Will We Ever See Our Clothes Again?

It’s a good thing that laughter is the best medicine. It must be noted however that laughter is usually connected with irony, and irony usually means something doesn’t seem right. That’s how it was today when we went to do some laundry. A little language barrier mixed with a strange looking washing machine makes for plenty of irony.

First of all we planned to wash only one load today even though we had two. So Gloria and I took the whites down to the basement, followed the direction listed on the washer (in English) put in the soap and our three euros (about five dollars! Talk about irony!) and got our load started. Things looked good as we could see the wet clothes beginning to tumble around through the glass window of the front loading washer.

Keep in mind that we were told by someone that if we didn’t get our clothes out at just the right time and two hours passed, the door to the washer wouldn’t open and we would have to put in another three euros just to get the door open. This alone filled us with apprehension about our prospects of success.

Just as we were leaving the room a jovial German lady came in with a big smile on her face jabbering something that we couldn’t understand. She looked at us as if she expected a response.

The dazed look on our faces must have told her that we were completely confused. We were. So in her helpful jabbering way she began to push buttons and turn knobs. She turned off the washer and opened the little drawer on the front where we had put some powdered soap. The water had already washed it out so she must have promptly concluded that those confused Americans must have forgotten put soap in. Taking the scoop she put in another very large heaping scoop of dry soap, making motions and expressions that made me think she thought it took an extra large scoop to do the job.

Grabbing a plastic container of water and pushing buttons she poured the water into the tray to wash the soap down into the now churning clothes. I don’t know exactly what happened but we ended up with a large pool of water all over the floor in front of the washer. She immediately grabbed a wash rag from a nearby pile threw it into the pond and began to dab it with her foot. The smile on our face must have made her think we were pleased for she was smiling at us too.

Checking the digital display on the front of the washer I learned I had one hour and forty two minutes before I had to be back to meet the deadline if I didn’t want to be penalized another three euros.

One hour an thirty five minutes later I returned and began to watch, wondering what the signal would be. The now spun dry clothes were being rolled to the right then to the left slowly every three or so seconds. Soon the time was up on the digital display but nothing happened. The clothes kept rolling one way then the other. I tugged on the door but still nothing. The clothes stopped. Nothing. I had visions of a crow bar to apply pressure but relaxed thinking about the irony of the situation. I gazed over the German words on the front of the washer but nothing gave me a hint. I pushed a button that said Ein but nothing. I waited a bit thinking time would solve the problem.

Well maybe it was going to cost me three more euros. I thought about it for a minute and decided, “If I’m going to put three more euros in I want to be able to wash another load of clothes with it.” So up the elevator to the fourth floor I went and came back down with my second load of clothes. When I arrived the door to the washer was wide open and there stood my smiling German friend jabbering with delight. She must have seen the delight on my face as well but I was still wondering what I had missed.

So I transitioned the wet clothes into the dryer and as I did my friend turned the knobs to the “proper” positions seeming to explain that where it was would be too hot so she bumped it down a notch. Again another three euros were inserted to dry them!

Can you imagine over ten dollars to wash and dry one load of clothes?! I had gone to the bank and got fifteen euros in change thinking it would last us the six weeks we were here, I had already spent six and Gloria had spent two on something else.

Anyway having brought my second load down I was determined to wash it. My friend had stepped out into the hall so I went through the same procedure as before and quickly got the load running. Another three euros!

She stepped back in just in time to see the container that I was carrying my euros in. It was a container that I use for my retainers. I could tell immediately she thought they were for false teeth and she began to laugh shaking her head and pointing to her teeth. I didn’t try to explain but just smiled and wondered if my teeth looked false.

Feeling pleased that I was making headway I went into the hall to go to six o’clock supper when my smiling friend stopped me and called my attention to a sign that I couldn’t read. She pointed out that I had until seven o’clock and they were going to lock the door to the laundry room. There was an hour and forty two minutes again on the dial. There was no way I could make it. Our, clothes were destined to turn sour after sitting all night in the locked washer which would cost me another three euros to open. I shrugged my shoulders, smiled said “danke” like a Yankee and left to eat.

