Last week when I went to do the laundry at my scheduled time I found that the key was already taken and someone was using the laundry room. I assumed that the previous slot was just running a little late so I went back to the apartment and waited a bit. I checked back several times and then realized that my slot had been stolen! Scandalous! And also frustrating since I’d already stripped the only set of sheets we have off the bed and put them in the bag with all our sweaty gym clothes and there were no available slots for three days. Good thing I collect blankets on transatlantic flights.
Apparently I’m not the first person in Sweden to have such an experience. On Sunday we were at the Nordiska Museum in Stockholm and they had a special exhibit entitled “Tvättstugan” which is the Swedish word for Laundry. Surprisingly the exhibit was pretty interesting and gave us some more insight into Swedish life. The exhibit explained the history of the laundry room in Sweden along with various stories of people’s experiences, frustrations and confrontations in the laundry room.
In the 50’s the government put together a set of guidelines for what they considered to be acceptable living conditions for all citizens. One of the guidelines was that all Swedes should have easy access to facilities to wash themselves and their clothes. Thus almost every apartment building in Sweden has a communal laundry facility which is normally included in your rent payments, so there are almost no laundromats anywhere in the country. And since over 40% of Swedes live in apartments there are many thousands of laundry rooms and stories about them.
We learned from the exhibit that it is very common to leave anonymous notes to express frustration at fellow laundry room users. Apparently this stems from Swedish desire to avoid conflict and to remain anonymous. The exhibit had many examples of notes that people had left – some were actually quite funny. There is even a Swedish website (similar to the English-language Passive Aggressive Notes) that showcases some notes that have been left for others in laundry rooms across the country. I guess next time my slot gets stolen I’ll have to do the Swedish thing and leave a strongly-worded note. Probably it won’t matter much that my Swedish is really poor – I think poor spelling and grammar are hallmarks of a good passive aggressive note.