After nine days in our fully-equipped apartment, we began to become cognizant of a growing entity in the apartment. In the corner of notre chambre à coucher, there was an accumulating mound of dirty clothes that seemed to be taking on a life of its own. So far we had not run out of underwear or socks, still working on the small collection that we had brought in our two suitcases from home, but I felt the time had come when I needed to become friends with the la machine à laver – the washing machine, that resided in the kitchen. It was a Friday, and our CUEF class had finished at 12:30, Steve was taking a nap. (4 hours in a WARM classroom sans a/c while trying to keep your tongue untied and your brain focused on strange words makes you tired.) Seemed like the perfect time for the white box and me to become acquainted.
In a drawer, I easily located the machine manual and opened to page 1. Uh-oh! Not a lick of English. My manuals at home often have Spanish, and sometimes, even French, but this booklet was going to put my linguistic mettle to the test. I studied the manual – not enough pictures. I contemplated the machine – still not enough icons on it’s face! How much detergent? How hot a water temperature? How many clothes can I put in? The manual talks about etiquettes des vetements. Do I need to worry about manners with the clothes that so intimately know us? Finally, after 30 minutes attempting to decipher with the dictionary, I decided to take the plunge. I thought I should keep Steve’s Smartwool T-shirts out of the mix for now since any shrinkage of his favorite shirts would not be appreciated. I stuffed in some dark clothes, poured out a heap of powder detergent, closed my eyes and turned the knob. A whoosh of water sounded from within the machine. I prayed that that was a good sign.
All seemed to be going well. I kept peeking at the round glass window on this front-loader staying on the alert for any leakages and continuing to take in the noises as the machine went through its paces. The see-through window on the door entertained me as I stood watching the sloshing and tumbling blur of soapsuds and fabric. Finally, three beeps sounded. I tried to open the door – no luck. I tried to turn it off – still nothing. I once again tried to open the door. As a last resort, I turned the knob to point to a symbol that looked like an out-of-control ampersand. Voilá – the spin cycle. It took off vibrating; I feared it was about to blast off. The timer read 10 minutes. Was it safe for it to go on doing that for that long? Finally, there was an eerie silence. The Beast allowed me to open the door, and I decided to make a run for it with the clothes while I had the chance.
L’Electrolux Lavante-Séchante – a combination washer/dryer was what I discovered I was up against after leafing through the manual as the machine whirred in the background. I’m not sure you can get anything like this in the States, but it is great for small French apartments. At home I use an étendoir a linge, a wooden drying rack, to dry our clothes. Hidden in the bedroom closet, I found a similar coated wire dryer that I could use. I decided not to press my luck drying the clothes in the machine; I artfully slung the clothes over the wires sans des pinces à linge. Yeah, I would play it safe: I really didn’t want to go out and buy a new wardrobe just because I can’t read French and I’ve shrunk our wardrobe to doll clothes proportions. Temps pour du vin! I’ve earned it.
notre chambre à coucher : our bedroom
etiquettes des vetements: clothes labels
Electrolux Lavante-séchante : Electrolux washer-dryer
sans des pinces à linge: without clothespins
Temps pour du vin!: Time for wine!