Does anyone else have a recurrent theme of trial in their life? For me, this seems to be laundry.
A little history: Growing up, my mom was the Energizer Bunny of Housekeeping. You would wake up in the morning, head off to the bathroom to get ready for the day, and by the time you returned, your bed was make, your clothes put in the laundry room, things generally straightened and *sniff* is that the scent of furniture polish? Okay, maybe not quite to that extent (on the weekdays, anyway), but truly so much so that when I was 17 and left home to join the Navy — I didn’t know how to operate the washing machine.
One night, I had an overnight watch. One of our RDCs, Petty Officer Hayes (“You people drive me CRAZY!”), asked/told me to (sneakily, since we weren’t supposed to do this at night) do a load of laundry. Our barracks was a huge, long warehouse-type room with dozens of bunk beds on either side of the room with lockers in-between, an office with a cot-bed in case one of the RDCs wanted to overnight with us, and a large bathroom, with a washer and dryer, several sinks, a row of toilet stalls (sans doors) and the “shower room” (imagine a 15 x 10 foot room with 10 or so shower heads, wherein 40 girls at a time would cram in for 10 minutes of cleaning — gotta love the military!). As I followed her over to the washing machine, I looked it over. I didn’t think that this would be that complex of a task; however, I had visions of the washing machine vibrating across the room as suds spewed out of it to drown us all. So, I did the one thing I should have never done — I asked her how one went about using the appliance.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” This is how the “conversation” started. After questioning my intelligence, my parents lack of child-rearing skills, and the wisdom of the United States Government for allowing me entrance into boot camp, she asked one final question, “What rate are you going into?”
“Nukes, Electronic Technician.”
“Figures. May the Lord help us all.” After that, she gave me some basic instruction on what to do and left, giving one final roll of her eyes and shake of her head, her heels clacking loudly on the floor. (“Ain’t no man gonna tell me I can’t wear a skirt!” Our RDCs really had some personality — it was great, when it wasn’t negatively directed towards you.)
I made it through that night without incident, and managed to muddle my way through the first few weeks down in Orlando (although I must say, that many times a group of us would make a “night” of laundry and would tackle this together, hanging out while our cycles ran, since we weren’t supposed to leave our laundry unattended).
Then, I started hanging out with this one guy. I could write volumes about him, but I’ll just say here that he was the type of guy that wore a white T-shirt and ripped jeans with marker written all over them. Sometimes with a vest. No sneakers, but polished shoes. Sometimes the ripped jeans, no shirt, and just the vest. But, before you think him just another scruffy punk, I will have to note that his T-shirt and jeans were always ironed. Oh, yes. He was quite meticulous in his clothing.
And he schooled me in the art of laundry. You must first separate all of your clothes: lights, whites, darks, blacks, “unmentionables,” jeans, heavily soiled items…. The list went on and on. Then you put them in the machine with the appropriate temperature water and kind and quantity of detergent (apparently, you should not use solely powder or solely liquid detergent, there is a difference for a reason). And the reason you do not leave your clothes unattended is so that as soon as the wash cycle ends, you can rescue your clothes from the washer — fold them — and then place them in the dryer. Okay, okay. Separate dryers, again according to the nature of the fabric being dried and how hot, etc, etc. Seriously, fold them. Why? Because if you fold them before putting them into the dryer, you will have less wrinkles. Then, as soon as the dry cycle ends, take them out of the dryer (watch those hot hot little zippers and buttons), and hang up the things that should be hung, and fold the things that should be folded, and make a separate pile for the things which will need to be ironed.
Alrighty then. I was so happy to have proper instruction. I gleefully set about doing my laundry in this manner, but quickly came to find that this meant quite a few washers for not so very many clothes. No matter. I just made sure to grab my roommate’s clothes and my boyfriend’s clothes and lug the whole heap to the laundry house — using about 10 washers and 15 dryers in the process. I did an amazing amount of laundry — all in 90 minutes. (Using more dryers than washers is just practical — small loads dry faster and more completely). Boy, was I happy that the Navy didn’t charge you to use the washers or dryers.
