I’m not sure why, but many stories of travel and cultural experience all seem to come round to the subject of laundry. I suspect it’s because there is a great shared human response to living three days past one’s last pair of clear underwear.
Last night, after work, I found a local laundromat; I went their assuming that it would have either a change machine or tokens. (Why would I assume that? What possible reason would I have?) Of course, there were neither of these things; the washing machines needed a pair of two Euro coins to operate and the dryers would only accept fifty cent pieces. With a ten Euro bill in hand, I stepped into a nearby convenience store thinking that, if I purchased something, they would give me my change back in coins. So, quite cleverly, I bought a small box of laundry soap (this would help in the case of language difficulty). The clerk spoke English though…however, his tray was out of two Euro coins. The next stop was a kebab shop (right next to the laundry). The fellow there spoke no English; but he took one look at the detergent under my arm, smiled and gave me change. I would imagine he has a steady stream of foreigners in this predicament (will have to make a note to go there for lunch someday).

After a bit of deciphering, I managed to get the washing machine running and, forty minutes later, I had clean clothing! However, as I began to put it in the dryer, the woman tending the place said, “no; sorry; no time; closing; down street is other wash.” So I walk down street to other wash—which was also closing.

Here in the Strasbourg office, Natural Power analyses wind flow over complex terrain with the aid of a little rack mounted supercomputer…which blows out a lot of heat…all day long. One of my main concerns with energy is the conservation and creative use of waste; so…I hung my wet laundry all over the server.

Then I got an e-mail about a potential flat and went to look (I’m going to take it; nice fellow and good space. It’s just a short term place but at least it will give me a place to be whilst I look further). When I came back to the office the outside doors were locked; I have the keycode, but the door was fully locked with a key (which I don’t have). Claude, a kind co-worker, took me in for the night. I’m sure the cleaning lady, when she came in this morning at six, was rather bemused to find socks and underwear hanging all over the server and break-room.