I haven’t been able to reach the apartment agent yet who is suppose to give me a brief introduction to where things are and how things work in my apartment, so I’ve just been figuring it out (or not) on my own. I did locate the trash bins. (At my first apartment I just sneaked out in the dead of night and put my trash in someone else’s container down the street. I knew I could probably be sentenced to 4-6 months in the Gulag for this most un-German behavior, but I was desperate. I couldn’t locate trash bags in the market and the smell was getting to me.) But I haven’t found the laundry facilities that I thought were promised with this apartment. So while I wait for the agent, I’ve been going to the laundromat down the street. The first time I went there, over a week ago, was an unmitigated disaster.
No one was there, and I couldn’t make heads or tails of the directions. A small plate on the machine uses the same iconic representations we placed on the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft we flung past Jupiter and out of the solar system to alert the Universe to our presence. It is probably a brilliant idea, I just don’t understand it.
The washers are these high-tech, silver professional models that have about 100 different settings and buttons. For some reason, the Germans seem to care a lot about what temperature you wash your clothes at. You had to have tokens to put in the machine, and you got your tokens from a dispenser over near the front door, which only took coins I didn’t have, naturally. And there is, as far as I can tell, not a single machine in all of Germany for turning bills into coins. If you don’t have coins, the heck with you. What are you doing here?
So I had to walk around the corner to a gas station which actually stayed open past 6 PM (the only one in the village, I think). I wanted change for a €10 bill, but I couldn’t think what the word for change would be. After thinking logically for a minute (a first for me in Munich), I came up with Klinegeld or “small money.” Apparently, that was close enough. It’s actually what you call the change in your pocket, not the word you want if you want change from a clerk, but it got the idea across, and I got my change. Hurray! Score one for the foreigner.
But, then I had to figure out how to work the token dispenser. You had your choice of a little plastic pill container containing either two or three tokens, and then these came with or without soap, and there were special instructions for choices depending upon what temperature you thought might get your clothes the cleanest, etc. I stared at the thing for nearly 20 minutes trying to figure it out.
Finally, I chose the three tokens, without soap (I had brought my own soap tablets), in 50 degree water option and put my money in the machine. About 10 minutes later I figured out what I had to do to get my tokens out of the dispenser and I was ready to go.
The incredible number of options and buttons totally confused me. Finally, I decided the hell with it and I pushed all the buttons, threw my clothes into the washer with my soap tablets, deposited my tokens in the slot on the machine, and hit the green button, which I presumed was Go. A bit of water dribbled into the machine, the clothes flipped over a couple of times, immediately throwing my two soap tablets off to the side where they were out of the water, and it did this little–I don’t know–shuffling dance for nearly 30 minutes, never getting my clothes more than damp, and never getting my soap tablets wet enough to melt and provide soap. And, of course, safety considerations prohibit the door from opening (it gets locked) until the wash is completely done, so there I was staring at damp clothes for a long time.
This was, as I learned today, the forewash. The pre-wash. What you do for an hour before you really wash your clothes, because, of course, I had selected two pre-washes with all the buttons I hit in frustration.
To make a really long story short, the upshot was that about the time I got to the washing part, and my soap tablets had finally seen some water, I ran out of time on the washing machine in the middle of a soak cycle, and I didn’t have coins to buy more tokens and now all the stores in town were closed, including the gas station. I pulled my clothes out of the washer, soaking wet, and dragged them (they were too heavy to carry) back to my apartment where I spread them out on the floor while cursing my fate.
So you can imagine how excited I was to be returning there today, although I had enough coins in my pocket to sink a small ship. (Although not enough, as it turned out. You can expect to pay nearly $20 to do a couple of loads of laundry. No wonder no one is ever in here.)
But the most amazing thing has happened. Today, when I walked in, I could read the instructions. My goodness! How did that happen in just one week? I was, quite frankly, shocked by that. There was somebody there today, and I ran my understanding by him, to see if I had it right, and I did. And today everything worked exactly the way it is suppose to work. Well, except for that little mishap with the new green pants and the white towels that came with the apartment, but the place could use a bit of color and pale green is a nice color for towels. (Apparently that was 50 degrees Centigrade, not Fahrenheit. A bit hotter than I intended, I guess.)