Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Washing Woes

My pants don't fit anymore.

Never fear! This is not the first step toward a transition to a diet blog. In fact, my ill fitting pants are now so loose and baggy that I fear that without the helpful and necessary addition of a belt they may just tire of their modesty and fashion function altogether and fall right off. Turns out I'm suffering from a case of the stretch-outs. You know, the "I've been cycling through my jeans at such a pace that no one pair is particularly dirty, but no one pair fits like a glove either" problem. And it's all because of a good deal on a washing machine.

Have I explained the laundry situation yet? The thing I absolutely loved about my last apartment in the States was the undersized yet blissfully convenient washer and dryer right inside the unit, not in the creepy basement where bugs and dust and debris gather in the corner waiting to run out from their shadowy perch and positively coat your wet clothing in various and sundry detritus the minute you let a sock slip out of your grasp and hit the floor as you transfer your load from the washer to the dryer. Well, imagine my surprise when I found out that here in beautiful Deustchland, apartment dwellers typically buy their own washer and dryer (yay!) but then they put them all in a common room in the basement of the building (boo!). After all, who DOESN'T want to lug piles of worn unmentionables through the common areas of your building while averting your eyes when you pass by the prudish neighbor upstairs who probably washes all her underwear in her sink to avoid this very situation. I for one, protest. But as my apartment does not have a washer or dryer hook up, and the creepy basement where bugs and dust and debris gather in the shadowy corners does, I guess I'm not left with many options.

So on we go with life and adjusting our expectations and whatnot- at least this is a social custom we are familiar with in the United States even if it is undesirable. On the positive site (that's right, glass is half full folks!) there is no need to lug 35 pounds of small change to the laundry room to make use of the machines as each person hooks their own appliances to their own water and electricity meters. And, I suppose, we won't ever have to plan vindictive yet passive revenge scenarios that will never come to fruition on the jerk who threw our dry clothes on the floor because we were a minute and a half late to retrieve our belongings from the only working dryer on the premises. So there is some merit to ownership in a common room...I guess.

In our particular situation, Husband, who can't sleep at night unless he feels he got a "good deal," found such a deal on an American-style washing machine some guy was trying to unload before he moved back to the U.S. Perfect! We purchased the appliance and marveled over its enormous washing capacity, familiar settings and top-loading magnificence. That is, until I pointed out that we now have nowhere to house our dryer as each tenant in the building is given 1 (one) spot to hook up their laundry machines, ergo to fit both a washer and a dryer both machines need to be stackable. And by stackable, I mean NOT a top-loading washer. Duh.

So that was Challenge Number One, which we quickly overcame by putting our dryer in our enormous storage unit just across the hall from the laundry room. Given the extra privacy for the leisurely folding of our garments, this turned out to be not such a bad idea after all, stackable washer or not. Challenge Number Two, we found out soon thereafter, had at its root the other major difference between German and American washers (the first difference being that most German washers ARE stackable)- the hot water situation. Perhaps intended to save the user money on the gas bill to heat hot water, German washers only have a cold-water input hose and then the unit itself has the mechanics to heat the water to the appropraite wash temperature. Brilliant, I'm sure. However, if you've ever taken a peek at the back of an American washer, you'll know there is both a hot AND cold water hook up that just proportionally dumps each temperature of water into the unit as needed. So....we don't have any hot water to wash our clothes.

Off it was, then, to the store for some Cold Water Tide! See- nothing is insurmountable. Well, nothing would have been insurmountable has we stopped at Challenge Number 2, and not moved on to Challenge Number 3. Sigh. It all started when we did our first gloriously enormous load of darks. As a side note, have I mentioned that German washers are not only front loading and internally heating, but they also hold only about half the capacity of a good-sized American washer? Hence the excitement over the size. Husband and I stood in the basement with the washer as it started doing its thing, you know, to make sure it knew it was supported in its new environment and to make sure it was feeling up to the task and all. Once we deemed the washer suitably well functioning, we retired to our apartment to continue with Sunday chores.

This was a bad idea.

Turns out, our little American washer has a bit of an incontinence problem, as 40 minutes later when I went to get our clothes, I found what had to be gallons and gallons of water on the floor. Super. So I did what any normal American woman would do- I got my husband. Together we stood there in the laundry room staring at the mess in utter disbelief, paralayzed with annoyance. And then the spell broke as we simotaneously realized we didn't want our German neighbors to walk into the common room to discover the new Americans just flooded the place. So I (thankfully!) found a squeegee and started frantically coaxing the water toward the drain while husband inspected the hook up to discover the flaw.

But there was no flaw! We ran the water through again and everything held. After an hour of so of inspection, husband determined that none of our pipes were leaking and the machine itself was also in fine condition. The culprit, we suspect, is the building's output pipe (does that have an actual name? I don't's the pipe that all the washing machines feed into to take the used water away.). We suspect, but can not confirm, that the output pipe is simply not equipped to handle the much larger flow of water when the basin empties from our gigantic washer, and what couldn't go down, just came back up...and out. We will have to get a new washer.

But at least we got one load of clothes clean (see- glass is half full!), but unfortunately that load did not contain any of my baggy, sagging jeans. So I'll just let people think I'm losing weight.


Al, Alex, Alexandra said...

I feel you for the creepy basement with washer/dryer combo... Unfortunately I live in the basement too.

Moff said...

uuuuuuuuuugh. :( :( :(