My apartment has a washing machine, one of the perks of living here for the summer. When I arrived, Richard gave me an orientation on how to use the machine, and pointed out the step-by-step directions that the owner wrote down for reference. It all seemed pretty simple at the time, but then again, when you’re in a jet-lagged haze, you don’t really know what’s simple and what isn’t. You just sort of nod and smile. At least that’s what I did.
But yesterday, I decided to move further into Italian domesticity and use the washing machine.
I gathered up a pile of sweaty clothes and began following the step by step instructions. Seemed easy enough at first.
I followed each step, and when I pushed the “ON” button, the machine started filling up with water. Woo-hoo!
And then nothing happened. For 20 minutes.
Upon closer inspection, I screwed up on something as simple as turning the dial to the appropriate setting. I moved the dial to what I thought was setting 4, but it was actually pointing in the opposite direction, at setting 16.
What’s setting 16?
Centrifuga delicati? What in the hell is that?! I couldn’t open the door, seeing as how the machine was full of water.
Fortunately, there’s Google. An internet search provided me with an explanation of each setting. Turns out that setting 16 really doesn’t do anything but show where you are in the cycle. So I took a chance. I pressed the “ON” button again to turn the machine off, moved the dial to “4”, and pressed in the “ON’ button.
Success! My clothes began swishing around happily inside the machine. I checked on it periodically, and everything progressed as it should. Does anyone remember what we did before Google?
Most Italians don’t have dryers; you hang your laundry outside to dry. And my balcony comes equipped with a clothesline. I guess that there’s a rule that you can’t hang your laundry out if you face the street, but my balcony faces a courtyard. Within a few hours, I had clean, dry clothes. Note my green Oaklandish t-shirt, with an image of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Throughout the past week, I’ve felt a lot like that t-shirt: an American bridging her life from San Francisco to Rome, hanging upside down and trying to right herself in this strange, unfamiliar city.
I normally wouldn’t care to write about something as mundane as laundry, but it is a part of everyday Italian life, and someone else moving to Italy could benefit from my successes and failures. And believe me, when you’ve moved to a foreign city on your own, washing your clothes without breaking the machine or flooding your building is a success worth celebrating.