Laundry Quandaries

For as long as I’ve been coming to Austria, laundry has been much more than a mundane chore. It’s been an existential crisis. There’s been much anxiety around who does the laundry, when it’s done, and where. It’s a whole thing with cultural identity and family structures, trust me, you don’t want to know.

Things got worse when the machines in the neighboring building gave up the ghost. They’re supposed to be maintained by the property management company, but the managers have been disinterested for years now. I firmly believe that our housing is owned exclusively for money laundering. And they do that in their offices in, where? Vienna? Klagenfurt? Somewhere that I can’t use the machines.

Add to this my commitment anxiety with Austria. Major purchases (like decent kitchen knives and household appliances) are weighted with significance. If I buy that quality set of kitchenware, does that mean I’m capitulating on my — We’re not settling in this town!” stance? A washing machine isn’t the kind of thing you toss in your bag and bring to the US. There’s a certain permanence to an item like that.

Husband, knowing of my neuroses around these issues, set out to solve this problem. He acquired a used washer for exactly zero euros. Perfect. No financial commitment, hence, no geographic commitment. Anxiety attack averted.

The machine had been serviced thoroughly and was working fine despite its advanced age. I was delighted to have household laundry facilities that required no painful discussions about our relationship. I developed a fondness for the old machine and imagined it was that character in the Wallace and Grommet cartoon, A Grand Day Out. When I did laundry I hummed the little Wallace and Grommet tune. Our machine looked just like that funny little box rolling around on the moon.

And it did like to roll around. Once on spin, it rushed about the room like it was late and couldn’t find its car keys. One afternoon while I was doing some laundry, it made a terrible screech, walked a distance from where it had been when I started the load and then leaned precariously to one side. I sighed, unplugged it, and waited for it to stop spinning. An exasperated husband replaced the belt three times through three test loads and then, looking at the despondent little machine, made the following pronouncement: — That’s it, buddy, you’re outta here.

I hummed the Wallace and Grommet tune slowly, like a dirge.

I boomeranged to my pre-washing machine depression. All my wash was done, so I figured if I had to, I could make it, winging my way back to the US in husband’s clothes, my suitcase stuffed full of dirty laundry. Hell, I would buy new clothes if that’s what it came to.

Yesterday afternoon we were in town to run some errands. We stopped by the EuroSpar and there at the entrance was the last Altus 1000. Through a series of discussions involving the guy who built our new kitchen cabinet (Don’t get me started on the kitchen…) and a guy who used to be a fireman but now does something with tile, both who happened to be in town at that exact time, the delivery of the Altus 1000 was arranged — immediately.

The Altus 1000 works just fine – we did a test load last night. It stayed serenely in place, even when I asked it if it wanted to go out. The other machine is currently sitting by the front door, forlorn, with the cables and hoses draped over it as it waits for the next bus out. I like to think of it on its way to bigger adventures.

Dreaming up imaginary lives for my appliances is just one way of dealing with my anxiety over owning them. I’m currently creating a history for the Altus 1000. It was made in Turkey. As a Turkish appliance, it’s had a much easier entry into Austria than many humans who were also made in Turkey. I can affect a sort of consumerist sticking it to the man attitude while doing laundry. “Ha ha!” I can mutter. “Austrian consumer euros off to Turkey! Ha ha!”

Yes, yes, I realize this makes next to no sense at all. What’s your point?

You should hear the story of our refrigerator.

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3 thoughts on “Laundry Quandaries

  1. I too have been known to spiral into existential crises over laundry… what are the material implications? who decides? how is this political? ought this be political? the pit of dispair… intriguing indeed! L:)

  2. HA! We had a washer and dryer in all of our rentals in the islands, but we don’t have them here. I’d forgotten how people look down their noses at people who use laundromats. I’m not keen on having to go to them, but once I’m there I find it sort of relaxing. And we spend a lot less time doing laundry. I’d rather devote 90 minutes twice a month to it than spend countless hours every Saturday loading those machines over and over…

    (My Italian grandmother had a wringer washer until I was probably in my teens…that photo reminded me of that.)

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