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Shrinkage and a Supercilious Frenchman: The Trials of Hostel Life

SPAIN | Thursday, 14 February 2008 | Views [916] | Comments [2]

The hostel I have been staying at in Madrid has been quite good.  The breakfasts are awesome, though incredibly carb-laden.  I eat a lot of toast and cereal and I leave the dodgy looking ‘breakfast cakes’ to the Europeans.  The beds are quite comfy, the rooms are very new and clean and the internet is free.  However, there have been moments when this place has driven me crazy and I think that is why I am ready for a new experience in Málaga.

One such problem encountered at this hostel was on Sunday night.  Having eaten a Tortilla Espánol (they are just potato and egg and completely tasteless, never again) with an American room mate at a local bar, we wandered back to the hostel at 8:30pm so I could wash my clothes.  We slid our security card into the room’s lock, opened the door and pushed the card into the slot that turns the light on.  The lights came on for a second and then we heard a bang.  Before I could employ everything I had learnt about disaster survival from watching rescue shows, like Rescue 911 (remember at the start of every ad break how they had to remind the viewer that in Australia we are supposed to dial 000 and not 911, and William Shatner did the voiceover and every episode they needed to rescue a Scout who had fallen into a river and gotten their leg stuck in a bit of driftwood?), we realised that we weren’t under attack and the building wasn’t falling down, the lights had simply blown.  All of the power had gone out on our floor and there wasn’t anyone around to fix it.  That is what the Frenchman who was working the reception desk told me when I inquired as to when we would be able to see in our room.  He then followed this statement up with a smirk and this gem, ‘I cannot help you, as I did not learn how to become an electrician.’  Smart arse.

They eventually got power in every second room, it was unfortunate that ours wasn’t one of them.  We had to find our way around with a small torch and then move rooms the next day.  I could have lived with that, but the laundry was on the same level and when the power went out the two washing machines stopped and then started again from the very beginning.  I wasn’t able to wash my clothes until 10pm, which meant that if I wanted to get any sleep at all that night, I would have to use… THE DRYER.

One of my biggest hurdles so far is washing my clothes.  I don’t mean the actual washing, I am fine with that.  It is getting over my ingrained distrust of clothes dryers.  I was brought up to treat the dryer’s power with respect – you should only put in towels and sheets (but not fitted sheets) and pillowcases and underwear (but not all underwear, certainly not Chesty Bonds) and at a stretch – socks.  But never wet.  I use the dryer when everything is at that point where it is nearly dry, it just needs that extra blast of energy when the wind isn’t cutting it.  With that in mind, it took a lot of courage for me to take my clothes out of the machine at 11pm on the night the power went out and place them all, still wet, into the dryer.  Thinking back now, I still get the shivers!

I was so worried about what the dryer would do to my clothes that I would not put it on for the full 90 minutes like the Americans were doing and instead went for short 20 minute bursts.  After each burst, I would pull out my clothes and check them all for signs of shrinkage.  It was paranoid, I know, but I couldn’t seem to stop.  I finally had to stop when it had been over an hour and nothing was even close to dry, probably because I kept stopping the cycle whenever it was just getting warmed up.  I was so tired at that point that I gave in, setting the full cycle and crossing my fingers. 

When I went back an hour later, it was a miracle!  Things were dry and they kind of looked like they would still fit.  My jeans felt great the next day, like when you first buy them and they fit perfectly and the logos on all of my shirts were intact.  The only casualty was my new dark grey top, it had shrunk at least one size and although it still fits me, it is certainly not flattering anymore!  (I later learnt from Mum that 100% cotton things often shrink in the dryer, sound advice, but a little too late for my top.)





Tags: Misadventures



You cannot be expected to keep up with the Americans when it comes to clothes dryers - they put EVERYTHING in there all the time. Remember the Halperns didnt even have a clothes line...

  Jem Feb 15, 2008 4:08 PM


When we were in England we had the same dilemma. It was too cold and we had no yard, much less a washing line. We would try hanging things around our room, but there wasn't enough air circulation to actually make a difference and it would take days for all the water to drip out. When confronted with the massively over-sized industrial driers, we did exactly what you did, 20 minutes at a time. It didn't work for us either... and I also shrunk a jumper on my first 90 minute cycle.

  Nina Feb 16, 2008 10:45 AM

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