It was a simple enough question.
"Where are your washing lines?"
The blank stare got even blanker. Then, "Excuse me?"
"Do you sell washing lines," I tried.
"You mean, like for the tub? The tubs are at the back of the store," she replied.
"No, no, sorry," I said. "I don't want to buy a bath-tub."
'Here we go again', I thought.
I was in my local hardware shop, Home Depot - one of our favourite US shops because it looks just like B&Q inside and out! Even has the same logo (are the two stores sisters?) Anyway, the Mom/Mum household often find ourselves here on a Sunday if we're feeling homesick and want some comfort from a bag of nails.
But today wasn't Sunday and it wasn't DIY that brought me, Cheeky and Monkey through their doors.
"I'm looking for a clothes dryer," I continued, though I might as well have been speaking Russian for all the sense I seemed to be making.
"Well Ma'am," she said. (I still love how I get called ma'am over here) "The dryers will be right next to the tubs and the washers. In the home appliance section."
This wasn't going well. And I thought it would be such a quick and simple trip out to the shops. Silly me.
We'd decided to Go Green you see. The guilt of how much our little corner of the US is contributing to global warming finally got to us. Kitchen towels individually wrapped in plastic then put in their big multi-pack cellophane wrapping. No fines for over-stuffing your wheelie-bin in my neighbourhood. No. Garden sprinklers going even when it's raining, minimal public transport, four-car families a-plenty, Hummers all over the road. It had finally brought me out in a not-very-Eco-friendly sweat. I decided our family were going to do our bit for the environment (an our electricity bill) and STOP USING OUR TUMBLE DRYER!
Which brings me to why I was having yet another getting-me-nowhere conversation with an American shop assistant.
I wanted to buy a whirly gig. Clothes line/outdoor clothes dryer/retractable washing line/laundry line - whatever you call it I think in the UK they all amount to the same understandable contraption for drying ones smalls outside.
Not Stateside though.
So I got descriptive and with some GCSE Drama improv and mime, the shop assistant's beffudlement finally faded and she said,
"Oh you mean you want a rotary airer?! Aisle seven."
I didn't dare ask her if they sold pegs too. Just as well, because when we got to the washing lines, there was a bin next to them full of lovely pastel coloured pegs and it was marked, 'Laundry Pins.'
Isn't the English language just marvellous?!