Laundry Day

My wife and I enjoy our travels. Would that we could travel more; it is wonderful to see new places, meet interesting people, sample exotic foods.

Travel also brings adventure and sometimes excitement.  This is one such story.

We were touring Northern Italy; without a doubt, one of our favourite places.We had a zippy little Fiat that could handle the narrow roadways and scarce parking. We had a wonderful routine.

We had taken to staying at Farmstays, and they were wonderful. Our hosts were always welcoming, the beds comfortable, and the food great.  We looked forward to our breakfasts, with the delicious coffee, breads and spreads that our hostesses prepared.

Lunches were often at a village market or some delightful little trattoria that could take the simplest of ingredients and create a magical repast. Dinners were even more wonderful and don’t get me going about the wines. Life was good.

We had been on the road for about ten days or so; really getting into the stride of it.  Thus far, we had been hand-rinsing this, hand-washing that, and getting by, but we had reached the stage that a serious laundering of our travel duds was in order.

We had laid over in a nice little town, that shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, and were off to an early start, but the first order of the day was to do our laundry.

Right! Just off the main square on a wide boulevard was a coin-operated launderette that suited our needs handsomely.

We bundled our clothes in and set about sorting them and popping them into the battery of washing machines.

I carried on with the sorting and loading, my wife went to check out the instructions in detail and get things started. I should explain that this launderette was different from what we are used to in Canada.  

You pay at something resembling an ATM off in one corner. Above the payment machine in, I swear, a dozen different languages (Italy gets its share of tourists), are detailed instructions on how to operate the machines.

Detailed instructions to a point. Basically, you load, you pay, you push the red button.

My wife read and re-read the instructions. She was ready to go.

She called across to me to ask if everything was ready. “Yup! Everything is loaded,” and I began to close the washing machine door.

From the control centre, I heard my wife smack the red button, followed by an ominous “thunk.” 

I didn’t quite have the door closed and there was some sort of locking bar that was supposed to be swung down and engaged.

Well, surprise, surprise! The washing machine door wouldn’t latch and I could not close the locking bar, as hard as I tried.

That didn’t phase the washing machine one bit. It began to fill with scalding hot water right then and there.

It was like Niagara Falls. The water just kept coming. I leaned on the door and locking bar but the machine would have nothing of it. The red button of doom had been pressed and the machine carried on, single-mindedly.

Did I mention that this launderette was un-manned, and that we were on our own?

I shouted, “Turn it off! Hit the kill switch!”

My wife raced about hitting every switch in sight. The machine continued to fill, inexorably. Water was now streaming out of the machine and out onto the floor.

I should explain, this coin laundry was clearly built for floods. The floor was all tile with multiple drains. And, the floor was at a lower level than the door; two steps down from the door to sort of a well that was the laundry floor.

We panicked. Surely therewas a kill switch, somewhere! I raced around and pounded the same switches my wife and I already tried.


The muliti-lingual instruction board gave no clues, other than a small note at the bottom:

In caso di emergenza si prega di telefonare:….

Insoluble. We were clever travellers after all and used Skype, no need for a cell phone.Then, we really panicked.  Nothing for it, the water was already ankle-deep and getting deeper.  Hot and steamy, too.

We grabbed our trusty garbage bag, the traveller’s laundry bag of choice, and proceeded to drag our scalding hot clothes out of the washing machines.

The tide was coming in. We were getting red hands to say nothing of hot feet. (We had taken our shoes off to save them – good move).

We baled. It was a complete rout. We hauled our sodden laundry to the car hopped in and fled. 

Found another laundry.  This time, the owner eyed us with suspicion. Had the word spread? But, he patiently led us through the process.

While all this was going on, I volunteered to find us some goodies for lunch (a subterfuge).

My main objective was to sneak back to our original launderette to see what was happening.

By this time water had filled the well of the laundry floor and was spilling out the front door.

One of the less glorious moments of the family history.