Just Hanging Out

Our laundry is on our back balcony, right off the kitchen. It’s where our washing machine/dryer resides. And where our multitude of drying racks, laundry lines and their respective clothes pins hang out all day. I bought the washer/dryer combo, but so far it is only sometimes effective on the drying side. It’s more like a centrifuge that sucks only so much water out of the clothes, leaving them limp and damp. Wildly unsatisfying. And I paid twice as much for the privilege.

After my foray into parts unknown yesterday, I decided I would get ready for the big holiday weekend by scrubbing El Compartemiento from parte superior to fondo. And I would do all the laundry that has piled up, including the bath mats in the bathrooms. 4 loads. I wasn’t sure it could be done. But I mopped and scrubbed and swept and dusted and wiped things down. We are dust free and shiny all over.

Laundry is always a challenge. Back in the US, I could do 10 loads in a day, in between other things, without blinking. I taught my children to do their own laundry when they were in elementary school, after a lost weekend of 30 loads where I found their folded clothes in the Mount Vesuvius in our old laundry room. A room the size of Jeff’s office here.

I am not a fan of laundry or cleaning in general. My husband knows I’m not born to it and suggested we get a service when we moved here. I didn’t take it as a compliment, but the place we live is so small my pride just won’t let me make that call. So I bought all the supplies and today, again, I wielded the bucket, mop, and broom, and it looks pretty good. Then it was laundry time.

One load is fine. We have plenty of space to take it out and pin it up. I actually like this part.  It feels kind of primal and I remember my grandmother doing it on their sheep farm when I was a little girl. When I walked the Camino, I looked forward to doing my laundry every afternoon and hanging it up. Then going out before bedtime to retrieve it and repack it in my pack, knowing I would have clean clothes the next day when I got off the trail. But those Albergue clothes lines were enormous. Mine are not so plentiful.

We have several versions of clothes lines and there is an overflow accordion mechanism that folds out and hangs just on the other side of the balcony railing. This has so far been unused. I’ve washed one, maybe two loads in a day, but because the over-the-rail accordion is so precarious, I have avoided using that rack. I’ve justified this in two ways. First, what if it falls? I have no way to get the fallen in the courtyard of the apartment 8 floors below. And second, what am I, a washer woman from 1880?

‘Please sir, a farthing to allow me to wash your unmentionables and filthy sheets to hang them out for God and the world to see.’

No, I’m not hanging my sheets out for all to see. And, OK, I was nervous about using it.  I admit it. But yesterday, in Altea, I saw someone hanging their laundry on just such a contraption. I stood and stared at them as they expertly hung out their sheets and towels. I was mesmerized by the technique.  It seemed so natural and well, not that hard. And here’s the best part – the dismount! They kept the contraption close to their railing and didn’t extend it until they had all their laundry on it. Genius! They didn’t even fall to their death. Imagine.

OK, I probably could have figured that out if I thought about it, but seeing it in real life was like watching a YouTube video. Or just real life. And when I turned around, some of my fellow travelers where watching me, watch the person put out their laundry, like I was an animal in a zoo. Or just a weird voyeur, so that wasn’t strange on the bus back to Valencia. I wanted to tell them it was purely anthropological, but then I gave up. I think they already thought I was stupid when I complained over lunch that my washing machine would spin it’s way all over our balcony. One of the English women in the group decided to inquire politely – like I had been kicked in the head by a horse.

”Why don’t you balance it?’

I told her I didn’t know what that was, so she spoke more slowly.

‘You know, when you screw the little feet so that it’s level. It will keep it from moving all round.’

This was news to me and I told her so.

‘At home, the washer was self-balancing. It just didn’t move and I never touched it.’

I’m pretty sure I heard ‘Americans – can’t do anything for themselves’ while drinking a wonderful glass of red wine, but I can’t be 100% sure. And to be honest, she’s not 100% wrong. Mostly, I just bought things and plugged them in. But we’re in new territory now, and we must adapt.

So, I came home and today I put my new knowledge to good use. My bath mats, and some towels, are drying on the contraption, as we speak. And by bedtime we will have all our laundry done in time for the weekend. Am I feeling a tad self-satisfied? Oh yes. My 4 loads of laundry are hung out, just like my neighbors. Jeff was so impressed he offered another opportunity.

‘Perhaps you could start bringing in laundry now. A few Euros here and there to make ends meet.’

I wasn’t amused. Clearly, he doesn’t remember the red towel catastrophe of 2007. But I’m getting the hang of it. I’m a laundry local now. Who knows what’s next. I might just upgrade my Ikea grocery trolley for some of the 4 wheeled variety I’ve coveted on the street. But I’ll leave that for another time. It’s after 7 pm and it’s time to go check and see if some of it’s dry!


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