Doing the Laundry

No, the title isn’t a euphemism of some sort. This post is really about doing the laundry!

A heck of a lot of people live in apartments in Switzerland. I did too for the first 36 years I lived here. Most apartment buildings have a washer somewhere in the building. Ours did, too. Our washer was in the basement and we lived on the 5th floor (that would be the 4th floor in Swiss – a bit of psychology here: I always use the Swiss/European way of counting floors – that makes it sound like less steps because there was NO elevator!). We had no dryer when I moved there so I had to use the ol’ noggin to figure out how to actually hang clothes out on the line (don’t forget, I’m from American suburbia, we had dryers!). After a couple of years the technical advances reached Switzerland ,we got a dryer and life got a bit more normal. But even with a dryer there was no real reason to join a gym – the workout you got just going up and down those stairs carrying the laundry was awesome.

Depending on how many units are in a building you needed some fancy figuring to get a yearly washing plan to work. There were 5 units in our building so that was pretty easy – each apartment got 2 days in a 2 week cycle. Saturdays were reserved for when someone needed extra time and there was absolutely NO washing allowed on Sunday (and if you did then you certainly did NOT hang any clothes out, my, my, what would the neighbors think!!!). Everything went well, probably because a majority of our family lived in the building (Ben and me, his sister with her family and my parents-in-law) and we could talk to each other and trade off days if need be. The only mini-problem was you had to have enough underwear to last about 3 weeks (for when you went on vacation and missed your wash-day) and ironing took almost a whole day. I thought this was normal for Switzerland until one day when we had friends over for dinner.

They were from Australia, she worked in the embassy and he stayed at home (he didn’t have a work permit so wasn’t allowed to work here). He told us what happened to him with the laundry. When they moved into their apartment the laundry days for the year had already been filled out, they had to take what was left over. The system that their building used was a little different than ours – in the beginning of the year a new calendar was hung on the laundry room door and the residents went down and wrote which days they wanted to do their laundry. Sort of first come, first served. This guy was really unhappy with the days and times they had been allotted the year before so he was determined to be the first to write his days in the new calendar. When the calendar was put up he got there first and wrote all the days and times he wanted for the whole year. Satisfied that he had figured out the Swiss way of doing this he went back to his apartment. The next time he went back to the laundry room he was shocked – his name was no longer on the list at all! Someone obviously didn’t like the idea that this man had gotten to the list before they had so they did what any true-blue Swiss would do – they went out, bought a new calendar, filled in their names, dates and times and hung it up as if nothing had happened.  Our friends had had enough; they went out and bought their own mini-washer and installed it in their apartment. No more laundry room problems for them.

We had other friends who were here for only a year. She didn’t even bother fighting to get her name on the laundry room list. The whole year they were here she washed her family’s clothes in the bathtub by hand. Well, to each his own.

Ben and I now live in a house with our own private washer and dryer, I can now wash clothes any time and any day I feel like it. Only, Sundays I don’t hang anything out to dry – the neighbors might see….

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