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Tuesday, October 03, 2006


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As I was writing another post on a forum I frequent, it occurred to me, dear readers, that I have never fully explained the origin of my aversion to laundry. I am in the midst of composing a real post, but thought that this story might amuse you.

This story is slightly embarrassing, but amusing, nonetheless.

For my third year of university, I moved to France. I ended up having my own teeeeeensy little studio apartment (180 s.f.) within the cité universitaire – I had a bathroom, “kitchen” and a living space of sorts. There was one building like mine (with about 200 units), and there were two traditional buildings, with about 100 rooms each). So three buildings total. And there was one washer and one dryer.

There are a few key things here, first, the situation isn’t *quite* as bad as it sounds because most French students went home for the weekend (and did their laundry there). Also, the French don’t wash their clothes as obsessively as North Americans do, so the load (pardon the pun) was lightened.

Also worth noting is the French love of administration and bureaucracy. And lastly, it is worth noting that while I speak excellent French, it is tinged with a strong Canadian accent....and in France (particularly in Tours, where I lived), there is a lot of snobbery surrounding accents. Let's just say that my accent closely resembled that of the french equivalent of a redneck....

After two weeks in France, of feeling a bit homesick and frustrated with red tape, I REALLY needed to do laundry. I had no more money to buy more socks or undies, so I knew it was time. I had heard there was laundry in this one building in my complex, so I headed over to that building, figuring I would find my way to some sort of Laundromat-like facility. Well, I couldn’t get into the building.

The cleaning lady of that building eventually saw me and let me in, and then asked where I was going. I told her I was going to do laundry. She asked if I had signed up, and I said no. She looked at me like I was an idiot and said, obviously, you have to sign up, and that is in this other building (i.e., not the building where I lived, and not the building where the laundry was).

Okay. So I headed over to the other building to sign up. Thankfully, there was an open slot at that time, so this wasn’t nearly as complicated as it could have been. Despite getting a blast of crap for not having exact change for my laundry (another french obsession - exact change. egh. for this, you gave the administration money, and got a token in return), I still managed to both sign up and pay for my load of laundry. However, in order to get back into the building where the laundry was, I had to give the lady the key to my room. Kinda annoying, but oh well.

So I headed back to the laundry building, where I could now actually let myself in, but I couldn't find the Laundromat. After I very politely asked her, the cleaning lady irritably told me where it was, and yelled at me for being so obviously mentally deficient. I found my way in, but of course it was a European front-loading model, so I didn’t have a freaking clue how to work it, where to put the soap, how to turn it on, etc.

I went back in search of that kind, lovely cleaning lady (because of course it’s a weekend, there are no students around and I still can’t do my freaking laundry). My mental deficiency now confirmed, she started to yell at me, and proceeded to pick up the phone and give the admin lady a blast of crap that it’s not her job to help students, and what is up with these stupid international students who are so spoiled they don’t even know how to work a washer…etc.etc.

Feeling sensitive, homesick and frustrated, I just started to cry and stomped back into the laundry room. And of course I was also mortified at crying over the airing of my dirty laundry (culture shock manifests itself in the strangest ways...). Anyway, admin lady (who had already given me a blast for not signing up in advance, as well as not having the correct change) stomped in, said I was ridiculous for crying about laundry (a fact of which I was well aware, but it was just the culmination of a particularly frustrating time….the proverbial straw on the camel’s back…..), said I was a ridiculous spoiled girl because I didn’t know how to do laundry, and FINALLY showed me how to use that damned machine. Of course, by this point, I'm pretty much sobbing because I'm lonely, I miss my guy (now my hubby), I'm frustrated and I just want clean sheets!

The laundry finally started, I locked myself in the laundry room and cried for the rest of the 2-hour load. Is it any wonder I hate laundry?

Of course, for the rest of the year, I would do two or three loads at a time (very unusual by French standards), and between every load, I would run from the laundry building to the admin building to get my key back so I didn’t have to stay in the hellhole cell of a laundry room. I also got great pleasure out of the annoyance this brought the bitchy admin lady because she had to get off her duff to give me keys. And I learned that you never ever ask a unionized French worker to do something that’s not in their job description.

So that's the history behind my laundry trauma. Is there a specific phobia word for fear of laundry? Come to think of it, vestiphobia is the fear of clothing, and ablutophobia is the fear of washing. Perhaps we could coin the new term ablutovestiphobia.....fear of washing clothing....


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the entertaining story. That admin lady sound like she has a heart of coal!!

Anonymous said...

You know, I totally feel your pain for that story... there's nothing quite like moving to a new country where everything is new and not like home only to realize that not only do you not get the subtelties of the culture... you can't even operate as an independent adult...

I also went though my "Yes I'm 25 years old, and NO I don't know how to work YOUR washing machine. It's not the same as at home. I'm not stupid or a spolied brat, I just don't come from here!"

Get your hubby to do the laundry if you can pull it off! :)

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