It sounds like the title of a surrealist film: the woman who went in to buy a washing machine and came out with a phone.
My intentions were clear: I needed to buy a washing machine. I haven't had a washing machine in over a year, which sounds crazy but it hasn't been a problem at all. I began taking my washing to the laundrette for a drop off wash, picking it up two days later, smelling of spring and fluffed and folded to perfection. I thought it would be temporary but I began to look forward to picking up my washing and sticking my head in the bag and sniffing deeply. This might sound odd but you just cant get the same results at home. Most one bedroom flats in London do not have room to have a tumble dryer so the clothes are washed but then left to drip dry over radiators or the backs of chairs. The water is so hard and chalky, that your clothes dry completely stiff as a board and your towels feel like rough sandpaper... Great for exfoliation, rubbish for comfort. So essentially, I have become totally spoilt.
The Indian ladies, who work in the laundrette, now know me by name. It's not quite the same as walking into your local pub, and someone shouting your name whilst pourring you a glass of merlot, but it made me feel part of the community. They no longer ask what I need, they are already writing the ticket as I walk in the door. "Hello Miss Juliet, two small washes, one light, one dark, non bio powder?" and then they giggle. I love it. But I worked out how much I had spent on my luxury washing the other day, and I was quite horrified. In one year I have spent £336! Oh my god!
£336 would get me a weeks holiday in Egypt, albeit it with gangster Russians who seems to have infiltrated the Egyptian red sea coastline.
£336 would buy me an iPad.
£336 would buy me over three days of a polish decorators time.
£336 would buy me, more importantly, a top of the range, award winning, washing machine!
So, last week I relented. I bravely told the Indian ladies it was my my last visit and that it had been an amazing year, and I went along to the soulless warehouse that is Comet. In fact, this place is one of those factory outlets that has everything under one roof. Computers sit side by side with washing machines and cookers: there is as Starbucks and a phone shop too. It's quite a vile place because all the salespeople wear polyester and they look bored to death... until, of course, you look in their direction and suddenly, on goes the fake smile and the smarm and they are at your side in a flash. But it's cheap and convenient, and when you are buying a washing machine, you don't really need more than that.
I had casually walked over to the washing machines, trying not to draw attention to myself when a sales girl appeared under my armpit and began her monologue on the pro's and cons of each washing machine. She then looked a bit pained and excused herself to go to the toilet. Maybe she felt as nauseated as me, by her own chit chat, but I decided to grab a coffee while she sorted herself out. I had taken two steps, when I was pounced on by an excitable phone salesman.
"Morning madam, can I try and guess your phone?"
"You can try," I say, "but I promise you, you'll never guess". He looked so happy. I had challenged him. But the poor boy was out of his depth and he didn't even know it.
I have had my phone for 12 years. It is an old Nokia that was originly made for the building trade, encased in rubber and with a built in spirit level, I kid you not! It was lovingly referred to as The Builders Phone... Clever branding heh? But I love this phone, and poor old Vodafone don't get it, they keep trying to force upgrades on me. They keep ringing me saying "Miss Sellars, you do realise they haven't made your model of phone in over 6 years, the only country still making them is in France, where it is aptly named, Le Bouncy." ha, ha, I love that.
So Mr Enthusiastic tried to guess. He named, possibly thirty models of phone til he gave up. I pulled out my phone, with a dramatic, ta da, and held it up. Seeing a grown man recoil from a harmless object is a little strange, but I suppose, for a phone man, my mobile was an atrocity. He was so horrified, the little bugger, actually shut up for at least 30 seconds while he tried to compute what he was seeing. But he recovered himself admirably and before I knew what was happening, he had me in a chair with complimentary coffee and was whispering sweet nothing's in my ear about a free iphone. "Free?" I say, feebly under his spell. "Free... Juliet, can I call you Juliet?" God, he was good, the little devil. Part salesman, part private investigator! When did I tell him my name?
By the time the poor washing machine girl had finished her ablutions, I had a pathetic grin on my face and an iPhone in my bag. All I was thinking about was wearing my freshly fluffed, spring smelling jumper whist figuring out how to work the damn phone!