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.