We always rent apartments when we travel. And we always rent apartments with washing machines because we like to travel light. What we rarely rent are apartments with washing machines that come with instructions. And considering that these tiny European washing machines are nothing like our dependable decades old Kenmores, that means a project. In other words, a problem that must be solved before we can avail ourselves of the laundry facilities.
There have been some memorable washing machines over the years. Our first apartment in Madrid had one with a broken door, disabled by some guest who got tired of waiting for the safety lock to disengage and pried it open with a big screwdriver. Juan, the rental company agent, showed me how to get the broken door open using a butter knife. When we returned to that same apartment a year later, the door was still broken.
Another apartment in Madrid, know to us as “The Garret” due to the severely sloping ceilings, had the washer in the kitchen, and because of said ceilings, it could only be accessed by crawling across the floor. Its cousin lived in Granada, and it was in a tiny closet in the attic, again only accessible by hands and knees.
A lack of instructions seems to be a common thread. One time, and one time only, an apartment had a folder full of booklets explaining how to operate the things provided by the owners. The rest of the time it’s been up to the agent to explain things and given that 9 times out of 10 the agents are 20-something males, they have no idea how to use the thing they are explaining.
The soap dish comes to mind. Normally these units have a drawer on the top front with 3 separate sections. One for the clean cycle soap. Another for the second clean cycle soap and a third for fabric softener. Of course, they are not labeled because when you buy a washer, it comes with a manual, right? That may be true, but those manuals are generally “somewhere else” and as I said, it’s up to the agent to tell you where the soap goes. Well, one time the agent did tell me where the soap goes, and it turned out to be where the fabric softener belonged, so we ended up with a load of clothing saturated with soapy water that ultimately required about 10 manual rinse cycles to get it all out. Boy, those clothes were clean!
This time the rental agent was too busy to meet us and left that duty to the maid who spoke no English. Her instructions were limited to handing us the keys and leaving. I suppose I could have engaged her in a conversation about the washer, but considering we were on the tail end of a long trip I totally spaced it.
Today I decided to have a look at it. Yet another new model with yet another set of indecipherable international icons. Wouldn’t it be something if someone invented icons that actually depicted what they were supposed to describe? No such luck. After turning some dials and poking some buttons I decided to go to the internet and search for the manual. In spite of all the evil the web perpetuates, the fact that you can find an obscure washing machine manual on-line is a pretty wonderful thing.
Naturally, this manufacturer had about 8,000 models but I solved that problem by carefully poring over the front of the machine until I found something that looked like a model number. Entering that into my search led to pay dirt! A PDF explaining how the little beast functioned.
One of the things about these machines that gets me is the length of the cycle. We learned this one the hard way in the past – load your clothes, push “GO” and then wait. And wait. And wait. In one case, more that 3 hours to wash four cotton t-shirts and eight pairs of socks. Trust my recommendation, always choose the “rapid” cycle because it shouldn’t cost you more than 58 minutes.
I selected “English” as the manual version I desired and was immediately faced with instructions in Italian. Now normally I don’t mind hacking my way through things in a foreign language because it’s an interesting challenge. But phrases like “concentrated remaining water vapor” stress my rudimentary Italian. So I went back to the page and selected “English” for the second time and was again faced with Italian. After staring at the page for a moment or two it occurred to me that perhaps English was just a part of the manual and scrolling down confirmed my suspicion – English began on page 15.
Perusing the tables of instructions in my native tongue, I found that our machine was preset to delay the start of the cycle for 9 hours from the moment “GO” was chosen. Disabling that function required pushing the “delay” button 5 times, something I never would have figured out via dead reckoning. The rest of it was easy enough – choose some arbitrary spin speed, select a water temperature, find the shortest cycle, close the door and push “GO.” I did these things and much to my amazement, it worked.
Fully exhausted by this hours’ worth of struggle, we went out for coffee.
Saturday morning was surprisingly quiet. There were people about but nothing like the previous days. Perhaps everyone was hung over from Friday night. We went for coffee and even that shop was empty enough that we were able to get a table by the window. MLW sat there while I waited for the drinks. A strange young man appeared out of a dark corner and proceeded to sit in my spot on the bench next to our table. I suspected he was going to hit on MLW, but he instead chose to adjust his hair using his phone as a mirror. MLW joined me at another table as he sat there perfecting his coiffure. Eventually he returned to his original seat in the dark corner.
We’d planned to walk to the old Pan American Exposition grounds because the park is so beautiful in the morning. Instead we headed off in the other direction towards the river, first passing through an outdoor hybrid vehicle show and a gathering of vintage Stingray bike collectors. The path along the river is a great place for a morning walk between the birds and the kayak racers on the river and all the cyclists tearing down the bike path. We picked a spot in the shade and sat on a concrete wall, watching the world go by on the pavement and the river. A really nice Saturday morning.
On top of solving washing machine problems day, it was also one last trip to the grocery store day so we left the river and re-traced our steps from last night down Avenida Reyes Católicos to Corte Ingles, the big Spanish grocery store, stopping along the way at that big toy store I found last night. We spent a bit of time looking at the big collection of incredibly expensive infant dolls that were sporting “certificates of authenticity.” Not sure what they were for or why they were so costly, but they certainly made a strange storefront. Corte Ingles was pleasantly uncrowded for a Saturday morning and we were in and out in a jiff. The streets were another story, all the missing people had reappeared, so we had to wend our way through moderate crowds before clearing the shopping district and making our way into the plaza. Nice shade and a brisk breeze made that part of the trip home quite pleasant. The first half of our day was ended with a great lunch of cheese, Iberico ham and bread. Time for a siesta.