Electric Washboard in C

Though the air is still damp and cool, necessity is the mother of laundry. My first priority after class was to bundle up some whites and take them down to the laundry room.

Now, before the story really starts becoming another humorous China story, the laundry room alone deserves an honorable mention. I would be greatly exaggerating to simply say we have two washing machines. That alone would conjure images that do not belong anywhere near our modern washboards. These are the good old-and yes, they are supposed to be old and outdated even in China-manual washers. I know, I am not going to draw any sympathy from those of you that actually used washboards and washers with names like Beaver Creek. However, here is the process for a load of laundry: turn on the faucet to fill the tub and insert clothes, turn on the spin cycle timer, turn knob to drain tub, take out clothes and place them in the spin tub (taking up the right third of the washer), send them for a spin, then do it all again. This is no marvel of modern laundering electronics, but beats the boards.

Back to the story where I stand with a tub of submerged whites. I turn off the faucet filling the tub, and turn the timer for the rotator whopper-having inconveniently forgotten the name-and the only result is the clicking of the timer. In other words, the rotator whopper is not whopping. After a brief investigation, I realize the electricity is out-not a rare occurrence in my new town, but less frequent, I hear. As the tune “Count Your Blessings” runs through my head, I give thanks I have water, my whites are able to soak a little longer, electricity will eventually come back (at some undisclosed time), and that all I have to do is wait instead of grab the washboard.

With nothing to do now but return to my room and take care of any non-electronic business till I can finish washing clothes, I practice patience. After a short time, the electricity returned and I rushed down to the electric washboards. I gave the command and my whites were rotated and whopped while I read the news (Again, I really do feel for all who have scrubbed dirty diapers day in and day out by hand). After whopping and draining, switching to the spin was no problem.

Taking my whites out of the spin tub, I replaced them in the washing tub, and turned the faucet to begin filling for the rinse cycle. Should I let you guess what happened? Nothing. Indeed, the electricity came back just in time for the water to play hookey. I do not remember “Count Your Blessings” coming to mind this time. No big deal, I guess, but I bet Beaver Creek never stopped flowing. It is lunch time anyway, I will just leave my clothes here and finish it when I come back from lunch.

I have not figured it out, but the electricity and water often have some kind of strange relationship. Often when one stops the other is not far behind. Or maybe, if one is only out for an hour or so, the other is similarly brief. Well, today was no different: the water and electricity were in cahoots. I came back from lunch to rinse the load, but the water was still off. Still, I agree, no worries. I will just take a nap and give it a bit more time.

I have never blamed China of monotony. When I woke up from my nap, things had changed. The electricity was off. That is right, the two had decided to take off work together. Now, remember, “necessity is the mother of laundry.” The chances of finishing that load anytime soon did not look good, so I just hung them up as is. I have suffered much more than being deprived of a rinse cycle in my life; worst case scenario is that my socks will not be thoroughly rinsed.

I usually just laugh when the water or electricity turns off. Toilets always have a little extra on standby and my dorm-sized refrigerator has little more than yogurt (which is just spoiled milk anyway) and film on a normal day. However, today, I was able to draw a bit more humor out of life in China.

Cooper Strange Written by: