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Washing and Drying with Fuzzy Logic

When one thinks of cultural differences, several things may come to mind.  For example living in a country not your own, differences in language tend to pose the most problems. And for us difficulties with the language are at the forefront of our daily confusion.  However, there are small things one never thinks about.  For instance: laundry.  Laundry was something we didn’t expect to stump us.  We have, after all, been doing laundry most of our lives.  Wouldn’t you think we could figure out something that simple wherever we may be in the world?

When we contracted to rent the house we requested a washing machine and dryer.  When we moved in to the house, sure enough, the laundry room was so equipped.  Ok they’re small but we can make do, we thought, after all there are only two of us.   The challenge began with deciphering the control panel.  Except for one English phrase, “Fuzzy Logic”, all instructions were, of course, in Japanese.  We asked our realtor, the landlord, and the man from the gas company how to operate the machine.  They all said the same thing.  “Press this button, then that button.  Don’t touch anything else.”  Huh?  Clearly there was much more.  More buttons, more flashing lights.  And a lot more questions.  How do we adjust the water level?  What does this button do?  What about “normal wash”, “really dirty wash”, “delicates”?  Who can tell us?


Control Panel

Fortunately, our friend in Sendai offered to help.  I e-mailed a photo of the control panel to Yuko-san.  She, kindly, labeled the buttons in English, and sent it back.  Ahhh, at least the mystery of the buttons was solved.  We still press only “this button, then that button” and we don’t touch anything else. There was this one time when the washer was running and Chas inadvertently leaned against the control panel.  The washer beeped and stopped and seemed to be saying, “Ok now what?”  Chas gasped and then did what he referred to as a “master reset”.  He unplugged it from the outlet and started over. There are still a few little aggravations. The most aggravating is its insistence to make its own decisions about  

water level. At the start of the cycle it bounces the tub around, thinks with fuzzy logic and then fills the tub to some calculated level, sets the wash time and begins. The water level is always too low for our satisfaction. Thinking with fuzzy logic ourselves we have learned to trick it to get the water level we want.

Now the clothes are washed: so what about the dryer?


It didn’t look like any dryer either of us had ever seen.  It was about the size and shape of a large table fan, and it was mounted on a frame above the washing machine.  There was only one button on this appliance.  We saw no way to adjust drying time or heat.  Hmmmm….  This really was a mystery.  According to our friend, clothes dryers are considered hard on clothing; and we were told that Japanese women much prefer to hang out their laundry to air dry. In fact, we have noticed many homes with covered areas outside under which the clothes can hang protected from the elements while they dry.  Except for inside, our house does not have any such covered areas. Even though we are accustomed to hanging most of our laundry on drying racks, and expect to continue that practice, we knew we would use the dryer for towels, sheets, and other large items.  Uhhh, large?  I think we have a dilemma. As mentioned before there is only one, dual purpose, button on the dryer; On/Off.  So it can be deduced there is no adjustment for the heat.  There is only one setting and it is hot.  After the first 30 minutes the clothes are still soaking wet but wow are they hot, and steaming!  Chas had to run a drain hose from the bottom of the dryer to the shower so that the dryer could drain water as it ran.


Washer and Dryer

So the dryer gets hot, drains water and runs until it decides the items within are dry, you know; the two bath towels or the one queen size sheet.  Typical drying time is 3-4 hours.  Happy with its lot in life the dryer seems to have developed a sense of fuzzy humor.  During the time the sheet spins in the dryer, it is formed into a perfectly rolled, tightly wrapped tootsie roll.  The dryer, sensing the roll is dry on the outside, stops and beeps for my attention.  Chas says he thinks it just gets lonely.  My job, at that point, is to unroll the tootsie roll, exposing the still wet center, and return the sheet to the dryer where it spins another couple of hours.  Realizing that this phenomenon will faithfully repeat itself, I have developed a routine which involves unrolling the tootsie about once each hour until the sheet is dry.  If you do the math, you realize a relatively simple task such as washing bed linen can take, literally, all day. We have decided the only way we can out smart the dryer is to hang the clothes outside. 

Chas sometimes comes home to find me talking to myself.  On those days he knows I have been out witted once more by Fuzzy Logic. - Bobbie