Nothing is built to last anymore. Even the repairman said so as he packed up last week, after administering Extreme Unction to my old washer. I dearly hope this one holds up for a while though.


When you do massage for a living, you inadvertently become an expert on other subjects, to wit, sheets and washing machines. I remember washing machines the way some people remember addresses where they’ve lived or schools they’ve gone to. There was the economy Kenmore that lived at my former landlady’s house (for some reason, she insisted that its top always be daintily protected from any drifting dust or cellar grime by an old beach towel). There was the exhausted relic that came with the house where I live now, which started widdling on the floor like an incontinent old dog almost as soon as I moved in. I replaced it with a scratch-n-dent from Best Buy, which churned along for several years until I took a flyer on one of the first European style front-loaders to hit the US market, the “Neptune.” I got fond of Neptune. His door gasket eventually became mottled with black mildew stains, but he got things clean and didn’t use very much water. After nine years of spinning two or three loads every day, though, he began to make an alarming racket, suggesting one of the bearings was finally wearing down or that a small private plane was preparing to take off in my basement, directly under the massage room.

I hied me off to the showrooms, where I made the worst decision of my householding life. Neptune had cost a bucket but worked like a champ, so I decided that spending more wasn’t a stupid idea, and I sprung for an upstyled front-loader made by a company which might have made your phone or monitor. They make pretty decent electronics. Their large appliances, so far as I can tell, are for shit.

At first I thought the weirdly stiff sheets and towels were in that condition because the deliverymen had transposed the cold and hot water intakes. Oops. But no, even after that was fixed, things came out of the dryer looking kind of like origami. You can certainly design a washer that uses less water if you want to save water, but just a flea in the ear, there has to be enough water to actually wash things, I mean, if you take this to its logical conclusion, just don’t wash your clothes at all. Oh, and the bleach was meant to go in a little pull-out drawer positioned just exactly so as to drip bleach on your black work pants. Three pairs. Goddammit.

After a while the dark loads acquired a composty, funky smell that rose up from my person whenever I got hot and sweaty, which I do a lot.  It wasn’t stale sweat, it was actually mold that appeared to be forming inside the washer.

I prayed for the thing to break. There had, I learned, been a class action suit by a cohort of other moldy-smelling householders, but no joy. Fourteen hundred bucks before the discounts. You could do better pouring Tide in the bathtub and doing a grape-stomping number with the sheets.

So when the thing finally stopped draining, one crisp October evening in 2014 — pouring a black, viscous sludge over my basement’s concrete floor — I was delirious with joy and sped to Home Depot to buy a top loader with no agitator, very cool, and with a glass lid (it was $20 extra, but I don’t have a TV and it seemed like good entertainment), guaranteed not to fester.

It died last week.


Now you need to understand that when I say died, I don’t mean with a sigh or a whimper, nothing so unremarkable as press button = nothing happens. Oh, no, no, no. This washer was Violetta in the last act of Traviata, commencing on a Wednesday to utter incomprehensible “error messages” stating per the manual that the lid could not open, or could not close, though on these occasions neither action was required of it. It beeped at me, shrilly, in the dramatic soprano registers. I did some resets, also per the manual, and it performed for a while. Nonetheless, I sensed a need for a service call, especially as the whole small private plane sound effect seemed to be recapitulating itself. Wednesday went into Thursday, I was busy, I looked up my repair company’s website, I ran another load. Friday came around. I plunked a load in the washer. It beeped. CANNOT OPEN LID.  Wtf. It beeped. Unless unplugged, it beeped, harshly, piteously, importunately. I picked up the phone.

Mike was available, I was told. On Tuesday, he showed up and avowed that my machine was one of the greatest, generally speaking, he had one himself, but that I must have gotten one built on Monday, whose tub leaked and whose bearings and drive shaft were likely corroded, and that is before you get into the motor control responsible for all those merciless beep, beep, beeps. He actually got on the phone with Maytag, who were not going to budge on paying even a pro rata compensation for the parts he would need or, alternatively, comping me part of the cost of a new unit, unless I took a number and stood in line for one of their repair people to come look at it. This is how corporations wiggle out of paying for any of their fuckups.

