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Laundry Nirvana in Adana
On occasion, something seemingly mundane turns out to be quite an adventure. So it is with this tall tale of Turkish textile tossing...

I have been on the road for a week and a half now, just about long enough to run my wardrobe fresh out of freshness. I planned to do laundry in Frankfurt the day before coming to Adana but made a gross miscalculation. The trip to Adana left Monday morning. The laundromat there is closed on Sundays. Oops. Here I was, in Adana, maybe not the world's #1 destination for laundromat seekers, but now facing the dire prospect of recycling.

So I set out to satisfy my fellow crewmembers' preference for Captain Clean. Second Officer Smell Well used the bath tub, but I was determined to be both cheap and lazy. This required nothing less than a laundromat.

I inquired at the front desk and was offered several non-laundromat solutions. Finally, I hit pay dirt. "Well, there is a local place east of the city center. They have several washing machines and dryers. It's usually not busy. Nobody really goes there. Only bachelors and students." Perfect! Not only that, I was told there was a mini-bus (1TL = ~$.70US for a ride) nearby that would take me right to the place. Jackpot!

I launched for laundry land in my look-at-me-I'm-a-stupid-American outfit - white tennies, jean shorts, ugly green backpack full of dirty clothes, and the ultimate tourist accessory - the map. This part of Turkey isn't like many places in the world where people generally speak at least a little English. I got off the bus in a thoroughly Turkish neighborhood. It wasn't a slum (by Turkish standards, anyway), but was definitely working class at best. And I'm very confident nobody spoke any English.

I walked towards where the map showed the laundromat. And then I kept walking. And walking... And walking... And people looked, puzzled, I'm sure wondering which alien ship teleported me there. After consulting the map, I was confident I had gone too far. I crossed the street and backtracked. Luckily, I found the place. The name was different from what had been written on my map, but I saw the washing machines inside and headed in.

The first thing I noticed was the air conditioning (whew!). The second thing I noticed was that this wasn't really a laundromat. In fact, I'm not really sure exactly what it was. I think they might do laundry for hotels but it wasn't really a dry cleaner either. The third thing I noticed was that the two people there, a 20's-ish guy and middle-aged woman, spoke exactly zero English.

I'm not sure who was more confused. I'm quite confident they'd never seen an American drag a backpack full of dirty clothes in their place before. Nor had I ever tried to do laundry in Turkey. There were no coin slots on the machines, and no instructions; just two people looking at me like I'm an alien. After some really bad sign language, and maybe too many attempts at not understanding "go away, we don't serve retail customers", they finally motioned for me to give them my clothes. They even let me load some fabric softener in the machine (woohoo!). I tried, unsuccessfully to ask about the price, but I figured we could work that out at the end.

The machines were very nice - front loaders with digital timers. There might have been 6 or 8 of them. They seemed to be only moderately busy. Every load in a washer or a basket had slips of paper attached, as though it had been dropped off by some smarter-than-me American at a hotel's front desk for about a bazillion dollars. I'm sure the hotel keeps most of it. Or maybe they're neighbors that pay just a few bucks for a load. I really don't know.

Then the fun began. The younger guy went and found a piece of paper. He said things in Turkish and motioned to me. What proceeded was 30 minutes of drawing pictures, pointing, and charades, resulting in a mix of confusion and communication. In the midst of it all, I offered to get them something to drink. Even that was a challenge, but we worked it out and they seemed appreciative.

He showed me his tatoo. It said, in English, "Only God can judge me". I drew pictures of a mosque and a Christian church (being a terrible artist doesn't help). He pointed to the mosque. I pointed to the church. He wanted me to read the tattoo in English (I think), so I did a couple of times. He seemed satisfied with that. I smiled and gave a thumbs up. He seemed to nice to facebook video of my decapitation in the presence of his female counterpart. She was very pleasant and smiley, too, but equally challenging to communicate with, despite our best efforts.

Several times, he tried to understand what I was doing there. He made sleeping signs, said "hotel", and made flying signs. I drew airplanes, a calendar, a U.S. map, and so on. I think he asked me if I had been anyplace else in Turkey. When I said Cappadocia, he smiled. I'm sure the only word in the ensuing conversation that either of us understood was Cappadocia. But at least we had both heard of the place.

Fortunately, some words in Turkish are similar to English. Hotel, for example. And motor. He made hanging, clipping gestures, and said motor while he pointed at the dryers, shook his head no and made the X sign. "Dryer, no motor?" He smiled and made hanging up gestures. I made hanging up gestures and said "Hotel." He nodded in agreement. At least I got them washed nicely.

When the clothes were done, I loaded them back in my bag and went back to the desk we were all sitting around. I used the now-empty Pepsi cans to try to learn how to say thank you in Turkish. I probably mangled it, but I tried and they smiled and said it back to me. Then I tried to pay. They said no and made the X signal again. I put 5 TL down (~$3.50) on the desk. He gave it back. So then I tried to put down 2 TL, the cost of two sodas next door, and motioned to the Pepsi can and pointed at both of them. Still no dice. He handed it back, smiled and said thank you.

So I said thank you the best that I could, smiled back, and started to head out. As I walked out, they made gestures that I'm pretty sure was the Turkish equivalent of "Y'all come back now, ya hear!" I smiled, nodded, and said thank you again.

I caught the bus back, hung my stuff up to dry, and reflected for a moment on my experience. I suppose there might be a very few people in the world who are mean, unhelpful, criminal, and so on. But all around the world, I've managed to find friendly, helpful people. With no ability to communicate verbally, some people might have found this whole adventure too scary to even attempt. So they pay the outrageous hotel prices for great service in English. Meanwhile, I probably saved enough to buy a Lamborghini and got in on a fun, unexpected cultural exchange that I'm sure none of us will soon forget

Thanks for the laundry. See you next time!

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What a cool story! Thank you for sharing it. :)

You're most welcome! ;) Thanks for reading it and enjoying it! :)

V., that is a great story and you wrote it so well! Tag this one for your memoir book that you're going to publish after retirement ;-) You know, V. project # 6,998, 583 . . .

Thanks for sharing your tall tale of Turkish textile tossing with us. Now go iron those clothes!


Done! .... The memories part, not the ironing. ;)

But people are evil and greedy and must be kept in line by the jackbooted heel of the State!

This is a nice trip report.
I am trying to put up a website about people's experiences in Turkey. www.iwasinturkey.com Would you be interested in publishing this article on my site with a referral back to your blog.
Let me know what you think.
You can reach me via info@iwasinturkey.com

That sounds great! I'll email you...


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