Bucharest, Day 3.
Oh, boy. This morning I started the day with a screaming match with the Youth Hostel receptionist/manager over some laundry/pressing which cost 30 Euros (remember, the average monthly wage here is supposedly only 55 Euros!).
You see, the hostel's washing machine was broken, as I was informed two days ago when I arrived. Laundry facilities were the first thing I asked about upon changing hotels, and they claimed that the machine would be fixed "by Monday".
This was, of course, not so. I guess Romania, in these kinds of things, operates a bit like the famous Mexican "mañana", which never literally means "tomorrow", but actually means: "sometime within the next week, or month, maybe." (and the maybe is the key word, the one you really want to remember, the one that gives "mañana" its true meaning).
So seeing how I had to do laundry quite urgently, and the laundromat two streets away recommended by the hostel was actually only dry clean and pressing, no simple wash and dry, and therefore rather expensive (especially considering I had a full week's worth of clothes to do), I had asked the manager, yesterday, for a good place to do it.
She didn't know.
I asked "Could you look it up in the yellow pages for me, please? I'm not good in Romanian."
She said sure, looked for things, but apparently found only dry cleaners.
"Do laundromats not exist here in Bucharest?"
"Well, there are none listed here."
Strange. I looked dejected.
She then brightly offered: "If you like, we can send your stuff to our laundromat, where we send our linens. I'm sure they wouldn't mind doing your load as well."
"Wonderful," I had said. "How much do you think it would cost?"
She had no idea.
"O.K. but I just want wash and dry, no pressing or dry cleaning."
"Yes," said she.
"No pressing or dry cleaning, because for that I can just go to that place round the corner, the one you recommended to me when I asked you earlier."
"Yes." she said again.
O.K., yesterday I give them my clothes.
Today they come here dry-cleaned and pressed.
The bill? 110 Lei (about 30 Euros).
Are they insane???
Not even in the U.S. would a dry-cleaning bill run me that expensive!
I refused to pay. I explicitly said, twice, I did not want dry cleaning.
Their linens returned just washed and dried.
Why were my clothes pressed?
The lady at the hostel started screaming: "What, we press this for you and now you don't want to pay? Someone has to pay the laundromat!"
"It won't be me, I got a service I did not ask for. In fact, I got a service I explicitly did not ask for," said I.
More screaming: "In Romania it is like this, there are no laundromats, only dry cleaners."
I said I did not think that was true.
Yes it was.
Was it really?
"Yes, it is. In Romania it is like this."
"But I explicitly told you: no dry cleaning. You said yes."
"Well, THIS IS THE WAY IT IS!"
"I'm not paying."
[By the way, the more she is screaming, the more calmly and quietly I am repeating the same thing. This throws her to despair. She repeats the same thing over and over again, "this is the way things are in Romania". I let her finish, eventually there is a lull in the conversation.]
"O.K. May I speak now?" said I.
"Yes, you may speak now." says she.
"Yesterday morning, when you offered to send my stuff to your laundromat..."
"BUT IN ROMANIA IT IS NOT A LAUNDROMAT, WE ONY HAVE DRY CLEANERS HERE!" she screamed again.
I let her finish.
"May I speak again please? I already heard what you had to say, you keep repeating the same thing."
"YES BUT DID YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I SAID?? IN ROMANIA IT IS LIKE THIS!"
Oh! Classic exercise in psychology. One will repeat the same thing until they're convinced that the other party understands. O.K. So I had to show her I understood.
"Yes, I understand. In Romania there are no laundromats, only dry cleaners. O.K., I got it."
"GOOD!" she said.
"But, now that I listened and understood, will you listen to what I have to say?"
She protested a bit, but finally let me speak.
"When I asked you where I could get my laundry done, I explicitly said I did not want it dry cleaned nor pressed. I did this twice, and you know I did, because you even recommended your laundromat after I told you that the one at the corner only did pressing. You knew full well I did not want it pressed, and you understood. If you knew that in Romania they only dry clean and press, not just laundry, then you, as a local in good faith, should've told me so before offering to send it to your laundry, which you made me believe would only do laundry, not pressing."
"BUT IN GOOD FAITH I TRIED TO HELP YOU, NOW YOU DON'T WANT TO PAY??", said she.
"You tried to help me, but in the end the place where you sent my clothes did not do what I asked, nor, probably what you asked either. They provided a service I did not ask for. I will not pay for this. If anything, you should at least pay half, because it is just as much your fault that I got this unwanted service, as anyone else's."
"OH, THE HOSTEL PAYS HALF, AND YOU GET YOUR CLOTHES CLEANED AND PRESSED. GOOD DEAL FOR YOU, RIGHT?"
"I don't care about the clothes. You keep them, if you want. The point is, I'm not paying 30 Euros for a service I did not ask for." And I made motions towards the door (I had already decided to switch to a hotel last night, after the snoring, and had arranged for new rooms--closer to city center--early this morning, so my bags were already packed and waiting by the door, I was just waiting for the laundry to come back so that I could leave the stupid hostel).
"YOU KNOW WHAT, I DON'T WANT TO ARGUE WITH YOU. TAKE YOUR CLOTHES AND PAY ME 15 EUROS, THEN."
I was so exhausted by now, I just had to then. But I left the place shaking with anger.
That's it. No more youth hostels for me. I'm sick of the snoring, the 3 a.m. drunken partying, the messy showers. By this point and after all the mountains of dust I've had to endure, I deserve (and can afford) some luxury.
Good that I had arranged a different hotel already. With its quiet, single room, TV, private bath and shower, it was a peaceful refuge, from this very confusing peoples.