Laundry, Chile, Santiago, Sally RoseThe combo washer/dryer that’s in my little rental apartment is whirring behind me. I had the same type machine in Scotland when I visited in 2015.

When the wash is finished, the clothes are still dripping wet. I use the centrifuge cycle before turning on the dryer. Red LED lights illuminate, telling me that the drying cycle will be three hours and thirty minutes. What?!

Sometimes things are just different overseas. Years ago, I had an Italian boyfriend. He came to visit my family and, during lunch, spilled something down the front of his shirt.

I told him to change shirts and to give me his dirty one. I squirted a little Spray ‘N Wash on the stain and threw the shirt in the washer on a quick cycle. Twenty minutes later, I put it in the dryer. In less than an hour, he had his shirt back. Clean.

I remember his staring at it, turning it around to look at the back, as if the stain might have migrated. I explained that I’d washed and dried his shirt. He looked at me, dumbfounded, and said, “Een Eetalee, thees take two week.”

Last week, I read an article about the difference in doing laundry in the US and the UK. It gave me a chuckle because I remembered hanging damp towels and sheets all around my UK apartment, even after the drying cycle had ended.

When I lived here before, I didn’t have a washer in my apartment. I met some interesting neighbors in the shared laundry room. In fact, I had breakfast this morning in my old building at a friend’s apartment. I’d originally met her in the laundry room.

But not all my laundry room experiences were so positive. Here’s the story of my first visit to the laundry room in Chile. This was back in November 2009, when my Spanish was practically nonexistent.

How To Do Laundry in Ten Easy Steps:

Step 1: Gather clothes and go downstairs to concierge to get key to laundry room.

Step 2: Take elevator to the 18th floor. Then, lug laundry up one flight of stairs to the 19th floor laundry room because, for some reason known only to the genius architect who designed the building, the elevator only goes to the 18th floor.

Step 3: Notice that machines only accept tokens. Attempt to buy tokens to use in machines.

Step 4: Stand in front of token machine for a long time, trying to figure out what the Spanish instructions say.

Step 5: Realize that it says “No 5,000 or 10,000 peso bills.” Find two 500 peso coins in purse and stick them in token machine. Start pushing buttons. Nothing. Realize that you don’t understand how to work token machine.

Step 6: Be totally clueless. Gather all clothes and return downstairs to concierge, where he tells you that each washer and each dryer costs one token. Great! To get a bag with two tokens costs 2,000 pesos. Great again!

Ask concierge for change for 10,000 pesos because all you have now are 10,000 peso bills. Concierge does not usually make change. Gives you the hairy eyeball. Look desperate enough that concierge, in frustration, gives up and digs in his wallet.

Step 7: Return to the 18th floor in elevator. Lug clothes up staircase again. Put 1,000 peso bill in the machine and push button. Nothing. Realize that the first 1,000 you put in before visiting the concierge seems to have “disappeared.” Become very frustrated with system.

Step 8: Take laundry back down flight of stairs to elevator. Return to concierge who explains that each packet contains at least two tokens. For two tokens, you need 2,000 and the money must be put in at the same time or else you lose it.

Step 9: Take elevator back to 18th floor. Drag laundry up one flight. Stand in front of token machine and put in 1,000. Starting with top row, push buttons…nothing. Add another 1,000 peso bill and push buttons in the second row. Nothing.

Notice that packets in each row contain different amounts of tokens. Try buttons in the third row. ¡Éxito! The coil starts to turn and the little packet of tokens drops down into tray. Open flap and retrieve packet.

Step 10: Load laundry into machine before realizing you’ve forgotten laundry detergent. Pull everything out of macine and pack it up. Haul it down…

~~Sally Rose
Author of Amazon Nº. 1 Best Seller Penny Possible
Author of A Million Sticky Kisses
Contributing author to Once Upon An Expat

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