Love, loss and laundry

A couple of decades ago, I would have been quite shocked if someone would have told me that at some time in the future, I’d be voluntarily writing about major appliances. Particularly if they told me I’d do it more than once.

Granted that was when I lived across the street from a huge coin laundromat. If my own machines weren’t working–which happened on only two occasions in nearly 20 years– I’d grab a handful of change and take a walk. Problem solved.

But seriously, I think life at home may have taken a turning point with this month’s purchase of a new washer and dryer. But not for the reasons you might think.

For me it was a sign that I’d got to that place where the line “they don’t make’em like they used to” slips out without warning.

Five years ago, when I moved to “the country,” we bought ourselves a real humdinger of a laundry pair. A rare high efficiency top loader (we feared a leaking front door in our first main floor laundry room, a sentiment that would become one of our favorite ironies over the ensuing years), the Sears near the top end Elite Oasis. In Charcoal.

I had first stumbled upon these machines at a home show and quite frankly, it was love at first sight. Forget the fact that my 5’ 2” and slightly shrinking frame required a step stool to capture errant socks. Or that together, the washer and dryer were wider than a ’69 Buick, parked uncomfortably in a small laundry alcove in our main bathroom. I was so taken with the sheer majesty and design of these monoliths that I paid Sears $19.89 a few months later when the washer, in an attempt to escape the sheets it contained, walked forward into the alcove door and got a nasty scratch on its finish.

It was love. I was blind.

Exactly 37 days after the extended warrantee gave out, our troubles began. First I’d have to coax the dryer on with several tries. I first considered it might be over-heated, but even when I gave it its space to cool down, it remained fickle. A new motherboard cost $250, plus $160 in labor. Granted the next time was my fault, stray coins in the washer drilled a hole in the water pump that lead to a flood. I made amends. For $347.63. By the time my washer and I were on speaking terms again, I needed another motherboard and overhaul for the dryer—I think it felt I had abandoned it and I was going to pay. I did. More than $600 that time.  And the month I hung laundry in the yard, waiting for the part to arrive was filled with brutally harsh towels and the occasional unfortunate bird incident on the sheets. And a good white cotton Edwardian style tunic blouse that met a bad end in a windstorm.

I took a long hard cold look at where our relationship was going. My lapse in affection did not go unnoticed—with the motherboard in the washer deciding to go. Again. The heartbreaking beeps of its refusal to start haunts me still. The guy from Sears charged me $275 to tell me the machine wasn’t worth fixing and show me how to over-ride the motherboard so it only refused my commands and beeped twice during a load. And he mentioned that all the washer-dryer fix-it guys were getting rid of their high end high HE machines and buying up what few agitator models were still in production. The professional option is that the new machines tend to be more trouble than they’re worth. That advice was worth the hit on Amex.

Besides, the leaking was getting worst and between the rust gathering at the bottom of the machine and the incessant cries for help  from the control fraying my nerves a little more with every load, I wondered how much longer we could keep up this charade.  I stopped worrying about how we could stay together and starting thinking about how I could vanish this once beloved laundry pair from my life. For good. In ways that didn’t require a sledgehammer.

One cold January evening on the way home from work, my love and I found ourselves at Leon’s caressing the smooth white exterior of a low end non HE laundry pair. Less than a grand for the set, with parts and labor for both covered that first honeymoon year by the manufacturer and the next four for a few hundred more. Parts and labor. And they’d cart away our troubles as long as we could get them to the end of the driveway. And we could. Oh…we would.

It’s been a few weeks with my new laundry lovelies. I am happy. I am relieved. I no longer spend Fridays worried that my weekends will be ruined by moody appliances and piles of unwashed bedding. There’s no need to rush to detergent sales, hoping to snag one of the few bottles marked HE, I’m free to use what I want. I’m soothed by the retro sound of the agitator whirling my sweaters into clean softness. Our whites are now white, not what I’ve termed as “high efficiently ecru.” And I feel quite self-righteous, having the courage to shroud off the yoke of the latest and greatest. I don’t need a steam setting and pre-soak to be happy. I am somehow…purer than those who do.

Granted if this relationship doesn’t work out, I will be on the prowl in antique stores for a nice ringer model just like my grandmother’s. Even if my childhood was marked with the fear that it would somehow reach across the basement and suck in my arm. Then again, I have nice pond across from the house. Perhaps the next course of action is simply  a good flat rock.



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