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A few days ago, I reblogged Carol Hedges’ hilarious post about her subversive laptop. It reminded me of posts about other devices that turned on me, including the following column from my days as a new used mom and novice columnist.

Why I now refer to the Hub as ‘My First Husband’.

Take our washing machine. Please. For several years it faithfully washed clothes for our family of six. This task was made more difficult by the indecent behavior of the dirty clothes in our laundry baskets. There in the dark they clearly got together and rapidly reproduced. A friend says she tried throwing birth control devices into her laundry hampers, but they were only marginally more effective than birth control methods used in romance books involving the billionaire boss and his virginal secretary*. **[Usually twins. At least.]

⇒NOTE: obviously, this is not the clothes’ fault, but the system which has failed them. I’ve heard from parents who can’t unearth their teenagers from beneath the toxic clothing dumps formerly known as bedrooms, plus have forgotten whether their floors are carpeted, and if so what color it might be.  What we need here is a massive federal program to fund SUDS (Studies of Uncontained Dirty Stuff) research. Those of you who are concerned about this problem which threatens to engulf our nation, swallow our teens, and destroy laundry as we know it can send enormous amounts of money to me, care of this blog.

In the past few months our washing machine entered a rapid decline. It often forgot its place and wouldn’t complete a cycle unless I performed increasingly fortissimo drum solos on its control box. When the washer could no longer go on, you may think we would buy a new machine. Never! Such behavior is for wimps and people who place some value on their time.

I, on the other hand, am married to a do-it-yourselfer who greeted my news with the light of battle gleaming in his eye. Out came the DIY bible, the Readers’ Digest Fix-It-Yourself Manual. Under its expert guidance, the Hub autopsied the washer and determined the cause of death was timer failure. I went into shock which I heard what a new timer would cost.

But the Hub had only begun to fight. He might not have any experience, but surely a PhD qualified him to do anything. (Really. Just name it.) Ignoring the Manual’s strict admonition not to attempt timer repairs unless you are an experienced electrician with lots of paid-up life insurance, he got to work. Out came the deceased timer, and the next thing I heard was, “Hey—can you believe all these parts came out of that little box? Don’t worry, I think I can get most of them back in…”

Days went by while he tinkered happily with the washing machine’s guts. I hadn’t seen my older teen in days. The dirty clothes in their dark hampers shamelessly multiplied at alarming rates. A second teen went missing, although I noticed one of the piles of dirty laundry loitering suspiciously in front of the (open) fridge. Finally, he proudly announced his successful resurrection of the washing machine.

I called my parents with the good news because my father was the ultimate home handyman. Many of my childhood memories involve various disemboweled appliances strewn across the garage. My father was impressed enough to confess that his own attempts to fix a timer had almost caused my mother to leave him. But when she said she wouldn’t take the (10) kids with her, he bought a new washing machine.

Alas, the Hub’s triumph was short-lived. I brought him into the laundry room to see that although the machine did, indeed, obediently fill with water when you turned it on, it then immediately emptied, refilled, emptied… “You don’t like it like that?” he innocently inquired.

This time I did suggest we sound taps, borrow the neighbor’s old revolver—this was Virginia, so we knew he had one. Probably several.—and put the washer out of my misery.

“Never!” he yelled, flinging himself protectively across the machine. “This is a perfectly good washer! (This from the man who had just mentioned that the state-or-the-art computer he had to get a year ago is actually only slightly faster than a herd of turtles and if he had the new Turbo-Charged Overhead-CAD Plutonium-Drive Series 5000 MHz9000 model he could solve the world’s most pressing problems by dinner and we’d absolutely be in Stockholm collecting the Nobel Prize by Christmas.)

At least by this time he was getting quicker at dumping out the pieces of the timer and getting (most of) them to go back in again. So he announced that night that the washer was again ready for service. I followed him into the laundry room, loaded some clothes, and turned on the machine. It filled with water and then…nothing happened. After staring at it for several minutes, I thought about  gentle ways to proceed without hurting his feelings. Then I thought about missing teenagers, and piles of laundry oozing their dominion over the house. “Fail.”

He looked concerned. “You know,” he confided, “when I tried it before there was that big puff of smoke. But I’m sure the Manual knows how to get it working.”

Off he went muttering about fixing it with the glue gun and about 50-cents worth of parts from the hardware store.

[image credit: ipinmg.com ]

By now the dirty clothes had embarked on an active campaign of imperialism, and were off colonizing whole new areas of the house. Based on the growing piles, I started to wonder if there were people I hadn’t met living in my house, or at least stopping by to drop off their dirty clothes.  The way I looked at it, there were only two choices. Either I gave each person an orange jumpsuit and said we were implementing prison wardrobes going forward, or I had to take my laundry shit-show on the road. With my ancient mom-van groaning under the weight of it all, I pulled up to the laundromat, commandeered a wall of washing machines, and grimly began feeding in the quarters.

An astonished young man who watched me insert my weekly food budget into the coin slots inquired whether I took in laundry. I told him it was just a weeks worth of laundry for my family of six, and I’m pretty sure he decided never to marry.

This sad tale does have a happy ending. We now have His and Hers washing machines. Hers works. His is a garage sculpture. Our marriage is safe for the moment, but from then on I introduced him as my ‘first husband’.