My wife has an obsession. Any time there’s a washing machine within her control she has to use it.
So, when we arrived, sleepless, at the apartment we’d booked in Bangkok as a stopover on our way home from Madrid, Marie disappeared into a little room off the entrance, then reappeared, her eyes aglow with anticipatory enthusiasm.
Well, I thought, this can’t be bad.
“It has a washing machine,” she announced.
“What has?” My mind was elsewhere. Hey, we were in Bangkok, okay.
“This place,” she replied, with that expression she reserves for when I’m being completely moronic. She looked down. “I can wash these jeans and then wear them home tomorrow night.”
She looked at me. “Have you got any dirty clothes?”
Two things. First, I’d just eaten my way across Europe and the Middle East, out of that mind numbing boredom that only long distance flying can engender. Second, the spatial relationship between my mouth and a food plate that an airline seat establishes is different from the one I’m used to.
So, yes, I had dirty clothes.
Marie studied my pants. “They looked like they’ve been slept in.”
“I wish,” I replied.
I watched her knicker clad behind disappear back into the laundry and shut my eyes… just to rest them.
A minute later, I was woken by the sounds of cursing. My wife is the only person I’ve even known who can curse without actually using any bad words.
I shot into the laundry.
“Have you been asleep?” she asked.
“No.” I replied, much too quickly to be convincing.
“You said we should stay awake until tonight to help our body clocks realign. We should go shopping, you said.”
It’s amazing how many times a person can shoot themselves in the foot in a single sentence.
A few minutes later, I pulled the room key card from its slot in the wall and off we went.
A couple of hours later we staggered in and dropped an astonishing number of shopping bags on the lounge. I eyed our suitcases nervously.
A loud, aggressive beeping came from the laundry.
Marie was off.
In our house it’s well understood that the use of this particularly word means that someone – or something – is in for serious trouble. “This stupid machine still has an hour ans twenty minutes to go.”
“That,” I replied, “would be because the power goes off when we take the card out of the slot.”
“I know that. But I thought the washing machine would be wired in, like the fridge.”
“Like the fridge?”
“Well it would be stupid to have the fridge turn off every time you left the apartment.”
She had a point. “I guess it’s something we’ll never know,” I murmured. “Like whether the light goes off when the door’s closed.”
“The one in the fridge.”
My wife gave me a pitying look. “Why are we discussing the fridge light when I have a machine full of soaking wet clothes?”
I studied the control panel. The words were in English, but weren’t assembled in any way that made sense. I pushed a few buttons at random. The beeping stopped.
“Well, that’s something,” Marie said.
I thought so. The apartment was now quiet enough for me to take a nap.
I awoke to find my wife sitting triumphantly on the couch. Clothing hung precariously from every protrusion and door handle in the apartment.
I smiled to myself and hugged her, for no particular reason.
As obsessions go, I decided, this is not a bad one.
And I do have a practically endless supply of immaculately clean clothes.