Jan 25 2014

When the “fix” is worse than the problem

A while back, our building superintendent installed an electronic booking and access system for our three shared laundry rooms. It replaced a perfectly serviceable manual locking peg-board system, which was supposedly necessary because some residents were allegedly poaching each other’s wash times and occasionally even stealing laundry items.

Dr. Darling and I had never experienced any of these problems, probably because we tend to reserve the earliest possible laundry times on weekend mornings and don’t ever wash anything that anybody would actually want to steal. Consequently, we were pretty ambivalent about the new system, especially when we learned that booking couldn’t be done online … we would still have to make the trek to the basement to see available days/times and reserve a slot. Where’s the high-tech in that?

So now we book our wash times on an electronic screen mounted in the central hallway between the laundry rooms using an electronic fob that grants us access to the selected room during the appointed time slot. And by and large, it works pretty well … unless there’s a power outage, of course. Or you happen to leave something behind after your reserved time is over… a stray sock, for example, or my specialty … pillow cases.

Once your booked time expires, there is no way to get back into the laundry room unless the slot immediately after it happens to be free … in which case you can book that time and access the room again. Of course that’s NEVER the case when I have accidentally left something behind on a weekend morning.

And here is where the system becomes really non-user friendly … for reasons I cannot fathom, it’s completely anonymous. Users can see when the laundry rooms are reserved, but not who has booked them. WHY and WTF? Here in Sweden, it’s possible for me to look up my neighbors’ salaries online, but evidently knowing when they do their laundry is a major breach of privacy. Seriously?!

So when I thought* I had inadvertently left a pair of pillow cases on the folding table (half of which is hidden when the door is open) today, the only way to find out who was using the room after me … other than hanging around outside the door to wait for the next washer … was to contact the building superintendent, who naturally doesn’t work on weekends. But as we had a dinner invitation and needed to leave within the hour, stalking the next laundry-doer was not really an option.

So I did the only other thing I could think of … which unfortunately required me to confess my mistake to the hyper-conscientious Swede, who NEVER loses anything when she does the laundry and cannot understand how I manage it. Tail between my legs, I enlisted the very tired (she’d worked all day) and now pissed-off Dr. Darling to write a note (because it had to be in Swedish) explaining what I’d left behind and asking him/her to kindly place the pillow cases in the plastic bag I conveniently hung on the door knob. We also left the my mobile phone number in case they wanted to call.

But no-one called, and when we got back from our friends’ place (where I endured plenty of good-natured ribbing for my carelessness over a “slow food” dinner), the plastic bag was still hanging on the door knob empty. At this point, Dr. Darling was in a much better mood (thanks to both the “gin course” and the wine that had been served with the rest of the meal), and could actually see the humorous irony in the fact that we never had a single item of laundry go missing until the stupid super-secret high security electronic access system was installed.

*We later discovered the “missing” pillow cases at the bottom of the laundry hamper.


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  1. Pat Tibbs

    Glad you found the pillow cases. One would think the person who received the note could have called you to say s/he hadn’t found the pillow cases.

    1. Shazzer (@Shazzer)

      You only think that because you’re an American, Pat! I was not at all surprised that the Swedish neighbor did not call.

  2. Kev Meredith (@KymriskaDraken)

    Our laundry is the same, but we can book online.

    1. Shazzer (@Shazzer)

      Being able to book online would be the only redeeming feature of this system, as far as I’m concerned, Kev!

Feed my ego!

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