Our washing machine died. Last week.
No, it did not simply break down. Pffft – that would be too simple.
For some time, there has been a small patch of rust visible just below the door of our six-year-old front loading washing machine. That small patch of rust has been niggling at me but I’ve been a bit distracted by one thing and another – like life – to pay attention to that niggly feeling. So, really it’s my fault that last Sunday I opened the laundry door to a flood.
At first I thought a pipe must have worked its way off the tap. Sadly, this was not the case. Nor was there anything in the laundry tub - like doggie blankets or cat dishes (yes, been there, done that….we have the cleanest laundry floor in creation for a reason….). While I was on my knees mopping up water I happened to glance at the machine and notice…a waterfall cascading down the front.
Picture, if you will, one bespectacled writer still in her jammies (correction – still in her soaked-with-laundry-water-jammies) peering at the washing machine, trying to interpret what she’s seeing. Then picture, if you will, said writer advancing a finger toward the patch of rust – looking not unlike ET about to declare he’ll be “right here”. Then picture the dawning slowly registering on her face when the paint flakes away to reveal a lace network of rust – that once was the washing machine.
How did/does this happen? I do not know girls and boys. I am not even sure I want to know. But it happens. And when it happens – and gets to the point where there are more holes than rust – well the water going in the machine has to go somewhere….
TMoTH and Mr 13 moved the machine outside and I cleaned up the laundry. During this entire time I suffered from an uncontrollable fit of giggles. At one point they became almost manic in nature. My defense is this: what other possible reaction was there? Crying (tempting), screaming (also tempting), grumping (very tempting) weren’t going to change anything; giggling wasn’t going to change anything either but it was a lot more pleasant to experience. At least for the first ten minutes.
One of the realities of my life, right now, is that money is very tight. We can’t afford a new washing machine. We can’t even afford to pay one off. And while we are looking at Trade Me – we can’t actually get one unless we can get it delivered – which pushes the price up, which brings me back to my first point.
The great thing is it is cause for a lot of chanting (a form of Buddhist prayer for those of you new to this blog) - in fact, I’m tempted to say something about washing my karma…..except that in the meantime, there are essentially four adults in this house, all with clothes in more need of washing than their karma.
One of life’s other little realities folks is that in order to have clean clothes you really do only have two options – unless your name is preceded by Your Highness – you either toss them in the machine or you hand wash.
Seriously, when was the last time you hand washed anything more than your favorite sweater or the lacy delicates you keep for Valentines Day? When did you last hand wash your sheets? Your towels? Your teenager’s school uniform? Or that fabulous suit you bought for the office?
This is how it goes. Half fill the laundry tub with hot water. Remember your hands are about go in this and add cold water. Toss in the laundry liquid. Wonder why it doesn’t froth up much and give it a swish with the old whisk from the kitchen. Drop clothes on top of water. Press down with hands. Swear loudly and add more cold water. Press clothes up and down for ten minutes. Extract and peer myopically at clothes and wonder how the heck you are going to get the collar clean. Rub at it gently. Frown. Rub it not so gently. Swear. Find an old toothbrush, clean it, and scrub manically at collar. Swish in water. Ring out. Empty tub. Rinse and fill with only cold water – you’ve already learned that lesson. Put clothes back in and leave to soak while you go and extract cat from rubbish bin. Return and repeat pressing up and down of clothes. Look horrified at colour of water and amount of scum floating. Ring out clothes. Fill tub with clean water. Add clothes. Remove second cat from rubbish bin while muttering “I’m trying to do the laundry people” and glaring at third cat in case it is thinking about trying out this game. Return to laundry and inspect water, decide that it’s definitely not as scummy this time and ring everything out again and drop it in laundry basket. Take clothes to line and begin pegging. Swear loudly as water drips on your head and down the inside of your sleeves – so that’s why we spin our clothes in the washing machine. Go inside and announce you’ve done the washing, by hand, would someone like to make you a cup of tea.
Make a cup of tea.
Five hours later, return to line to discover that spinning not only ensures you don’t get soaked while pegging out laundry, it means your laundry actually dries. After five hours everything is still damp. Bring it inside and hang on rack in front of fire. Ignore everyone who complains it’s not cold enough for fire. Point out how happy cats are that fire is on – and that it at least keeps them out of rubbish bins.
Repeat this routine until Friday when you realise you need to wash towels if anyone is going to be able to shower over the coming weekend. Fill up bathtub – trust me, this is a much easier solution for towels. Add laundry liquid. Drop in towels and push under water. Push down other end. Spend five minutes trying to get all parts of all seven towels under the water at the same time. Eventually remove shoes and socks, stand on towels, swear at coldness of water. Get out of bath, put shoes and socks back on and begin scrubbing.
And this is where you begin to form a new found respect for pioneer women. Towels, you think, should be easy. Towels are not easy. First of all, you are either kneeling or bending for a long time as you wash the things. Your knees or back ache, probably both, in a way that is only exceeded by the ache in your shoulders. But, there is a sense of virtuosity, of well-being, and of self-satisfaction. I suspect its brought on by having your head in steam and laundry liquid vapors for an extended period.
Given that pioneer women did all their laundry this way, and made bread daily (I make bread regularly and it is very physical work), and grew most of their food , and walked everywhere, I have to say this: they must have been incredibly fit. In fact I would guess they had an upper body strength a weight lifter would be jealous of.
And I bet none of them had to worry about flabby upper arms.
Don’t worry though – you’re about to lose that euphoria. Empty tub and begin ringing out towels. Seven, large, wet towels take a long time to ring out. And somewhere around towel number four, you become aware of the fact that as a writer, your hands may well be a little more delicate than you realised. By the time you put the towels back in the water to rinse, you are very aware that you have to do at least two more rinses and ergo, two more ring outs and that it HURTS.
Who knew you could get blisters from ringing out wet towels?
You do the final ring out, hissing through your teeth and pretending you didn’t feel that blister burst because if you did then you might have to wash that towel again and that is not going to happen, and drop the towels in the laundry basket. When you go to pick up the basket you nearly fall over. It’s too heavy to lift.
You see, it doesn’t matter how well you ring out a towel, you are never going to get as much water out of it as the washing machine spinner does. Never. It dawns on you that it may be some time before these towels are dry again and you try frantically to remember the weather forecast while you battle with pegging them on the line, ending up completely soaked.
This entire production takes roughly three hours from start to finish. When you finally sit down with a cup of tea, to pat yourself gently on the back (those hands are still a little sore), you remember you asked everyone to strip their beds.
There are, waiting in the dirty laundry hamper, three sets of double sheets.
Now I don’t know about pioneer women, but this was my breaking point. The only way those sheets were going to be washed was if I had help. Which is why come Saturday morning, I could be found with TMoTH in the bathroom, each holding one end of a double sheet and ringing with all our might.
Even with two people – you still can’t get as much water out as you can with the washing machine. Nor, I have to say, can you get anything as clean as you can in the washing machine – I’m not joking. I washed those towels through three times and I can still see marks on them.
I keep checking Trade Me for washing machines and as soon as I find one I can afford and can arrange delivery for, I will be clicking the buy now so fast the seller won’t know what hit them. In the meantime, I’m teaching everyone in our house how to handwash their underwear and socks.
And I’m tipping my hat to all those women who never had the luxury of a washing machine - I am truly in awe of them.