I continued in this fashion until an unfortunate incident in the laundry house one afternoon. After that, I was scared to be in there, especially by myself, and developed an aversion/fear of laundry. So, sadly, to this day, gone is my idealistic and heavily (happily) regimented laundry protocol. What has replaced it?
I now put in the liquid detergent into the cold water, cram in the clothes, set the cycle to “regular,” and let the machine do its thing while I run away. Then, sometime after it has finished, quickly pull the sodden lumps of fabric out, heave them into the dryer and set the machine to “automatic,” and again leave. Pull out of dryer when ready to wear, or when searching for a particular item. Maybe, if it is a new article of clothing, I will keep it separate for a few washings, just in case it decides to bleed or something.
Present day predicament:
I stuff my clothes in the washer, per usual. I have been super extra run-down lately and haven’t attended to my laundry in quite some time, so I really needed to do it. Sometime in the cycle, I hear from across this house an odd noise. I run over to the machine, and it seems to be having an epileptic fit and making a funny clacking sound. Now, I’m familiar with the “unbalanced” noises, and this is not it. It appears to be having the dry heaves trying to run, and failing miserably. I’m not sure what’s going on, and my washer’s only a couple of years old, so there’s no reason to think that it’s dying. So, I try stopping it and restarting it — same thing. I change the cycle from “regular” to “permanent press” — same thing. I see that there’s a ton of water in the basin, and think that maybe if I can get the water to drain, I can stick these clothes in the dryer, then see if I can figure out what’s wrong with the washer. I go to put it on the “spin” cycle. Nothing. No sound, no movement, no recognition of any type that I have given it a command to be followed. Irritating thing, really. I then try to go back to the other stages of the cycle, where at least it was making some hiccuping attempts at functioning. Nothing. Great, now what?
What does anyone do in these cases?
Picks up cell phone, “Mom?”
Unfortunately, Mom doesn’t know what to do either, and suggests that I might have to call someone out to look at the machine. She also suggests looking to see if I had blown a fuse. I’m like, “What? I don’t even know where the fuses are on this darned thing.” She meant for me to look to see if my washer had, in the course of its spasming, popped one of my circuit breakers for the house, and this was why it wasn’t responding. Sound advice. I take a look, and it seems that maybe, maybe one of them isn’t quite as “on” as the others. However, I also note that the light for the laundry room and the light for the dryer are functioning perfectly well, so a lack of power to the room can NOT be the problem. I have electricity.
I hang up and decide to remove the clothes from the basin of water. Hence, the title of this blog entry. As I am doing this, I notice that clothes appear to be choking the poor machine at the base of the agitator. No wonder it’s dying! Poor thing can’t breathe, they are squeezing so hard. It takes much pulling and tugging to try and free the agitator from the homicidal jeans and towels, but after I climbed in the machine myself and went to battle, I eventually won. I left a couple of T-shirts in the washer and tried running the machine. Success!
While the newly liberated machine is happily chugging away with its reduced load, I — in my soaked-with-water-dripping-off-me condition — turn my attention to the circuit panel. I was going to take a look at that one breaker which had appeared to be not quite as on as it could have been. As I am reaching up, water literally running in rivulets down my arms, I pause and think about this for a minute — and decide that I really don’t want to be electrocuted today, and retreat.
Update — an hour and a half later: And THEN…. the dryer dies.
Update #2: What was it that I was saying about electrocution? Since I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to take another look at the dryer. It has been another couple hours, maybe it is now ready to cooperate and decide to work. Maybe the non-workingness was just…a fluke. So, I go to start it up, and for the first several hundred nanoseconds, I am excited, because it is making sounds like the motor is trying to start and get this puppy going. THEN… a large arc races brightly across the 2 feet of instrument paneling. My hand is still on the controls. I should have been zapped pretty hard — but I wasn’t. After yanking my hand back, I reach over to it again to turn the controls to “off,” or as close to “off,” as I can approximate. I smell that burnt electrical smell and unplug the dryer from the wall. Then, I try to take all the things that would be potential fire hazards away from the immediate vicinity of the dryer. Now, I will wait and see. It should be okay; however, sometimes these electrical things can smolder for days, and I wouldn’t want to go to work tomorrow and come home to find that the house had burned down. Pray for me.