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February 11, 2011

Your Daily WTF (Welcome to France) Moment

It had been a while since I'd done laundry, and in that while I'd been hanging out with a lot of smokers. Well, mostly the same smokers, but the same smokers who've been around me many-a-time smoking many-a-death-stick and giving me the black lung. (Cough cough STOP SMOKING TOM! Cough.) Needless to say, my clothes were a bit PePé le Pew.

Doing my laundry is kind of an ordeal. First of all, it requires quite a bit of change. The washing machines cost 4E, 6E or 8E depending on machine's capacity, and it's 1E for every 10 minutes in the dryer. Second of all, the laundromat is a good 15-20 minute hike from my cell, which is a long way to go when you're one stumble away from all your unmentionables being scattered to the wind. Third of all, when I get up the gumption to finally go, I often run into this crazy lady who babbles to me in incomprehensible French the whole time and follows me when I move my clothes from the washer to the dryer. The whole place is about the size of my cell, so it's awkward to have someone tailing me in such close quarters. Plus it's cold in there. Really, really cold.

By yesterday my sock situation had grown dire, so I bucked up and trudged down there. I actually spent a pleasant, solitary 25-minute wash cycle listening to a podcast about French collaborators during World War II and perusing a travel guide for Florence while the afternoon sun actually warmed those frigid tile walls a bit. I put the clothes in the dryer and paid for 20 minutes, and then settled back into my chair for some more podcasting and perusing and sun bathing.

But at the end of those 20 minutes my clothes were still damp and cold. Attributing it to the amount of jeans and towels I had in there, I shrugged and paid for another 10 minutes. When they were STILL damp and cold after that extra time, I bit the bullet and called the number posted on the wall. I have a fear of making telephone calls in French because it's approximately 43 times harder to understand and be understood than when you're talking in person.

A woman answered with a gruff, "Oui??" I took a deep breath and explained my problem. "My clothes have been in the machine of the dryness since long time, but they still cold and wet." Did I push the start button, she asked? "Yes I push every correct button and it moving during 30 minutes but there is not the air that is hot. My clothes are not dry. Please, to help me." She sighed and told me she'd get there in 10 minutes.

Twenty-five minutes later she arrived, cigarette in hand. She took a look at me and harrumphed. I pointed to the offending dryer, and she ambled over to it. She switched the cigarette to her mouth as she opened the machine, and exhaled her smoke all over my freshly cleaned clothes.

Le sigh. WTF.


  1. Ay, yai yai...I just like how non-smokers are treated as sub-human over here (including their clothes). :-P

    So, what was wrong with the machine in the first place???

    -Barb the French Bean

  2. This exact same thing happened to Sara here. I am passing the post along to her, but do tell: how did the story end? (Sara's ended with an expensive phone call, no customer service, a week-long hang drying session in her 13m2 and the adoption of a new laundromat which is 10 minutes farther away...)

  3. It's SO cold and so expensive in my laundrymat, too! Short of buying lots more socks and underwear (which are surprisingly expensive here), I've crunched the numbers and realized that the least I can possibly spend on freakin' laundry is around 30E per month.

  4. I'm surprised that somebody actually showed up. You're right about the telephone. A conversation that I can understand in person is completely different than the same conversation over the phone. I dread having to make calls like that! I'm so glad my cell has a little washer.