The Laundry Ladies of Schonbrunn
What do six Australian women do on their first night in Vienna when they are on a three-week European tour?
Go to a laundromat.
It’s day six of the tour of four Central European countries by the Sunshine Coast Oriana Choir and fatigue is starting to set in.
The first night in Austria’s capital provide the chance to catch up on some washing after a couple of days on the road.
The idea was to put all their dirty clothes in together and save time as well as money.
Set the wash-and-dry cycle, go out and enjoy dinner together then return and sort the clothes.
What could go possibly wrong with that?
No names will be mentioned in order to protect the innocent. If indeed there are any innocents in this episode.
One load. Six ladies with no leader but who all knew how to wash clothes … at home.
Combine foreign currency, language and technology.
Again, what could go wrong?
The resulting misadventures could provide the inspiration for an entire two-act musical: The Ladies of the Laundromat.
The spontaneous pressing of buttons by those who knew how … or thought they did, resulted in a very expensive wash-and-dry exercise, one that equalled the cost of what four could have eaten and drunk at the local bar and pizzeria.
What should have cost 25 euro ended up as 44 euro.
Still a cheap night out, they considered. Better than going to the pub.
All the laughter and pain.
“We were killing ourselves with laughter … afterwards,” they said, safely back in the lobby of the hotel.
Basically, six girls went into the laundromat in inner suburban Vienna and wanted to use the washer/dryer.
While sorting out the lights and darks, one was reading the instructions that were on the washing machine.
They decided on a small and big load, as they wanted to wash and dry both.
It was 26kg if they just washed, 13kg if wash and dry. And the cost … 15e for either.
They couldn’t work out the weights, so they chose to do two loads.
The decision was to put everything in together, as they thought it would be way over 13kg, seeing how they are normally judged by the wet weight.
One of the girls worked out the wash cycle … but didn’t communicate that to each of the others.
“I just assumed,” she said, amid gales of laughter as they relived the experience. “As I thought they were also just washing.”
Not the case. Everyone was over the machine figuring out how to pay.
But they had put 15e in thinking they were getting wash and dry.
Off the machine goes on its cycle. Chug, chug, chug … whir.
Then one of the group comes along, looks at the top of the washing machine and says, that’s only on wash.
“Yes, that’s what I thought you were doing,” the key operator said.
“No. We want wash and dry,” came the reply in unison.
That’s where the problem arose. There were too many opinions.
Two buttons … and they were now looking to see if they could change the cycle. Yet the directions were all in German.
Then they saw a button that said what to do … but that was in German as well.
Another one of the group jumps in, trying to help, and everything was fine while she pushed buttons.
Yet when it got to the wash-and-dry cycle, it started speaking in German to them.
This new operator kept twisting dials hoping it would start speaking in English.
But then it got to something like verboten!!
At this point everyone lost it and broke out into laughter again.
“We knew something was seriously wrong because of the exclamation marks,” they told me.
“We tried to open it because we knew it was serious.”
They found a young German-speaking girl, doing her own washing.
She tried to help. She came in to the area our girls were in and interpreted the signs.
The trouble was, one of the girls thought she worked there and tried to get her to give the money back they had already put in the machine.
But the poor girl was just trying to help. And to think she almost got abused.
“It wants you to pay more money,” she said, trying to help.
The girls could start to see reason so decided to round up some more money.
The culprit of twisting the knobs and dials said she would put in extra as she thought she had caused the trouble and had embarrassed the German girl.
Then when they had put in an extra 15e, the German girl said it would have been OK to leave it, not try for wash and dry as it would have done it anyway.
They had paid the extra 15e but the machine stopped.
“Maybe we didn’t give it time to run the full cycle.
“We had got the German girl back three or four times.
“She said, go for a walk and come back, as we were just going to sit there and wait.
“Before we did the second 15e, she said it was cheaper to wash first and then dry.
“At this stage machine 3 with the whites was working perfectly.
“It was working OK. The bigger one was having trouble.
“Really, the trouble came with us.
“Machine 1 had the problems, we learnt from that mistake and the second machine had a much lighter load.
“The German girl said why not use the smaller one around the other side of the laundromat and leave the bigger one for drying.
“So we emptied the wet clothes out and wheeled the washing around the other side … but then we realised it wasn’t going to fit so we wheeled it back.
“More trouble came when we tried to put too much in when it was wet.
“And we panicked. We should have left it on wash.
“The other thing was we put our own washing powder in … when there was a big sign saying it was automatically included.
“And to think, everything is on video. The security cameras would have recorded it all.”
At first, the little dramas were discussed over dinner while the washing was being done.
Then four of the six went back to fold and sort it all. The other two had already been back to check on the progress and were not up to yet another trip.
There was stuff missing, there were clothes that the four had not seen before.
In the wash-up, sitting in the hotel lobby, the girls agreed: “The more you think about it, there had been conversations about what to touch and what not but no-one took any notice.
“If we had only spoken up,” said one.
Perhaps typical of group dynamics. Like the knowledgeable, shy trivial pursuit player who knows but cannot tell. No opportunity to be heard.
“When we finally got the second machine going, it came up with “step away from the machine.”
“That’s when everyone completely lost it.
“Actually, we lost it before then.
“We lost it when we started pulling the clothes out of the machine to put them in another one.
“Anyone walking in would have shook their heads in bewilderment.”
But it did provide a great night of entertainment.
And, as they say, it will all come out in the wash.
WASHING ON THE ROAD
Washing … it’s a dirty question that we any traveller is confronted with.
We do it when travelling but is it really necessary to do your washing every day while you are on the road.
Can it be washed out in the hotel room and left to dry on a hanger or the back of a chair … does it need the hotel laundry service or to take it to a laundromat?
It depends on the clothes you pack and what you wear.
That is part of the packing process. What do I really need?
Good advice was always pack your bag … then take half of the clothes out. You probably won’t need them.
Oh, and if you do rinse something out of a night remember to pack it or wear it the next day. Don’t leave it hanging in the bathroom.