Having had the hostel dorm to myself for two nights, I was last night joined by an Englishman called Dave. Hooray! Conversation that did not necessitate sign language! We went for a few beers and exchanged travel stories at the bar – but not before I’d attempted to find out from the barman if there was such a thing as a tumble dryer on the premises.
I’ve just washed some clothes in the sink, I explained, miming the washing action and indicating my own clothes for good measure. Is there a tumble dryer? Following his blank stare, I continued unabashed. A machine for drying my clothes? I mimed a wringing action, but the barman shook his head, obviously trying really hard to understand, but failing completely. I’m sorry, he said, embarrassed, my English is terrible! I smiled, appreciating his efforts. OK, I said, putting my hands flat on the bar to indicate fresh determination. Let’s take it right back. There are machines to wash clothes, right? I did a spin cycle motion with my hands, and he nodded. Excellent. Well, I continued, there are also machines for drying clothes. Again, I did the spin cycle movements, thinking that at least my arms were getting a good workout, if nothing else. Poor wee barman. He shook his head, puzzled, and I realised that the problem was with the verb “to dry”, which he’d clearly never heard before now. Dry, I persevered, smiling encouragingly, to make them not wet any more. No longer wet. Can’t wear wet clothes – need them to be not wet. Dry!
The barman’s eyes lit up and he slapped his forehead. Ah, of course, of course, I understand! He nodded enthusiastically and repeated my tumble drying mime. You want the machine for to take away the water! We smiled happily at each other. Yes, I said. So is there one here at the hostel?
No, he said.
I returned to the dorm to hang my wet clothes over the bunk beds. C’est la vie. And this morning, to my delight, my clothes were actually dry anyway, thanks to the warmth of the night air. Quickly I packed everything away and trundled off to the train station for another ridiculous not-a-single-word-in-common conversation with a ticket booth attendant. (Although “Budapest” seemed to be sufficient, and we mimed the rest.)
Ticket in hand, I sat down by the railway track and was idly pondering how my luggage expands at every destination without me actually buying anything, when I saw Dave walking towards me. Puzzled, I looked at him. Hello again, he said cheerfully, reaching me a pair of knickers.
How embarrassing is it to have a virtual stranger chase after you to the train station with your knickers in his hand? And the only reason I’d forgotten them was because I’m obviously a little bashful about things like that, so when I’d washed them I hadn’t hung them over the beds with the rest of my clothes, but carefully concealed them from his view at the head of my bed. Honestly – you try to come across as all friendly and interesting when you meet new people, and yet at the end of the day their lasting memory of you is going to concern your knickers.
Still. At least they were clean.