Mike left me with a list of the models he regarded highly. He pulled the plug back out before he left. We had almost gotten used to the beeping.


Diane entered my life, briefly but meaningfully, an hour or so later in the local Home Depot showroom.

I had berthed in front of a Samsung washer with a hundred bells and whistles, amazingly discounted from something over a thousand to $548 large, and was trying to figure out what all it actually did (grill hot dogs? translate from the Sanskrit?). Diane, in her orange apron with name badge, sidled up beside me, caught my eye and shook her head slowly from side to side.

“You don’t want that one,” she said, sotto voce.

I like an honest salesperson. “It was a recall,” she elucidated. You remember all those Samsung phones that were exploding and catching on fire and they wouldn’t let you on a plane with one? Well they also succeeded in manufacturing exploding washers. (No, seriously, click on that link. You know you want to.)

I told her what I needed and she looked in her computer, and found the last year’s model of one of Mike’s picks, in the warehouse for about forty per cent off the original price. Somewhere in the system there was a ten per cent coupon floating around and she applied that too. It was Tuesday and they couldn’t deliver till Saturday; I counted the sets of sheets I had left, looked at the client schedule, and figured I’d come out with one to spare. If no one else called, which would have left me back with the prospect of stomping sheets in the bathtub with Sudso. Damn if I am going to a laundromat and listening to other people’s kids scream while the sheets tumble, I already have enough tsores.


So Friday night the phone rang. A robot lady told me that this was the Home Depot delivery service and my delivery was scheduled between TWO and SIX pm tomorrow. An hour later the call repeated. And again, an hour after that. I felt pretty sure I could expect that washer between two and six, and I was done at three, so that was pretty promising. At twelve-ten the next day, just as I was settling a client on the table, the phone rang. I was going to ignore it because it was a Hispanic name unknown to me and I am always getting butt dials from local Hispanic guys, but then the hair prickled up on the back of my neck and I picked it up. “Hello, this is Henry from Home Depot. I’m on my way now with your washer.”

It is nice the Engineer is living with me now for a lot of reasons. He met the guy, signed for the washer, and made sure the hoses were connected to the right pipes. A younger me would have called up Home Depot and bitched, but everyone’s just trying to live, and at least I had the frigging washer.

Here is how the laundry room looked once I had the first two loads in progress.


I didn’t come up for air till last Tuesday. In case anyone was wondering where I’ve been.


Disaster Preparedness

Here in the States we are getting a lot of highfalutin speeches about preparedness, being ready to deal with a disaster or even a bout of extreme weather, having lots of batteries and water on hand, that kind of crap. It always happens when there is a nasty hurricane or two.

So today there was no hurricane and no hype, just some heavy rain from Tropical Storm Lee (Lee?  What kind of name is that for a storm? Lee was the name of the kid in my grade school class who looked like an immature Dick Van Dyke and always wore a white shirt, like a smug little cunt). No real wind. Just rain. And more rain. I felt edgy, though I couldn’t quite say why. I went to the gym. They’ve fixed the drainage and laid sandbags; no flooding. I got home way early for my first client, on account he was stuck on a bridge that was not running real well at the far end; there they had flooding. Suburbs to the north got a little damp.

But by God and by gum, out on the back lawn was Torvald, and I hopped down to the cellar door to bring him a treat and kerSPLASH went my walkout stairwell, the water rising from what is supposed to be the foundation drain junction with the conduit to the storm sewer.

I have been here before. During the fearful Furlough Blizzard of 1996 I bailed this stairwell for three hours — up over my shoulder and down the far side of a retaining wall, till the county could get here with heavy equipment. Today it was nothing that nasty, but it needed bailing, nonetheless.

