Coming clean on repairing the washer

June 24, 2000|By Rob Kasper

Yesterday morning when moguls were in their office moguling and arbitrageurs were in cyberspace arbitraging, I was in the laundry room rooting for the washer's spin cycle to kick in.

A few hours earlier, the washer had appeared to be dead in the water - the dirty water. Late Thursday night I discovered the washer's distress while engaging in a drastic domestic clean-up action, one spurred by the fact that my wife would soon be returning from an out-of-town trip.

As some guys do, I had let housekeeping matters slide during my wife's absence. I was trying to rectify the situation with a late-night, all-fronts assault on household grime. The dishwasher was jammed and sloshing. The trash had been taken out. Even the kitchen floor had been swept, sort of. Right around midnight, I ventured into the laundry room and tried to cleanse part of the great lumpen load of soiled stuff that lived there.

The aroma in the laundry room was not appealing. I would describe it as "basic male": a lot of sweat socks, a lot of shirts, a lot of baseball pants, all of them filthy, all of them scented. In addition, a none-too-pleasing smell was coming from the washing machine itself.

When I flipped open the lid I saw what looked like a "fetid pool," the very sort of stagnant water that Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening had railed against this week as a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying the deadly West Nile virus. Did this mean our clothes washer had become a public health hazard? It sure smelled like one.

I recalled that just before my wife left town, she had said something about the washer refusing to go into the spin cycle. I remembered that I had promised to "get right on it." In fact I had forgotten all about it, and so dirty water sat in the tub of the washer for two days, festering.

I confess that at the midnight hour when I was standing in my skivvies I was ready to concede that the time had come to say goodbye to the old washer.

It had been with us for over a decade, entering our home back in May 1989, when Mike Flanagan led a top-notch Orioles pitching staff and when Montgomery Ward was selling "scratch and dent" appliances at its huge store on Monroe Street. That scratched and dented washer had served our household well, but its refusal to spin would mean that the time had come to move it out to the alley for bulk trash pickup.

The next morning, however, before leaving for work, I made an attempt to bring it back to life. On this mission I carried a siphon, a long screwdriver and a plan to the laundry room.

I used the siphon, a Black & Decker hand pump, to drain the foul water from the washer and into several buckets. I used the long screwdriver to pry off the top of the washer.

I had done this before; I was a previous prier. As the top of the washer bent back on hinges, I eyed the safety lid lock. This device automatically locks the top of the washer during the spin cycle. It is a safety precaution to prevent kids from sticking their hands inside a spinning washing machine. This has never been a concern in our house. Our two kids, now teen-agers, rarely go near the washer, let alone place their hands (or dirty laundry) inside it.

My plan was to tinker with the safety lid lock. I thought the device might have been jostled and could have been sending out the false message that the lid was open when it actually was closed. Such a message would prevent the machine from starting the spin cycle.

I fooled around with the lid lock, pushing it with the screwdriver. I couldn't tell which position sent its "full speed ahead" signal to the washing machine engine, so I guessed.

I closed the lid. Plugged the cord back in the socket, put a few dirty clothes in the tub, and turned the dial that started the machine in a washing mode.

It took about 20 minutes for the machine to work through its paces. At some point I wondered if waiting for the washing machine to start its spin cycle was the best use of my time.

Part of me felt I should be doing the office thing, making phone calls, punching a computer keyboard. But another part of me knew that the household needed me to be in the laundry room. I knew that if I could revive our old clothes washer and get it to spin, I would be doing my part to stop the spread of a potentially deadly virus, I would be taking a significant step toward preserving household order, and I would be saving myself the pain and expense of shopping for a new washer.

So yesterday morning as machine paused before the spin cycle, I placed my hands on the washer and urged it to perform. "Come on, baby," I said, invoking the chant I once used to start my old Fiat.

Then, like the sound of an old car engine turning over, I heard the joyful rumble of the washer beginning its spin cycle. It was somewhat creaky, but it was spinning.

Yesterday some mogul might have made a million bucks and some arbitrageur probably made a profit on a price discrepancy. But I bet they were not any happier than I was when I brought the old washing machine back from the dead.

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