I returned from supper at 6:45 pleasantly surprised to find an elderly gentleman ironing his shirt in the laundry room. Maybe I could make it before the door was locked. Checking my time there was only a few minutes left. The dryer was stopped so I opened the door and pulled out my half dry clothes.  Oh Well.

My attention turned to the washer again. Spun dry clothes flopping slowly back and forth every three seconds, I was waiting and watching. The gentleman saw that I was trying to figure out how it was supposed to end so he began to read instructions in German and tugging on the door. He pointed to the English instructions but they made about as much sense to me as the German ones. Nothing worked after he poked a few buttons so he motioned for me to go up to the office and ask for help.

Going up one floor and to the office I stepped in and much to my surprise there was my smiling jovial German lady friend. I motioned to her that I was trying to get the door open on the washer. “Two hours?” “Two hours?” she said. I tried to assure her that we were well under the limit and she scurried back to the basement with me.

The nice gentleman was still ironing shirts when we arrived to the basement but the cord to the iron was drooped across the front of the washing machine plugged into the only outlet in the room. Swiping the chord away and pushing buttons again she began tugging on the door. The man held firmly on to the iron as she jerked on the chord. Pointing to another timer up on the coin box on the wall she told me there was another five minutes to wait. Un-plugging the iron chord she threw it over the ironing board where the gentleman was still ironing his shirts. He and I smiled at each other. A smile in any language means the same thing.

By this time she was pushing more buttons and all of a sudden water started pouring in onto our already spun dry clothes! They were already drenched when she reached for the water valve on the wall and turned off the water.

I was standing there in dismay when she turned to me from a moment of deep thought and said apologetically “Three more euros.” She wasn’t smiling now. I reached into my pocked and pulled out my embarrassing euro container only to see her chuckle about it again and even point it out to the gentleman who was still ironing his shirts with a now cooling iron. I held it out to him so he could have a good laugh at me too.

Handing her three more euro’s she deposited them and motioning and jabbering she tried to assure me that we didn’t have to put soap in this time. I was grateful for that but realized that now I had another hour and forty two minutes to wait for the next opportunity to attempt to open the washer door. Worried about the laundry room door being locked I had visions of another three euros in the morning to just get the door to the sour clothes opened. What a vicious cycle! Pun intended.

Returning to the lobby on the first floor I thought I have to write this story down and put it in my blog. Gloria was in a class and I was just about finished when she came out. I figured she needed a good laugh so I read it to her as we sat in the lobby splitting our sides. The healing endorphins were flowing as people stared at us. One lady even sat down on a nearby couch and began laughing as well. Healing was taking place.  I didn’t know if she was laughing because she understood what I was reading or just laughing at our laughing.

By this time our hour and forty two minutes were coming up so we headed for the basement again. Twenty minutes left we sat and worked on this little story a bit more and had a few more laughs. 5 -4 -3 -2 -1, the digital display said “ein” whatever that means. We waited, nothing. I saw an orange button on the front with a word that meant nothing to me. I hesitated, I pushed it and the door popped open. We looked at each other in wonderment, moved our clothes to the dryer, and dropped in three more euro’s. Looking at my funny retainer container we saw one lone euro left.

2 Responses to “Will We Ever See Our Clothes Again?”

  1. David Moon-Wainwright Says:

    Blessings in the joy of soap, water and front loaders with German instructions!

    I asked Doc today how you and Gloria were doing and he mentioned the blog. So I’ve read all the recent entries. We will keep you in our prayers, I believe you are in a good place from what you describe. American medicine has it’s plusses and minuses.

    Keep up the laughter and God’s joy in your spirits! Peace, David

  2. Mel Says:

    I ran across your blog article when looking for a manual on how to use my German washer. Although your article was of no help to me, it did make me laugh! I can totally identify to similar moments of complete cluelessness about the language and what should be “simple” processes, like washing your clothes! Thanks for sharing!

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