I’ve had this lovely photo of a Belgian laundromat since 2016. I remember thinking the neat and tidy teal display felt so peaceful at the time. Sitting in a little laundry in a quiet street of Bruges, watching our smalls swishing and swirling in the suds, the hum of dryers in the background, the smell of detergent in the air.
Visiting laundromats is a necessary activity if you’re travelling for any extended length of time, and they can offer a welcome break to a hectic schedule of activity.
But it’s not always sunshine lollipops.
THIS WASN’T IN THE TRAVEL BROCHURE
On the same trip as my pestering Romans, I remember deciding to share a washing machine with fellow travellers in order to cut costs. All I can say is, you could certainly smell the money I’d saved when my clothes left the machine with a stench worse than when they went in.
The other difficulty with laundry on holidays seems to be when the machine’s control panel is in a language other than your own or comes with no instructions at all. We encountered this on a stopover in Dubai. Although scheduled to catch a plane the next day, Mr Slager decided it would be a good time to wash a new t-shirt he’d bought.
Our expressions of jubilation at having a front-loader washing machine in our hotel room were quickly replaced with Mr Slager’s hot-tempered “commentary” as he attempted to decipher the dials. Eventually, a seemingly winning combination of buttons were pressed, and the shirt began to bounce through its cycle.
And boy did it bounce! Yes it whirred away ALL through dinner, ALL through the night, and on to the next morning!
If you’ve ever used a front loader, you’ll know they don’t like to be interrupted. Copious hours later, I found Mr Slager slumped on the floor staring in disbelief at the machine. I’ve never seen someone so wounded! “Never mind”, I said, “It will eventually have to stop”. I’m not sure my cooing words lifted his spirits.
The machine did stop. But with only a few hours left until we needed to be at the airport, you can imagine the sheer horror as the machine refused to open and instead, comedically grabbed the shirt and swung it around for two more cycles!
At this point, I only saw three outcomes:
- I would be on a plane headed home, leaving Mr Slager’s disgruntled corpse slumped in front of the machine
- The shirt would come out shrunken to a size only suitable for a tiny newborn
- Or my sides would split from laughing so hard
Just when we thought we’d have to abandon the shirt to the artificially intelligent comedian, the machine gently clicked opened. The shirt was released perfectly unharmed and clean as a whistle.
Unlike me, it took a while for Mr Slager to see the funny side, and sometimes I still hear his screams in the night.
LIKE MEATLOAF THROUGH A STRAW, SO ARE THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES
Getting back to the Belgian laundromat, I was never sure whether I would take the opportunity to draw this unsuspecting wonder. Of course, I hadn’t accounted for 2020, arriving swathed in all her odorous glory.
Just like the never-ending Dubaian washing machine, when you think it’s over you find out it’s only just beginning. Will it ever stop? What will things look like at the end? Will you be shrunken in the wash, a shell of your former self? Will you be slumped on the floor in despair? Time will tell.
I decided to allow my aggressively sharpened coloured pencils exude my frustration, adapting the Belgian laundromat to what you now see before you. Yes, this piece, ‘Rinse Repeat’ became my ode to a tumultuous year, to being tossed around relentlessly like underpants in the wash.
Murphy’s Law: all the machines are out of order except the most expensive one,
the clock hands are missing so you have no way to tell what time you need to return to pick up your clothes,
and of course, you carry nothing but credit cards.
Will you come out of this year smelling funkier than when you went in? If you’ve been in lockdown you probably will!
But optimistically, if Mr Slager can release a t-shirt from the grips of a thrashing monster, there’s a sniff of hope. As I said to him then, “It will eventually have to stop.”
Hang in there!
My coloured pencil piece is now available in my shop. If you are interested in prints let me know.
Do you have a laundry story? Drop me a line and tell me about it! (Unless it’s untoward, then perhaps you should tell the internet)