Dave's Laundry Drama - From Munich to Spain to France - CycleBlaze

May 25, 2024

Dave's Laundry Drama

Dave here.  If you’ve been following our blog, you might remember Jill noting that my forays to the laundromat have become rather routine, providing little fodder for the blog. In fact, I’d say I was getting rather cocky about my ease of navigating the various incarnations of these places of business. Well, the laundry gods decided today that I needed a lesson in humility, the consequences of which could have seriously complicated our trip.

After a pleasant morning of touring the Dali museum with our friends Jim and Diana and enjoying and sharing a respectable hamburger with Jill, I loaded up a pannier with our laundry, retrieved my bike and headed off to the Speed Queen laundromat about a kilometer from the hotel. I got there without incident, opened the unlocked door and went inside. I thought it a bit odd that the lights were off and there was nobody there on a Saturday afternoon, but nevermind, I had a chore to complete.

I walked up to the closest washing machine, shoved our laundry into it and closed and latched the door. I then proceeded to the payment machine where I noticed a rather large sign with big Catalan wording which Google Translate told me said, “Sorry. Our machines are out of order today.” I later found out that a water pipe had burst shorting our some of the laundromats outlets. Ooookay, I’ll just retrieve my stuff and head out to another laundromat—I had identified several nearby. One little problem put a hitch in my plans. When I went back to my machine, the door would not open. I tried a dozen different ways to get that damned door open to no avail. Our clothes were prisoners inside a Speed Queen washer in a laundromat in Figures, Spain. And I was all alone in this place with nobody to help. There was a placard above the payment machine offering up a telephone number to be used in an emergency, and boy, if this didn’t qualify as an emergency, I don’t what would!

No body was in the laundromat so why not park my bike inside where it would be safer?
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I tried that phone number numerous times and each time there was no answer and no answering machine to record my plea for help. Now I’m getting a bit desperate. I kept calling with no answer. I sent texts to the number in both English and Catalan. Nothing. It was Saturday afternoon. If I couldn’t reach anybody soon, my chances of doing so on Sunday were likely to be significantly less. Furthermore, Jill and I were scheduled to ride Sunday from Figueres to Port Vendre where we were to catch a train to Toulouse. Knowing how crowded these trains can be on a Sunday (Mothers Day in France, no less), Jill had already purchased tickets for us and our bikes. I had no idea what the consequences would be if we missed that train. Stress was beginning to intrude.

Reluctantly I called Jill and we discussed our situation. She unwound from her nap, put on the only two items of clothing she had with her (shorts and a tank top; she had no underwear since it was all in the wash), and went downstairs at the hotel to see if the front desk might have any ideas. I went next door to a café to see if anyone knew the owner/manager of the laundromat. The waitress I tried to talk to (she spoke no English) caught the gist of what I was asking and said that the owner had eaten lunch there and had left a while ago. How nice. Then I tried to ask if anyone knew the owner, but she thought I wanted to talk to her manager, an older woman handling grill duties during the busy lunch rush. She in turn, after much back in forth with the waitress and the tortured use of Google Translate, told me that I only needed to wait a few minutes after the wash cycle was done before the door would open. I tried to tell her I had been waiting for over 30 minutes, that I never did get the machine to work, and that the door was not going to open. The waitress had given me the impression this woman also owned the laundromat. This misimpression was reinforced given that in exasperation with the awkward conversation, she left the grill to her assistant, and proceeded to march over next door to show this dumb American how to open a simple washing machine door. Turns out she isn’t the owner, only someone who uses the facility occasionally. She couldn’t open it either, of course, threw her hands in the air, pointed to the sign saying the machines were out of order and with understandable annoyance, marched back to her café.

Ok, yeah, so now we’re getting somewhere? In the meantime, Jill had a labored but sort of productive conversation  with Camilla at the front desk. They were changing shifts and Javier, the new arrival at the hotel desk, agreed to take Jill over to join me and see if he couldn’t facilitate some sort of solution for us. After borrowing somebody’s car, they arrived. I told him what had transpired at the café and he said he’d go over and talk to them. After 10 minutes of animated conversations with the café’s owner, he found out that she knew the laundromat’s owner and tried to call him, both on the “emergency” number as well as his personal number. He answered neither, but she left him a WhatsApp message detailing the problem. At least I had hoped so. There was a whole lot of discussion without much resolution.

