This Ain’t Your Granny’s Washing Machine, But It Sure Smells Like It

I don’t want fabric softener in my laundry. The machine is in Spanish, I think. I’m in Barcelona so maybe it’s in Catalan and that’s the thing that always confuses me about this place. Sometimes it’s Catalan or nothing. Other times it’s Castillian. I can’t read either so cancelling the softener is out of the question. I pack light and only bring quick dry clothing. Softener coats the fibers of the garments and ruins their ability to wick moisture and do the things I want them to do the most – repel water and quick dry.

The big sign just inside the door, that’s also in English, went entirely unnoticed by yours truly. 4 minutes into the wash cycle, I saw it. 4 minutes after I’d already added my perfume, dye, and softener-free soap pod that I’d carted from the States into the mix. 

  • Load only your clothing and Don’t Add Soap! 

It’s included in the wash. Not only that, but they’re throwing in softener too because they’re nice people, and even though it doesn’t say it on the sign, the softener will likely smell like lily of the valley perfume.

I watch my small load of laundry sudsing in the washer’s window with low level horror. And when I say sudsing, I mean it. Perhaps this makes up for the lackluster hand-washing job I had to do in Romania because there wasn’t a laundromat to be found. No free soap. No free softener whether you want it or not. I convince myself that I’m making up for an earlier mediocre scrubbing.

According to the sign, the machine will add the perfect ratio of water to clothing based on the weight of its contents, then it will also add the perfect portion of soap, and obviously that blasted softener. When did these machines become so smart? So in control? So… sophisticated? Part of me loves the efficiency of it all. The other part of me thinks that the makers of modern appliances believe that we’re too stupid to be trusted with adding our own soap. And in this case, I have to give it to them. I look back into the window to a sea of suds with the occasional sock floating against the glass. But it’s mostly soap in there. A lot of it. Too much of it. I’m wondering if it’s going to wash the stripes right off my shirt and I suppose that’s what I would get for not reading the directions.

I came to the laundromat at the right time though. By six o’clock the place is hopping, and I’m already swapping my spun-to-near-dryness load into a ginormous dryer for a few tumbles before folding it. I can already smell the roses and lilacs and wildflower meadow saturating my clothes. My nose starts to itch. I’m not made for these times, I think. Where’s the wash board and hand wringer? Where’s the harsh, Castillian, strip everything bare soap?

Into the dryer they go, only this time I scan the walls for the sign. The dryer will determine the amount of time needed. It will do this based on weight and the detected moisture levels in your garments. My load is three Euros worth of weight and moisture. After I deposit the coins, I press what I think is the start button but it’s probably one of those fake buttons like the ones at intersections that fool you into thinking you have some measure of control. That you’ve cast your ballot and your vote has been counted. That you have a say in things. I watch my underwear twirl in the dryer, hanging weightless for a moment before falling to the bottom of the drum only to do it all over again. The socks next, followed by a sleeveless shirt. Around they go, chasing and following, floating and falling. It’s somewhat poetic. Elegant. Mesmerizing enough to allow me to make peace with these machines. 

That is, until I open the door and am utterly bowled over by the smell of mountain spring/tidal rush/lavender fields of Provence. I can’t determine any of the individual signatures of flowers, but the essence is grandmotherly to its core. I retract my earlier compliment. If this is sophistication, I want no part of it. My only solace lay in the fact that I have to walk this bag of laundry back to my hotel, about 5 blocks away. Enough time to air these babies out. Quick dry the stink right off of them.