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Laundry fever

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on September 16, 2016

BLink_HTE Eps 86

After several weeks of humid, muggy weather, cool winds come dancing through the streets. Overnight, the air conditioner is no longer required. And not a moment too soon: the dinky portable washing machine that I managed to destroy some weeks ago has still not been replaced. Which means that Bins and I have been resorting to hand-washing our clothes. Which means there's been a significant drop in fragrance inside the house.

The reason we've not bought a replacement washing machine is that we can't agree about what to buy. According to Bins, the very idea of a "portable" washing machine is ridiculous. "That's why it burnt out. It was not a real machine," he says. "It was a mirage. A joke." But it washed all our clothes and our bed sheets, I remind him. Until I left it on too long and the motor burnt out. "It took three hours to wash three shirts," says Bins, with a contemptuous sneer, even though this is a gross exaggeration. "You had to fill water from the tap with a hose. Then you turn one knob to make the clothes jump around in soapy water. Then you turn the knob off and drain the water ..." He is shaking his head in disbelief. "It was an example of a machine that was fully NON-automatic."

All of that is true, I admit. "But it was small and light, it could be lifted in and out of the tub, and it didn't require any special plumbing," I say. "It was environment-friendly because it used the hot water that's already in the taps and much less than automatic machines." Mentioning the environment is a bad move. "Ah – if you want to talk about the environment, then we shouldn't bother washing clothes at all!" exclaims Bins. "Which is fine by me! But our neighbours will complain of the stinks." I remind him that I use a very gentle liquid detergent, that's so organic it's not even sold in a plastic container. "Ha!" says Bins triumphantly, "it's cardboard on the outside, but lined with plastic on the inside!! Another fake!"

"Well I'm sick of hand washing!" I say to him. We can go to the laundromat, but the closest one is 20 minutes walking up the hill, plus at least $7 for washing and drying. "It's just not worth it." Most apartment buildings have their own in-house coin-operated laundry room in the basement but this old building can no longer support the type of advanced plumbing needed for modern machines. "Maybe we should wear disposable paper underwear," says Bins. "Then we need to only wash the outer clothes, when we go to your sister's house in Hartford, once in three months..." "Not happening," I say, curtly as I turn on my computer to order a new mini-portable, just like the old one.

One week later, it arrives, all sparkly and new. The timer switch works and the whole thing seems slightly sturdier than the previous model. In one morning we've both washed three loads of laundry. Even Bins concedes, "It's not bad. Quite cute actually." I give him my Buddha smile, saying, "Your turn to make tea."

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere in this weekly column

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Published on September 16, 2016
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