Life’s Little Challenges: Cleaning Clothes

It appears that the battle between my Mac and Hewlett Packard is over, with my Mac winning and the HP software uninstalled. So far, so good!

Part 1

I’ve always enjoyed doing laundry. I know that’s hard to believe, but I do. This love affair does not extend to ironing, which I loathe. I’m really fussy about my laundry, too. My mom agrees, often reminding the Dyer family with great hilarity of the list of instructions I gave her when she offered to do laundry for me one time when she was in Virginia. I don’t know what the problem was—the list was only two pages long. My sister disagrees ever since I turned her snowy white denim jacket very slightly blue. But when I offer to do my family’s laundry, nobody usually turns me down.

So I was overjoyed to learn that our apartment in Rome had a washer and a dryer, which is unheard of here. If apartments have laundry facilities, they usually have a washer-dryer combo in the apartment or a laundry room for the whole building to use.

Controls on the washer

I happily loaded the washer with Michael’s work shirts on August 14. To figure out what everything meant and what went where, we looked at the manuals in our apartment. They were in Italian. Then we found washer and dryer manuals on the web. They were in Italian. Finally, Michael found a manual in English for a similar washer model on the web, and we downloaded it. That took us only an hour or so (I’m not kidding). Once we got the washer going, everything worked great.

While I washed the first load, we repeated the process for the dryer. We couldn’t find instructions in English, so Michael translated the manual using Google Translate (my new bible!). I put the shirts in the dryer, chose my setting, and no heat whatsoever. Rats! I had to pull out the trusty drying rack and lay all of the laundry over it or hang wet clothes from doorknobs. Michael investigated the dryer and determined that it had a broken belt. On September 3 an appliance repairman and his assistant came to the apartment. They were here for about 10 minutes and proudly pulled out the broken belt. Aha! That would be 35€ (about $50), please, for the visit alone, and they would be back with the belt in possibly a week.

Meanwhile, it took me three days to wash each week. On Sunday I did as many clothes as I could fit on the drying rack or doorknobs, on Monday I did towels, and on Tuesday I did sheets. My favorite day was the sheets, because I had to string them between two doors in a small hallway, and our apartment looked like it was haunted! Needless to say, this is not my idea of a happy laundry time.

The appliance repairmen didn’t return the following weekend or the next, because the belt hadn’t come in yet, so Michael ordered two belts (about $5 each) from somewhere in England, and they arrived on September 21. He put one on, I tested the dryer, and it worked! He decided to take the belt off, however, because the repairmen were coming Saturday, and he didn’t want to make them so mad that they might not help us again in the future. The repairmen came on September 24—it was very hard to find this part, so sorry! They were in the apartment for about 10 minutes. That would be 35€ (about $50), please, for the visit and 5€ (about $7.50) for the belt. Thank you so much!

Part 2

We’d been here about a month when Michael decided that his suits needed to be dry-cleaned. Off to Piazza Farnese I went with two suits in hand. The signora who runs the lavasecco spoke no English, except for the words “New York” (go figure!). She took the suits, told me they would be ready in five days, and wrote me a receipt for 14€ (about $21) PER SUIT! Grazie, said I, somewhat weakly.

I was supposed to pick up the first suits on a Tuesday afternoon. So about 2 p.m., I moseyed to the lavasecco only to find that the suits wouldn’t be ready until 5:30. “A che ora chiuso?” I said, hoping that meant, “at what hour do you close.” It must have been close enough, because the signora said they closed at 6. So I moseyed back up to the lavasecco at 5:30. One pair of pants was ready, and the signora was ironing the jacket. Unfortunately, the pants she’d already ironed weren’t Michael’s! She was chagrined, so I said I’d take one suit that day and pick up the other one the next. That was fine with her. But it took her a half hour to finish the suit coat and iron Michael’s pants! Lordy Pete! She told me to pick up the other suit the next day after 4, but when I got there at 4:30, it wasn’t ready! Italy!

Then our ship came in. We’re so happy that it did, but almost all of our clothes were a wrinkled mess. That’s fine for stuff that can be washed, but not for Michael’s suits and other things that require dry cleaning. So I’ve been back to the lavasecco every day since last Tuesday hauling in clothes for “stirate solo” (iron only). That’s a bargain (!) at 10€ ($15) per suit.

The signora and I are becoming great friends. We have no idea what the other is saying, but we’re having a ball! Everyone in Italy is so elated that we’re trying to learn their language that they help us with word choice and pronunciation. It’s so cute and so nice—not like Parisians! Anyway, to my great delight the lavasecco signora is now correcting my Italian.

It’s beginning to feel like home!


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