Tales from a Traveling Life: The Sublime, Silly and Downright Strange. I: Laundry Days

Raise your hand if you remember that bygone pleasure once known as the cocktail party? Those fabulous occasions when you gathered with friends, brushing elbows as you imbibed in favorite beverages, chatting about the day’s happenings, mundane to asinine; culminating with toasts in promise of doing it all over again, soon.

Well, since none of us knows when “soon,” might come again (certainly not during the year that history books will forever record as 20-f-ing-20), I thought it would be a swell time to share a few sublime, silly, even downright strange tales from these last five years of nomadic living.

These are stories I might tell you if we were bantering nose-to-nose, swilling margaritas and laughing until our cheeks ache. Ahhh, little social distance, many margaritas, what a dream.

Yeah, I know this a rotten time – for everyone. Some days, it’s not easy to find the joy-channel in our mind’s network. We’re worried about our health and our livelihoods. We fret for the safety of friends and family, near and far. Plus, we all have pandemic fatigue (would you have ever imagined that would be a thing!?), we’re all puking-sick from the toxic-trump show, we’re all anxious about the uncertainty of the future.

Every time I allow myself to think about it all, I start shaking in my pink-unicorn-house-slippers. (Yes, I have pink unicorn slippers and. they. are. smile-makers. Thanks, Scotland).

So, maybe, now’s the time we need to share our stories more than ever. In that spirit, here’s my 1st in a series:

Tales from a Traveling Life:
The Sublime, Silly and Downright Strange.

The Drama of Laundry Day

You know those Mediterranean scenes of colorful, crumblingly-ancient houses seemingly held together by clothes-lines? What is it about this setting that makes us swoon? What is so darn romantic about seeing somebody’s Granny’s panties on the line or Papa’s PJ’s blowing in the breeze? 

Laundry Day in Rovinj, Croatia

Okay, I’ll admit it. The sight still gets to me, every single time, even after living in Europe for five years. And, I’ll also admit, I’ve become obsessed with observing what others hang out to dry. 

So, if I size up my neighbors by holes in their socks or stains on their bedsheets (yuk!), what does my laundry tell others about me? 

Do you want to know the reality of living with a clothes line in the windy-Mediterranean? Here goes…

We’re now back in Rovinj, Croatia, living in the same apartment we have rented for a few months every year. It’s an ultra-sweet spot, directly beside the sea and looking out into the town’s outdoor vegetable market, three floors below. Picture perfect, you might say. 

Rovinj’s daily outdoor vegetable market.

Our first time living here, back in 2015, I remember being so excited when our landlord leaned out the front window to show me a clothesline stretching clear across the building. I was actually looking forward to getting enough clothes dirty to run a load. What kind of freak thinks that way?

Paying zero attention to weather conditions or wind patterns, I went on to clip everything from cycling gear to underwear outside our window, then took off for a run. 

A Place Called Home.

Feeling aces after my workout, I returned home and leaned out the window to check our laundry’s progress. Is it already dry?, I wondered. Instantly, confusion set in. For a second, I wondered if Matt had brought in the laundry. That didn’t make sense, though, because…1. Matt doesn’t touch laundry. 2. There were still random items on the line. 

As much as I didn’t want to look, I let my eyes drift down to the market, where apparently at some point earlier, all our underwear had drifted. Those seemed to be my panties near a bin overflowing with potatoes. Matt’s cycling shorts were keeping tomatoes company. And, an assortment of socks was strewn from cucumbers to squash. 

I don’t have words for the embarrassment of attempting to retrieve each item from the bevy of vendors and farmers – none of which did I share a common language. There was pointing, snickering, belly-laughs, even a few snorts. Only one guy had the decency to hand over my goods without hassling, while barely suppressing a smile. As he passed my pink undies, I pointed to some red onions and said I’d take those, too. “At least, I should buy some vegetables while here,” I reasoned.

That dude is still my go-to veg man. And, yep, they all still smile and snicker as I walk through the market, all these years later.

You’d think I would learn a lesson from this experience, right? Well, apparently not, as last year after renovating our new apartment in Lucca, Italy, I had another laundry-day “mishap.”

We were running late, as per usual, to catch a train and leave Italy for our 90-day-no-visa-exile, also per usual. While madly snatching laundry from the line hanging off our balcony, the wind snatched and set to sail…yet another pair of my underwear (always, the underwear). There was no time to fret about it, so we closed the door and moved on.

Imagine my surprise, when three months later, we arrive back home to Lucca, enter our only-accessible-with-key building and open our mailbox to find a pair of panties. No package, no note, just panties in a mailbox.

So many questions. Who found my underwear? Was it a neighbor in the building or someone doors down? Did they ring the buzzer while holding panties? How did they know where the panties belonged? Do they snicker every time they see me now?

Ah well, we live, we learn, right? These days, only sheets, towels and other large items go outside on the line, double-pinned, of course. I can’t decide if that’s smart or just plain boring, but I figure there are so many other ways as a stranger-in-strange-lands to humiliate myself on a daily basis that it’s good to eliminate this one.

I hope you enjoyed my traveling life story and will share some of your own. We all need laughs right now.

And, here’s a toast to future cocktail parties and many, many more stories!

Coming soon…Tales of a Traveling Life II:

Lockdown Larnaca: Our Crazy Weird Neighbors in Cyprus.

Cheers, y’all!

Laundry daze, Croatia.

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