a vain attempt to catch an incoming phone call. He was sweating, and there were people crawling all around the hanging rails of bagged laundry in the next room.

“I’m glad you were able to keep your workers,” I said to the man. “I had problems at other stores.”

He gave me a tired look. “It’s quiet in the back right now,” he said. “There’s no one working in the back. And the conveyor belt is broken, so we have to pull everything off by hand.” He wiped sweat from his face. “But we’re only down two pressers for tomorrow and,” he pointed at the sign, “maybe some others will come back.”

I assume by “others” he means ‘low-paid, hiding from the INS’ kind of others, and not the unemployed citizen or eager high schooler others.

“Don’ worry,” my cashier said as she handed me the bill. “My sister come back tomorrow.”

“One down,” the man said. “I just have to find one more.”

The rumors around town are rife with planned raids at public schools, illegal immigrant detention camps south of Waco, and general fear.

I wonder if my pre-Holocaust parents felt similarly to the missing pressers. At least I’m pretty sure their end will be less certain than that of my parents.