So here’s what happens during something that has not been classified any kind of disaster: the first plumber you call is a family business, and the dispatcher is Mom, and she doesn’t want to send her son out into bad weather. The second lists on its website all the heroic feats of which its nationwide network is capable, and promises a plumber by nine pm; he shows up at quarter to nine, produces a very unimpressive motorized snake and asks you if you have a Shop-Vac. (If I had, wouldn’t I have been already using it?) Eventually — he can almost speak English — he tells you he can’t unclog the pipe, and you need to put plastic sheeting and sandbags up against the door, and will probably have to have someone break up the concrete floor of the stairwell and replace the pipe, which appears to be full of concretized silt, and possibly install a sump pump. Then he farts around trying to reach his manager to get a price for trying but failing (the workman is worthy of his hire, the guy had earned something by coming out in this, but not the proposed charge for solving the problem). Home Depot is open until ten. You send him off with a promise that you will pay him what is right and after all, he knows where you live.

Home Depot is deserted. No one in there speaks any English. You ask for sand bags, which are priced at 50 for 17.75 on the company website, and people look at you blankly. Finally someone directs you to some plastic bags of play sand. They can’t seem to think why you would want sand bags. This in a county where a hurricane blew through a week before, and every civic entity was exhorting people in low lying areas (which I am not) to lay in sand bags and water. I don’t mean they were sold out. I mean there was no sign that they had ever, at any time, in this location, stocked sand bags or known what their purpose might be. They do have this, explained one guy from some distant clime where they probably see rain once a year, and people buy it for sand boxes and…

My drain pipe is on me, but if the fucking Home Depot doesn’t know a sand bag from its ass in the middle of typhoon season, how is the glittering petticoat of the Nation’s fucking Capital supposed to weather a fucking disaster?

Props to my little engineer, who went with me. We bought four sixty-pound bags of all purpose sand (“I’m glad you talked me into joining your gym,” he said) and some sheeting, bailed the stairwell again, laid ’em down on both sides of the threshold and hoped for the best. If everything washes away I actually don’t care any more, as long as someone saves my cats. But then they always go for the highest perch. They should be fine.

Curmudgeon’s Miscellany

1. Somewhere, there is a Hell for cute bouncy little girlie-girls who come back in the free weight room, fully made up and oh-so-earnest, and sequester a whole rank of the smaller dumbbells beside a bench for their EVER SO CAREFULLY PLANNED gym session.

Those are the dumbbells I use for a kata punch warmup, bitch. I grab them, I pound out forty or fifty pumps to the side or overhead and put them back on the rack, then grab a different weight to punch in a different direction, but you are so entranced at the thought that you are using dumbbells like a big girl that you have to have them lined up in a row to yourself, probably like your makeup pots, and get all dithery and ditzy if someone needs to use a pair, because in a moment you’re going to bench press a whole! seven and a half! pounds! in EACH HAND!

I’m doing overhead punches with double that, just to get my blood going.

Go ‘long with you, OK?

2. If you must reproduce, keep the evidence out of Home Depot.

I don’t usually go to buy plumbing supplies, hammers and whatever on Sunday, but it worked out that way today. What the fuck? The place has become a nursery school? Enough I should have to dodge the fork lifts and other hazards piloted by the orange-aproned staff of this American institution, but you expect me to tolerate your squealing, scrambling crotch droppings?

Rope is cheap (Home Depot has lots) and they will not be able to work their way free of the knots before you get back. Just sayin’.

3. Marketing departments need to hire me. I left Home Depot with one Water Hammer Arrestor — what a wonderful concept. Since 2002 I have used European-style front-loading washers to handle the five-six sets of sheets a day oiled up by my massage practice, and these suckers turn the water on, off, on, off, making the clanging and clanking of an old fashioned radiator sound like wind chimes by comparison. I got to worrying that my plumbing could flat out implode and in fact that seems to be a genuine danger.

You can buy this Water Hammer Arrester thing for thirteen bucks. Twenty-six, given you want to put it on both pipes.

Home Depot had one left on the display. We attached it to the hot-water hose in about ten minutes, counting the time it took to pry the thing out of the blister package. The hammering noise subsided to a faint, local clunk.

If I were selling front-loading washers (four figure purchases, most of them) I think I would include these bastards on the hoses for an extra $20, say, and on the sales floor display would be a big banner: “NO NOISY PIPES! SAVE YOUR PLUMBING!”

People seem to have figured it out, anyway, since I will have to wait until the next delivery to fix the cold water hose.

I shouldn’t have had to stumble across a random link on the Internet to find out there was a solution to this problem. Oh well, at least I did.