Over the course of twenty years we have made the acquaintance of no fewer than four washing machines in France. French washing machines, which bear no resemblance in form or function to anything even remotely familiar to Americans as a washing machine.
Our first encounter, while staying in a cottage in the Aude, was with a bizarre little thing that looked for all the world like R2D2. And before I go any farther, let me acknowledge that over the years I have, yes, engaged in some hyperbole when telling stories; taking, as they say, some creative license in the name of good story telling. But this is straight reportage.
So, about R2D2. First off, forget everything…and I mean EVERYTHING… you ever knew or thought you knew about washing machines, because the French concept of washing machine is so entirely different from the NorteAmericana version as to be from not another country, but another planet. And not one from OUR solar system.
First off, you have to do your wash at night, because electricity, which many of the French seem to believe is actually more expensive than gold, is less expensive at night. And when you open up R2D2 to deposit the laundry, why lo and behold, you discover the inside of the thing looks nothing at all like what you were expecting. No, there is no center pillar around which the vanes swish back and forth. No, you open a trap door, and put the clothes into a cylinder that is on its side, so the clothes go into a space more akin to a spin clothes dryer without the front door. Then you have to figure out where to put the soap.
Nothing simple like, just dump the soap in the washer. There are multiple places for things to go, no indication which space gets which additive, and absolutely no indication anywhere on the evil little thing indicating how to start it, or how to set it. It just knows.
Ok, its like 9pm and we find a button that might make it start, and we push it, and of course, nothing happens. But, as we eventually discovered, it didn’t mean we got it wrong. R2D2 was just thinking about it a while. About 15 minutes later, after we had given up hope for the evening and were getting ready for bed, things started to happen.
Remember the movie Top Gun? Remember those fighter planes? Remember the sound of raw power as that Tomcat wound up its engines to a thunderous, gut shuddering roar when the afterburners kicked in? Well, that is what happened next. No kidding. Swear-to-god. And so we went to bed, laughing at little R2D2, that quirky little fella, and we fell asleep as the jet engine slowly whined its way down to a stop, and silence. Utter silence.
And about an hour later, without any warning, flight deck operations resumed in our kitchen, with R2D2 in full-throated fury. This sucker was alternating brief periods of complete silence and meditation with long stretches of Afterburner Antics, right through the night. All we could do was laugh, because every time we finally slipped off into sleep, the malignant little contraption would go to General Quarters again.
And the wash cycle? Oh, 4 hours. And by the way, almost nobody in France has a clothes dryer. so that four hour investment was just for a wash. Next day the clothes went out on the line.
That morning I happened to catch a look at the nameplate on the little miscreant. It’s name was MALICE.