I’m slipping on a pair of jeans for the third day in a row. It was wet enough over the weekend that I didn’t get out much. No yard work. Plus, I was being extra careful not to smear peanut butter and jelly on my leg or drop Dinty Moore Beef Stew in my lap. I’m in clothes conservation mode. This is what a man does when his washing machine has been out for two weeks.
It was on a Monday. I shoved a wad of clothes through the font loader door. Added a scoop of detergent. A smidge of Downy Softener, which my people have been using since JFK asked us what we could do for our country. Snuggles is known to cause a skin rash in my family. English bloodlines that migrated to this country up the James River in Virginia do not mix well with the chemical properties of a softener with a Bear on the label.
I closed the door. Set the dial and pushed the buttons.
An hour later, I came walking through the kitchen and heard a faint beeping noise. I checked the stove, the microwave, the fridge. All quiet. By then I realized the beep was coming from the laundry room.
You have to understand that every appliance in my house is way more complicated than it needs to be. Old appliances are like old cars. Dependable. Mechanical. Simple. Push a button. Pull and twist a knob. No electronics. Not much can go wrong.
The front of my washing machine looks like the cockpit of a Boeing 747. You need a degree in mechanical engineering to read the owner’s manual. I can wash light loads. Delicate loads. Silky loads with lace, which I absolutely do not need.
The panel to the right gives me more options than the menu at the Whistling Pig. You can choose between a dozen temperature settings. Slow spin or twist-your-jeans-up-in-knots-hyper-speed spin. Custom settings for every option. It does everything but make coffee and pour it for you.
I walk into the laundry room. The onboard screen is flashing two codes. E1 and F6. I can see inside that the clothes are dry as a bone. No water. And there’s a red light on, indicating that the door is locked and it’s not giving me my clothes back.
Being a fixit man, I push the Reset button. Nothing. I tug on the door. It’s locked down tight. I push the power button, and all the lights go off. Pull on the door again. Not budging.
I figure, hey, if it’s like a computer, maybe I can reboot this thing. I pull the power cord and count to ten. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Plug her back up and push the power button. All the lights come up. I raise the hood and check the fluids. Yep. Soap and softener still good. Select my cycle and push start.
No sound. No movement. Quiet as a church mouse. E1 and F6 start flashing at me again. I have an angry appliance.
The owner’s manual is no help. I turn to the troubleshooting page. No water? Check your hose connections. We’re good. Water not draining? Run the spin cycle. Yeah, right. Here it is. E1 and F6. “If these codes show up on the screen, you have a better chance of being able to repair a nuclear submarine. Call for service.”
I called six repair companies. Five of them laughed at me when I told them where I lived. Apparently, living in the middle of the woods is not a good fit for the appliance business.
In the meantime, I’m running out of clean clothes. Several days have gone by. So, I texted Nancy, my neighbor.
“Can I use your washing machine this evening? Mine’s broken.”
She said that they would be gone but that I could come on down and wash whatever I needed. She gave me the keypad code to the front door and said, “We’ll put Biscuit in the back room. He’ll growl at you but don’t pay him any attention.”
She left me a note with simple instructions. “Turn big knob to Normal. Put a Tide pod in. Load clothes. Push Start.” There was no computer panel. It was like a 65 Chevy, and I loved it. After I finished up, on the bottom of her note I wrote, “Thank you from the bottom of my clean drawers.”
Later that night, my phone dinged. It was Nancy. She sent me a GIF of a middle-aged man, a little pudgy in the mid-section, dancing in nothing but his embarrassingly tight BVDs and holding what looked like an adult beverage. I love this about my neighbor but I’m still having nightmares.
When the repair company called, I left work and went to meet the guy at the house. He was a very clean-cut, well-spoken young man. “Do you have a daughter?” he asked. I wondered if this was a new way to find a date.
“I’ve got two of them,” I said. “Laura and Emily. Both married.” For emphasis.
I could see his wide smile even though he wore a mask. “Yeah, yeah. That’s it. I knew I recognized your last name. I went to school with Emily. K through 12. We were in class together at Park Elementary.”
Trion dismantled my machine and did his diagnostics. “You’ve got a bad motor control board. The circuits in these things can go like that.” He snapped his fingers.
He did manage to get the door unlocked so I could get my dirty dry clothes out.
“You got the part with you?” I was hopeful.
“Oh, no sir. We’ll have to order that and hope we can find one.” His honesty was painful.
When we were young newlyweds, we had an old hand-me-down washing machine that stayed on the back porch of our rental house in Tennessee. I learned the hard way how to drain the water pump between washes in the wintertime to keep it from freezing up. I even replaced the motor on that machine one time.
It kills me that I can’t work on my own washing machine. But circuit boards are out of my league.
Lexus called me from the appliance repair shop. “I’ve good and bad news,” she said. “Good news, I can get the circuit board in 3 or 4 days. Bad news, it’s $220.” I had already checked on how much it would cost to replace my machine. I wasn’t interested in taking out a second mortgage on my house. So, I paid for the part over the phone on the spot.
That night, I went back to my neighbor’s house to wash a second load of clothes. I was careful not to leave another note about my unmentionables.
Finally, today, Trion came back to my house to replace the circuit board. He turned the knobs, pushed a few buttons and the Whirlpool came to life. It was a religious experience for me.
As much as modern appliances drive me nuts, it sure is nice to have my washing machine back. Amen, and amen.
Nothing like having plenty of clean drawers.