Javier having an animated conversation with the cafe's owner. Not sure who the other guy was.
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Javier told Jill and me there was nothing more to do there and that we should return with him to the hotel and “chill.” Yeah, right. This guy really was wonderful and solicitous to our needs. He left his number with the café, took down mine, and suggested we might have to buy some new clothes and continue our journey on Sunday as planned.  Back at that hotel Jill and I sat down in the lobby (we would have started drinking if the bar had been open) to discuss in a bit of a shell-shocked way what we might do. We thought it was a realistic possibility that we wouldn’t get our wash until Monday morning. Do we wait and collect our clothes then and deal with the fallout of a missed train and hotel reservations? Or decide to buy clothes and push on with the trip? And if we decided to buy clothes is it just for a few days with the hope the hotel could retrieve our clothes and mail them to us - somewhere? Or, assume the clothes were lost for the rest of the trip and buy full replacements? Adding insult to injury, stores in Spain are closed on Sunday so the decision had to be made today (Saturday) so we could figure out where to go. We inventoried our remaining clothing and brainstormed what the least was we needed. Jill could wear an extra set of Dave's bike liners to ride in a pinch. But we couldn’t even go out to dinner that evening with our friends without a few purchases.

Jill had a funny conversation with Camilla at the front desk when she asked where she could purchase underwear and something to go out to dinner.  She was told there are no department stores or malls in this town and that we would have to go to a lingerie store in the town center! A google search revealed the only underwear option was Intimissi - not exactly her usual style for cycle touring - but she marked it on the map with a hopeful stop at Intersport first, in the hopes of a sports bra and socks.

 We walked  to Intersport where we did find a few things, after a pretty hilarious conversation with several helpful clerks who spoke no English but managed to help us figure out European sock sizes. Just as I was taking out my credit card to pay for this stuff, Javier called to say that someone from the laundromat had shown up, unlocked the washer and that we could retrieve our stuff from the café. Huzzah! Now Jill and I could laugh at this ridiculous situation and get back with our trip. I put my credit card away and we walked out, to the mystified stares of the nice sales people at Intersport.

So, you thought our story was over? Well, not quite. When I rode my bike back to the café, none of the people I had been interacting with before were there,  including the older woman or the waitress. The young woman behind the bar didn’t speak a lick of English (naturally) and didn’t understand I was looking for the clothes that had been brought from the laundromat. She had that look of, “Well, if there were clothes laying about here in the bar I certainly would have known about it.” I finally convinced her to call the owner who also professed ignorance of any clothes being brought over. OK. Now what?

I went back over to the laundromat to see if perhaps they were piled up over there. When I went inside, the lights were back on and the place was jammed. The machine that held our clothes prisoner was in use. There was a couple sitting on one of the benches who I thought were customers. Turns out they were the son and daughter-in-law of the owner who was out of the country. But they had been called by his father to take care of the situation. The clothes in my machine were ours and they were washing them for free to compensate for my inconvenience!

So, you see? There is a happy end to this saga; a drama yes, but not a tragedy in the end. We got our clothes and were able to depart for Port Vendre and our train on time after all.

Jill’s comment: I always say that when you really need help, people come through, and this is one of those times. The hotel front clerk, Camilla, her colleague, Javier, the waitress at the bar, and the woman who owns the bar… all of these folks helped two strangers on a Saturday afternoon when it would have been easy to blow us off.  These situations renew my faith in people; and we can resume our trip fully dressed!

A coda from Dave:  There were multiple red flags here that should have given me pause before putting my wash into the machine. First, why were the lights and A/C off and nobody inside. On the other hand, why was I able to walk in to place? Why wasn't the door locked? I should have seen the big sign on the payment machine. Why was that sign on the machine instead of the door? But the biggest mistake I made was putting the wash into that particular machine. Although all the lights were off in the laundromat, all of the machines' LCD panels had the Speed Queen logo displayed--all but the one I chose. Turns out that particular machine had shorted out from the water leak and when I closed it, the lock that keeps a user from opening it during the washing cycle was engaged and could only be unlocked when the machine had electricity. I tried the other machines, and sure enough, each of them let me close, lock and unlock their doors.  Of all the machines in the place, I had to choose that one!

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Karen PoretSounds like a story line for a show!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonThanks, Dave. A very cleansing laugh is good for the soul.
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2 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonWhat an amazing story! I’m glad to hear it had a happy ending! My worst experience doing laundry on the rode is when I accidentally had the heat to high on a dryer and it ruined a couple of bike jerseys!
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2 weeks ago
Rich FrasierA great story! It's so great that the local people came to your rescue! Hopefully the remainder of your laundry days on this tour will be really, really boring.
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2 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetWow! I think we’ll just continue with hand laundry every day. It’s even easier now that we are in France and I’ve acquired some Genie hand laundry gel; the tube from my last trip to France in 2019 is long gone!
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2 weeks ago
Laura ClarkNow we're talking! Best laundry drama yet!!
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2 weeks ago
Keith ClassenBest laundry drama ever! Glad it all worked out.
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1 week ago