Friday, June 24, 2016
Are You Smarter than a Washing Machine?
By Jody Worsham
All rights reserved for agitation
Whitey had served us well, longer than most of her kind; but I knew the end was near. She no longer could do her job. There were tell-tale signs of wear, grinding noises when she turned around, failure to complete the job, leaks. I didn’t think I could ever find a replacement for Whitey. She was simple, easy to operate, and could handle her loads large or small, but when the sales flyer arrived in the mail, I knew it was time to let her go.
On the second page, there staring me right in the credit card, was Whitey II, same number of knobs, top loading, white, and an agitator, smaller but then the first Whitey was really ahead of her time. Dr. Hubby brought in the dolly, disconnected Whitey and hauled her to the barn while I raced off to the big box store. I guess he thought it would be too painful for me to watch or he was just anxious to have some clean underwear.
I arrived breathless at the store, credit card in one hand, sale flyer in the other. “I need a Whitey. Where is the Whitey?” The salesman glanced at a box of Kleenex, the mega stack of toilet paper next to the register, then pointed to the restroom. “The white washing machine with the three knobs,” I said pointing to the picture in the flyer and speaking very slowly and distinctly in case he was hard of hearing or had just arrived in America. He led the way to a row of washing machines but I noticed he kept the row of machines between himself and me.
“No, this is not the one. This one has six knobs, sensing, wash type, lock, weight, fabric type, detergent HD, non-HD, rinse. I want three knobs.”
He backed away from the washer he was standing in front of.
“No, this one has the three knobs but (I raised the lid) it doesn’t have an agitator.”
“How long has it been since you bought a washing machine?” he asked.
I was glad he could speak and in English so I gave him the long service history of Whitey, including all the times I had dyed fabric for plays in her, and the times I had to bleach Dr. Hubby’s pink underwear because had forgotten to rinse out the tub after a red curtain dye job.
“Ma’am (he was speaking loudly going into his Senior Citizen mode) they haven’t made a machine like that in years.”
“I know,” I said proudly, “she’s one of a kind. I was looking for this particular model.”
“Here it is.”
I looked at the machine, three knobs, ok. “Where is the water level knob?”
“There isn’t one. It weighs the fabric. There is a computer that tells you how much water to use.”
“But I don’t want it to tell me how much water to use. I know how much water to use. I have been washing clothes for 65 years. And where is the agitator?”
“Most models today do not have an agitator. “
“So what makes the clothes go swish swish?” I looked around for one of those hidden cameras like they use on those TV shows like Practical Jokers or America’s Funniest Home Videos or maybe this guy had parked his alien space ship behind the counter? Not waiting for an answer I continued. “You mean to tell me that there is not a single washing machine in this store that has an agitator and three knobs?”
He walked to the far end of the row of machines, pointed to one, and stepped back. “Agitator, three knobs. This is the best I can do lady.” He had gone from “Senior Citizen” mode to “Whack-o Old Lady” mode.
I looked. It did have an agitator, a small one, and it did have three knobs which I guess was as close as I was going to get Whitey, even though not one single knob said “Water Level”.
The next day Dr. Hubby had the Whitey imposter installed in the laundry room. I noticed for the first time that my laundry detergent of many years now had a sticker that said “HD for all types of machines.” “Humph, we’ll see” I thought.
Knob #1 Soil level: light (ha, we live on red clay) medium, heavy
Knob #2 Wash Temperature: Cold, cool darks (what the computer has eyes to see color?) cool lights, warm, hot
Knob #3 Multiple Guess: Soak, deep wash, heavy duty, normal (ha!) casual (this machine can sense style?) delicates, rinse/spin, clean washer, drain/spin
After ten days, 89 loads, lifting the lid at every possible stage, and trying every conceivable combination of Knobs #1, #2, #3 to get enough water to cover the laundry, I took matters into my own hands. I got two quart bottles, filled them with water and rocks, screwed on the lids tightly and tossed them in with every load of laundry. The machine weighed the “clothes” and filled the wash tub with enough water to wash the clothes.
Yes. I am smarter than a washing machine.