Thursday, August 20, 2009

Laundry as a Second Language

The number one luxury for travelers is the shower. Number two is laundry. Clean clothes make up for anything from bad weather to surly tour guides. At the Jankovi “farm” apartments, the laundry was locked in the garage.

When Wendy consulted with the owner, it sounded like we would either have to give our clothes to his wife for washing or wash alongside her. I had a visual of us staggered on a mountaintop with water-filled barrels, dipping our clothes and then working them against rough washboards and wringing them out to dry on lines, my underwear on display for the town. Okay, not really. I knew there was a machine locked behind a door downstairs, and my daily goal was to find a way in.

The owner was inspired to speed up the Wi-fi access in our unit when I appeared at their doorstep at 9:00 p.m. to check email on the family computer. I wondered if the same would be true with laundry.

It turned out, I had to make a date with the owner’s wife. We planned first for the night when we went to Ljubljana. I stood her up for that date. We returned too late for the laundry rendez-vous.

The next night, I hurried back after our Vnck dinner and rang the bell to the building across the street where the owner lived. First, I rang the wrong bell and an confused elderly woman with bottle-brown hair hobbled to the door. As the other woman made her way downstairs, the neighborhood cat slipped in the door, causing further commotion. At some point in this circus of people and animals, we got around to the crucial topic: laundry.

She took me into the inner sanctum of the washer-dryer (cue dramatic orchestral intro). The panel on the washer looked like the dashboard of a space ship. There was a button for every possible command, though I had no clue what they said. I could have instructed the washer to shrink, bleach, and fray all my clothes without knowing it.

Wendy and I consolidated loads and hoped for the best. Our laundry emissary pressed a series of buttons (shred, slice, and dice, most likely), and we planned to meet back in an hour for stage two: drying.

Never had laundry been so full of suspense and excitement. Would my clothes survive the Slovenian washing machine?!?

Stay tuned for the sequel, “Laundry: After the Rinse Cycle.”

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