Humor by John Christmann

A Clean Start

a washboard with digital display

I have been in neglect to discuss a very important and meaningful subject that touches all of our lives on a daily basis.

I am, of course, referring to heavy appliances.

You know. Dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, cryogenic sleep chambers . . . all of those big heavy items that households can not do without.

Let’s face it. We take these large hulking machines for granted. They work day in and day out making our dishes brighter, our clothes cleaner, our beer colder, and our lives a whole lot easier. And we give them nothing in return, except for some electricity and a little soap and water.

Here is a stark reality: If appliances were people we would all be slave owners.

For this reason I don’t get too emotionally attached to my appliances. Besides, I generally find them to be cold, distant, and intransigent. However, I do get very upset when they decide not to work. It is a major inconvenience when they breakdown and I take it personally—as if I have been abandoned.

Fortunately I have a local repairman who I can call whenever I have a problem. He works on everything. I call him George because, well, that is his name. George.

George is more than a talented and experienced service person. He is an appliance whisperer.

A few weeks ago our dryer quit. It no longer provided any heat. The clothes and loose change clanked noisily round and round but would not dry.

Believe me, there is nothing worse than slipping on a pair of damp underwear in the morning.

A little research revealed that my ten year old dryer was probably suffering from a bad heating element. They can go south on units like ours. Several other people who like to share their tales of success on the Internet identified the identical problem on the identical machine.

It was an easy fix. All that is needed are a few tools, a $25 dollar replacement part, a long weekend, and I suppose a very patient spouse who is wearing dry underwear.

I was pleasantly surprised. It turns out that all of those gloating bloggers were right. It was an easy problem to fix. And in my case, all it took was a cell phone. I called George and he fixed it in no time with a $25 dollar replacement part. And I happily paid the service charge because I was not wearing dry underwear.

I asked George to take a look at our washing machine too. It had a large digital display with a keypad that enabled me to program the washer to complete every possible combination of water temperature, load size, fabric type, cycle duration, and whether or not I wanted curly or waffle fries with that.

I calculated that if I knew anything about washing clothes, I could clean them 1,028 different ways. But these options were irrelevant because not only do I not know anything about washing clothes, the digital display went dead after about a year, so for most of the washing machine’s life I had no idea what it was doing anyway.

I never called for repair because the digital start button still worked. And over the years we simply wore the clothes that survived whatever cycle permutation the washing machine seemed to be on at the moment.

“Say George,” I said after he magically fixed our dryer, “the display pad on our washer doesn’t work . . .”

He raised his hand in the air to shush me, then closed his eyes and placed his hand gently on the stark, cold lid and listened.

“Don’t bother,” he finally said. “You’ld have to replace the whole control unit. It’s cheaper to buy a new machine. Besides, the drum on this unit will go very soon. When it dies, scrap the thing and buy a new machine.”

I trust George, but his bedside manner sometimes leaves a little to be desired. He didn’t even bring up the option of hospice care.

I tried to engage George in some enlightened and compassionate conversation regarding the inner working of our particular washer that might prolong its life a couple more years.

“What is a drum?” I asked.

A week later I found out. There is nothing worse than pulling soapy underwear from a stainless steel tank full of cold water that no longer spins.

Regrettably, where appliance demise is involved, George is of little help.

But he did give me a recommendation. And a few weeks later I took delivery of a popular washing machine that functions entirely with two twisting control knobs. It operates reliably like machines built 50 years ago he told me.

He also told me something else. With a few tools and a long weekend my old washing machine drum can be turned into a really good fire pit.

Perfect for drying suspended underwear the day my dryer gives up the ghost too.

Now that, my friends, is progress.