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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Washed-Up Washer

I mentioned a while back that my wife was out of town last week on family business. What I didn’t mention is that on the Saturday before she left, our washing machine went kaput.

Well, maybe not “kaput”, literally. I wasn’t around to hear the exact sound it made when it died. But considering that I found it with fourteen pairs of waterlogged socks and underwear swimming in four inches of grayish water, I’m guessing it probably went more like “kersplat”. Or “glugglugglug“.

The point is, the washing machine went down. Hard. I was able to wring out and dry all of our unmentionables-I-just-totally-mentioned, but no more laundry was getting done in that washing box, ever. It being Saturday, there were loads of dirty clothes all basketed up and ready to go. Clearly, I had a problem.

I was told by the missus to get on it, and call the number on the little tag on the washer for help. Then she left. So at the very first available moment — around noon on Tuesday, I believe — I called in to the repair shop. They sent a guy last Friday morning. He told me to either give the washer a good burial or to slap an air filter on it and make it an aquarium, because it wasn’t good for anything else any more.

“If, when I’m finished with them, the toilet isn’t cracked and the blender’s not on fire, then I’ll be sorely disappointed.”

(On the one hand, this was a great inconvenience. On the other, it’s kind of nice to know you’ve gotten your full money’s worth out of an item. If the guy comes in and fixes it with a new gasket and some WD-40, then maybe I haven’t used the thing to its full potential.

But if he pulls a blanket over its head and gives me scrap-metal estimates for the shattered husk that remains, then I know I’ve used it. Really and truly USED it.

I take this attitude with all my household appliances. If, when I’m finished with them, the toilet isn’t cracked and the blender’s not on fire, then I’ll be sorely disappointed.

Unless they get that way at the same party. Then I’ll have to adjust my margarita recipe.)

When the missus returned on Sunday, our first order of business was to buy a replacement washer. We’ve bought a lot of things together over the years — electronics, furniture, living spaces, semi-domesticated pets — and usually one or both of us will do our homework up front. We’ll hop online and pore over reviews or compare features or preview models in little magnifying-glass pictures until we know what we want.

That didn’t happen this time. She didn’t look, because she was on airplanes for much of the weekend. I didn’t look, because it’s a frigging washing machine, and unless it plays Pandora or has an extra hard drive or comes with an eight-button controller, I don’t so much care about the details. It’s a box where clothes go to get wet, before they go into the box to get dry, before they get dumped on the guest bed until ten minutes before company arrives, when we half-fold most of them and stuff the unmatched socks under the mattress. All it has to do is work. And not be an aquarium.

So we hustled out to one of the big home-supply stores an hour before closing, worried that we wouldn’t have enough time to make a decision. This anxiety was for naught. We arrived, were promptly glommed onto by a salesman, and had the following exchange:

Salesman: So, what are you folks looking for today?

Us: A washing machine.

Salesman: Okay, well, here’s our wide selection of brands right here.

Us: They all look the same. Are there any you recommend?

Salesman: This brand.

Us: Okay. How many models do they make?

Salesman: Two.

Us: And what are the differences?

Salesman: This one’s smaller. That one’s bigger.

Us: Bigger fits more clothes?

Salesman: Yup.

Us: Does bigger act like an aquarium?

Salesman: Not for the next ten years or so.

Us: We’ll take bigger.

Salesman: Deal. Sign here and swipe your card.

To be fair, there was a little more to it. I remember something about a “steam function” I’m never going to use, and lots of shiny buttons I probably won’t be allowed to touch. But we were in and out of the store in ten minutes, and I’m not even positive it was a washing machine we bought. The delivery guy comes on Saturday, and if he brings a car washing machine or a golf ball washing machine or maybe an automated poodle washing machine, I won’t be especially surprised. And I’ll still stuff my underpants into it, and set the thing for “Extra Suds”.

When it comes right down to it, I don’t have a lot of choice at this point. Once I found out the old washer had spin-cycled its last, I made a beeline for my dresser. And counted out underpants. If you have enough underpants, you don’t have to do laundry. Which in this case would avoid a trip to the laundromat and all sorts of uncomfortable college dorm flashbacks.

Happily, I had enough boxers to last just over a week. That gets me to Saturday — with some measure of sacrifice. I’m nearly down to the ‘novelty underwear’ portion of the drawer; when the delivery guy carts our new washer in, I’ll very likely be clad in a black silk number with red Valentine hearts patterned throughout. My fervent hope is that I still have clean pants at that point, so I can cover my heart-shaped shame.

On the other hand, he’s a washer delivery guy. He probably sees those things every time he carts a unit in.

At any rate, this is shaping up to be a laundry weekend to end all laundry weekends. Both our undies reserves are gone. I’ve got a lime-green T-shirt I haven’t worn in three years slated for Saturday, and I have to pray it fits. Even if it clashes with the hearts. The clean towel supply is holding, but heaven forbid we need an unscheduled shower. We’ll have to dry off on Kleenex, or by rolling ourselves naked on the living room drapes. Which we told the neighbors we definitely wouldn’t do any more. Not before sundown, anyway.

In short, we’re anxiously awaiting our new favorite toy, which neither of us looked into and gave little thought to. I suppose the cliche thing to say is that you don’t notice the little important things until they’re gone. But what I really notice is the nine piles of dirty clothes that were never there before, and now block the way to the closet where my last few clean shirts are. If the new washer works, I’m throwing it a party. And if the dryer doesn’t break before Monday, I’m buying it a fucking medal. Come hither, yon Saturday — let the washing begin!

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