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Complicated machines make for complicated lives

Last summer, my brother and his wife visited and for some reason we got to talking about washing machines. They have a really old washing machine they inherited from a family member. We have one of the newer front-loading models that boasts high efficiency and low water usage. We bought it 10 years ago, and at the time I was convinced it was top of the line. They said they've thought about trading in their old one to save water, but thanks to my brother's handiness, can always seem to keep theirs working whenever it goes on the fritz. I remember sitting quietly and smugly thinking that our washer was probably better, since we save soooo much water.

Then ours went on the fritz. It stopped spinning. Picture if you will dripping wet, ridiculously heavy, freezing cold articles of clothing being dislodged from the washer's tub. Getting wrung out by hand. Cold, red hands. My hands. First there's the denial state. Maybe it's just a fluke. Try another load. Hmmm. Still soggy, cold and miserable. More wringing out into the sink. So next time, I watched a load run. Like some gumshoe detective, I figured out the problem!! The door lock light wasn't coming on. I went on the manufacturer's website to see why that would be. It didn't say much other than maybe the seal wasn't working. Or the load was unbalanced. Then I called upon my BFF Google. It was way too easy to find the problem. Apparently, the Maytag Neptune washer has a nasty habit of burning out the 'wax motor' so that the door won't lock, and the washer won't spin. What's astonishing is that there are websites dedicated to how to fix this. Free videos on how you can order $12 of parts (satisfaction guaranteed!). Then you just need to whip out your handy soldering iron and replace the burned out transistors on the circuit board. Hmm. Not really in our skill set. You can also buy new or refurbished parts on eBay and other sites for killer low prices. But it keeps coming back to the same problem. Unlike my handy brother, this is totally beyond our ability to fix.

Three hundred dollars later, we are back in business thanks to Matt, a local appliance tech in Portland who works in a small 'green' company (which means their biz cards are printed on recycled paper and they repair instead of make you buy a new one). I should add that the first load I washed after he 'fixed' the machine… came out totally soggy! I kid you not. I am not sure how I did not mentally blow a gasket when I called him back. Bless his heart. He came back, took the machine apart again and tested it 5 times. The only explanation was that maybe something jiggled loose when he scooted the machine back in place. After the next load, it did work. I sat there the whole time, watching the door lock light come on and listening to it go into spin mode. So no more ringing out the laundry. Thank goodness for a rather large supply of undies and cloth napkins, and rather deep laundry hampers.

It's funny. Sometimes I kid myself into thinking we're living a simple life. Practically off the grid! We conserve resources. Minimize waste. Heck, we've been know to eat our own homegrown produce. We line dry our laundry all summer. Often, we don't use a car. And then something like this happens, and I'm totally humbled. Complicated machines lead to complicated lives, but I guess it's better than the alternative (standing thigh-deep in a cold river beating your laundry over a rock). Rest assured that smug look from last summer has been wiped off my face, and more power to my brother and his wife. Hang onto that fixable old washing machine for as long as it works.


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