Grown up to mess up (or Money Laundering Made Easy!)

We had a minor domestic catastrophe here last Saturday. I walked into the main bathroom/laundry room to find roughly three inches of water on the floor and the washing machine doing its best Vesuvius imitation. Apparently there was something wrong. Soon, we also learned that there was also something wrong with the WetVac. My love, in rubber boots to prevent electric shock, and I spent a couple of hours mopping, drying, and pushing the large-size washer and dryer around a room barely larger than a closet. The air was blue. Of course, the unfinished load contained several towels that when wet and piled in a laundry basket, took on the weight of a small sports car. I finally wrung things out by hand sufficiently to hang the wet wash over lawn chairs in the screen room to freeze (frozen clothes dry faster in the dryer than wet clothes. Ask a physicist why. Something to do with states of matter. I don’t understand the science behind it but it works.)

The woman on the phone at Sears was helpful and found me an appointment that didn’t conflict with the dentist or the forum I wanted to attend at work. She left me knowing that someone would show up sometime on Thursday. A series of calls later in the week would narrow that slot to four hours. I made plans to work at home. The predicted raging blizzard arrived right on time, so quite frankly, I was happy to be trapped at home.

Once the polite young man who showed up at 10 a.m. jacked up my washer and let loose another torrent of water, he found the problem to be in the area of the water pump. We’d need a new one, which he, wonder of wonder, had on the truck. Once he’d replaced the part, he handed me two fairly new nickels that were paper thin and so sheared on the edges, they looked like they’d come out of a dig site in upper Mesopotamia. “There’s your problem,” he pronounced. Seems the coins, which I had failed to remove from probably my pockets, had mystically lodged together between the drum and the hard plastic coupling of the hose and as they ground together (Oh. That explains that funny noise), they carved a half-inch circular hole in the hose. Which finally burst on Saturday.

I should have been upset. I should have been filled with remorse. I should have at least felt some embarrassment. But as I handed over my Amex card to pay the $347.00 it cost for the pump, the service call and labor, I felt an epiphany dawning. Yeah, I had screwed up. I should be more careful. I should check the pockets better. God knows I’ve washed tons of pens, folding money, tissues, old grocery lists and lots of other pocket cargo. I messed up. But I was an adult and while we could mourn being down the cash (the equivalent of a third of the mortgage payment—that’s how I tend to related to sums of money)—I couldn’t get into trouble. I was an adult. I could make decisions. It was my stuff and if I broke it, it was my problem.

As I almost gleefully related to cause of the problem on the phone, even my love seemed to realize that this was no time to get that “told you so” tone in her voice.

In all, the experience was tremendously freeing.

I thought about the fact that if I had done this as a teen, there would be endless discussions about my carelessness, the inconveniencing of others (I come from very moral stock—causing more work for someone would have left me feeling far more guilty than the repair cost) and no doubt, some allowance claw back. In the dorm, it would have been dirty clothes for all and probably no repairman until after most of us had graduated. Later, in various apartments, I would have suspiciously avoided common laundry facilities for fear of catching blame.

But this was this adult’s washer and if I broke the thing out of stupidity, all it meant was I’d have to pay to get it fixed. Yes, freeing.

This flash of insight lead to consider other similar freedoms being an adult allows. I could fail to wipe up stove spills until the element burned out. I could leave the milk out all night. I could forget to close the freezer door until all the meat and ice cream thawed and congrealed into a smelly sticky goo. Hell, why I’m at it, I could throw a ball through the neighbor’s window. They wouldn’t be happy, I’d get disappointed looks from the members of the community association and there would be the possibility of the authorities being called—but in the end, all I’d have to do is buy them another window.

I’m not planning on doing any of those things. But for someone who is working very hard on not expecting the worst, someone who has been warned she has to train herself not to worry so much to avoid getting sick, this was a revelation.

Realizing that a lot of things that get broken can be fixed—with just a little time or cash—might not seem thunderbolt worthy to most—but for me, it was well worth the four backed up loads of laundry I had to do when the young man left.

I kept the nickels. I may have them framed or perhaps made into a nice piece of jewelry. A reminder that messing up isn’t all that bad. As long as you learn something—particularly about yourself—from it.

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One Comment on “Grown up to mess up (or Money Laundering Made Easy!)”

  1. Jim McGuire says:

    I really enjoyed this. The coins would make the start of a great charm bracelet!

    It’s amazing how much power our upbringings still have, all these years later… How many of us are still looking for some freedom from our own self-defeating attitudes?


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