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Sense and Nonsense: Watching an appliance in distress is reason to wail and gnash teeth

July 17, 2012

If there's anything I hate to spend money on, it's an appliance.
Just think about it. This is not an unreasonable position to take.
Once an appliance gets to your house, no one but family members and pets will ever see it again, save for an occasional perusal from a repairman in the event of a malfunction.
I mean, it's not like you might have company for dinner and you would take time to fancy up the washing machine in case the guests should peek into the utility room.
An appliance is just there.
You can't drive it.
You can't wear it.
You can't eat it.
You can't drink it.
No artistic or sensual pleasure is to be derived from it. It just sits there, day after day, gathering dust until it (hopefully) works whenever you punch, turn, twist or do whatever it is you have to do to make it perform.
I haven't had an appliance death in a while, so I could be tempting fate to write this. I'm just in the "worrying about it" stage at this juncture.
This state of mind has resulted from the recent performance of my washing machine, which is behaving badly, so to speak. It regularly goes into dance mode when it reaches the spin cycle.
It's been doing this awhile, so I'm hoping it's just slightly un-level.
But there's also the occasional problem of its not removing quite enough water from the clothing, so that, too, is reason for concern. At the moment, I'm just offering prayer (honestly) that it continues to operate for a while longer.
I remember the last time we had to buy a new washer. I would have gotten down on my knees and begged the old one to continue washing it if would have helped, but as the transmission goes, so goes the washer, I was told.
Ironically, the terminal condition developed only two weeks after we had paid for a significant repair to the old one. The repairman came to install a new pump because the machine wasn't taking out the rinse water. You'd remove the clothes and enough water would drip to the floor that you could have bathed a small child.
I could have squeezed and wrung all day long and never gotten out enough moisture to put those dripping wet items into the dryer.
The initial repair was made after the technician said "pumps aren't free, but they're cheaper than a new machine." The cost wasn't so bad that we would have had to take in boarders, so we OK'd the deal.
With the new pump intact, the machine began getting rid of the rinse water like it should. I was a happy homemaker.
My happiness lasted for two whole weeks. Then trouble hit again.
When the machine would start its transition from rinse to spin, the sound it would make was enough to make this grown woman want to drop to the floor, gnash teeth and beg for mercy.
Jessy, the cocker spaniel we had at the time, would become hysterical. And hysterics in Jessy wasn't something one could ignore. When she reached that level of frustration, she didn't bark. She didn't wail. She didn't bay.
She would scream. And her screams were reminiscent of the throes of violent death. It was such a shrill scream that no human could stand the sound for long.
She also would react lustily to an out-of-balance load — the kind that made the washer jump around like it was doing the bunny hop (right now it's just at cha cha cha proportions) — but the final complication brought on Jessy shrieks that reached new pinnacles.
I learned something during the experience. It was that when a washing machine's transmission goes out, it doesn't just stop. It grinds. Such grinding I had never heard before, but I can still remember it and it's been several years.
Could the transmission be replaced, we asked. Yes, of course — for a small fortune — and it would carry one year's guarantee, on that part alone. Every day we knew we'd be waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak, because when one part goes bad in anything mechanical, you can bet that another one is waiting in line to do so in short order.
We had had our existing machine for eight years, according to the store's records. It didn't seem nearly that long to me, but then I'm no good with numbers.
Eight years to wash every day, and several times many days, is considered a pretty fair record, according to the appliance gurus.
They don't make washing machines like they used to, that's for sure.
I have fond memories of my first washer. It lasted 18 years. There are those who doubt the veracity of that statement, but with hand on Bible, I would swear that I speak the truth.
When that first washing machine was rolled out of my house and its successor rolled in, I felt as if I were saying goodbye to a member of the family.
I told the man who installed the second washer about the first one's longevity. His words, spoken, more than three decades ago, have never left me:
"This 'un won't last near that long, lady."

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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