Fishing for Laundry

There is always a silver lining to everything. Everything is connected to everything else. There are many cliches about this. ‘When one door closes, a window opens.’ Except is so bloody hot here that we’re neither opening doors or windows. It will be 45 here this week.

Usually, that means that we’ll avoid the metro with it’s sweltering subterranean stations, and walking in general, and we’ll take an air conditioned taxi to travel any distance. Except this week, our local taxi cabs are on strike. Strikes in Europe are very common. I’ve experienced many of them in my time traveling to Europe for work. Air France strikes, train workers strikes. Collective bargaining is something Europeans are good at. Generally, I support workers rights and the gentlemen we passed on Colon, who were camped out with about 1000 other taxis, were in good spirits.

No cabs means we will be staying at home getting things done here. And hot weather means that we can do a ton of laundry in one day, because it dries in like 20 minutes. Faster than any dryer I’ve ever owned in the US.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself an expert on the outdoor laundry/drying techniques. I’ve learned from my neighbors on how to hang sheets to get them dry. And I believe they’ve learned from me on the most creative ways to use an Ikea octopus drying thingy. P.s. it’s not just for socks and unmentionables anymore. But there is one cardinal rule that is sacrosanct and must never be broken – Always use the clothes pins. This is not up for negotiation. Except when you’re Emilie.

Emilie doesn’t like clothes pins because they leave a mark. Small indentation that might show when she wears a t-shirt. I don’t see them but they stick out to her like a sore thumb. So all my warnings about using clothes pins when line drying have gone unheeded by her. She does her own laundry so I could impact this not at all. Until two days ago.

I noticed I was missing a couple of dish towels and a beach towel. At home, I would not have been able to keep track of something that petty but here we have less stuff. When all the laundry is done I should have the same number. So I went looking on the back balcony off the kitchen where our washer and laundry lines are. Nothing. Then I looked at the accordion thing that hangs out over the edge and it was empty. Then I looked down. Sure enough, there were my towels and some of Emilie’s clothes on the lines of the apartment below us. And upon further inspection, the floor below that. Hmm.

I called to Emilie and asked her where that stuff was. She shrugged. Then I invited her to look over the edge where she discovered some of her things – not just kitchen towels – were on the neighbor’s lines on the 5th and then 4th floors.

‘Did you use clothes pins?’ I asked her – knowing the answer.

‘No. Why?’ She answered in teenage denial – even with the evidence staring us both in the face.

‘Well. Because the dish towels and your beach towel are on the downstairs line. And your stuff is two floors below. Just wondered if you might be curious about it.’

‘How are you going to get it back?’ she asked me.

I laughed. Me? I thought. Me, the queen of clothes pins?! But an idea struck me. Our fishing poles arrived from the US. I love to fly fish and my beloved pole was in with the sporting goods. Maybe I could fish for the laundry down below. I mean, I like meeting my neighbors, but not when we’ve been stupid and hung our laundry irresponsibly so they are inconvenienced. What if I could get it back without them knowing?

Pro tip: A fly fishing rod isn’t good for collecting laundry from your downstairs neighbors clothes lines. If we had a steelhead or trout rod with a decent amount of weight on the line it would work much better. I speak from experience. So it was time for plan B. Writing a note and waiting for the neighbors to respond.

I wrote it and sent Emilie – eyes rolling –  down to knock on their doors or tape it there in case they weren’t home, asking in Spanish that they WhatsApp me and Emilie would come to collect our wayward laundry. The woman two floors below saw me in the lobby and took me up to her apartment and handed me our stuff, including a men’s robe tie that isn’t ours. I tried to give it back to her but she insisted I take it.

Then the guy directly below us came up and rang the bell. Emilie answered and then came into the kitchen with the pile, including some mystery mens underwear that had seen better days.

‘Those aren’t Dad’s’ I told her, picking them up with a pen.

‘Well, he could wear them. They look like they’d fit him.’

I explained that he wouldn’t be wearing those in this lifetime or even the next and that ‘free’ used underwear isn’t ‘free’.

So we got all our laundry back, the taxi strike is still going on and it’s still the temperature of the surface of the sun outside. But at least we’re in clean clothes and the A/C is still working (knock wood) so we can’t complain. And I don’t have to figure out how to fish for our laundry off the back balcony. Until next week…


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