In Which We Disassemble A Washing Machine

“It’s what mechanics have! At one end, it’s like a wrench and then on the other end is the octagon thing…” If there’s any conversational precept I wish I could remember before the moment of crisis, it’s this one:

When once your foot has been firmly wedged into your mouth, continued discourse will in no wise un-lodge it.

Have you ever shared a house with resourceful women? I have–various groups of them, for many years of my life. Therefore, when our washing machine broke one Thursday morning and my housemates commenced to form an emergency action plan, my history of watching resourceful women resolve their own mechanical problems created inside my heart a confidence that the combined brains and thrifty-like natures of these four damsels would heal the wounds of our washing machine post-haste.

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First Damsel: “I’m off to work, but the washing machine threw a code just now, and my laundry is locked inside the chamber, half-washed. Does anyone know what the code means?”

Second Damsel: “I’ll check the owners manual.”

Myself (in my head) “I did not know washing machines could have codes. I thought that was only computers. Ah, this is what becomes of dabbling too deeply in technology.”

I considered suggesting the exceptional remedy I learned as a child: “If something isn’t working, give it a quick smack upside the head and maybe that will knock some sense into it.” This advice was and is never intended to be applied to living creatures, but it has served me pretty well while fitting wood siding pieces together.

It seems my car has also accepted this quick-fix. Every time I hit a pothole the left speaker kicks in.

Still, I did not suggest a smack upside the head for the washing machine. Washing Machine is not a language I speak. I am more familiar with creeks, rivers and streams. These never seem to break.

While Adrielle sifted the far corners of the house for an owner’s manual, I googled. The culprit of malfunction was a drain pipe clog.

“What is a clog for a resourceful washing machine owned by resourceful women? Just cough it out and move on with life, my precious.” I unplugged the washing machine and restarted the cycle. The motivational speech inspired the chamber to function for a mere 7 minutes.

Vanquished, I retreated to the coffee-maker.

“Kara, could you help me?” There was a hint of distress in Adrielle’s voice. I found her crouched gracefully among a plethora of dust bunnies, wielding a screw driver with reckless abandon. The washing machine had been drug several feet away from the wall.

“We need to lay this on its side so I can take the front off.” she announced. Noting my dubious expression, she added, “I watched a tutorial.”

I’d emptied the contents of my car onto our blacktop 12 hours ago, and there a heap of laundry remained, now rain-soaked and strewn with grass clippings. From this mountain I tugged a florescent orange sleeping bag, spreading it out between puddles of motor oil, as a cushion for the young washing machine. Adrielle owned this washing machine, I learned, which helped me understand her compassion for its needs.

My father had given me a magnetic screwdriver bit set for Christmas, along with a Leatherman multi-tool the year before. Adrielle had an auto-loading screwdriver, an adjustable wrench and a vice-grip. With these magnificent tools, we strode forth into battle.

Having no qualms about the influence of grease or dust bunnies on her white tank top, Adrielle’s brown curls flew as she wielded one tool after another in perfectly manicured hands, displaying great dexterity and vigor.

I stood beside her and held a trail mix container for the screws.

By the time our washing machine lay on the garage floor in no less than 17 pieces, we understood that our tutorial had not been for this model.

We needed to take the back panel off of the machine. This required a tool we did not have.

Preparing to visit the shop next door, Adrielle asked, “What is the name of the tool we need?” I googled. A long line of beautiful yellow tools instantly marched across the screen. These were all power tools, not the pretty little wrenches in a long shallow box like I was picturing.

“Torin 14-in Folding Lug Wrench. DEWALT DCF899HB 20V MAX XR Brushless High Torque 1/2″ Impact Wrench with Hog Ring…” I read out the descriptions of all tools that had the word ‘wrench’ in them, hoping one would shine above the rest.

“I’m pretty sure the neighbors will know what we need.” Adrielle was inching towards the door.

“But wait! I know this one! It’s what mechanics have! At one end, it’s like a wrench and then on the other end is the octagon thing. And it comes in that box, or a roll-out drawer and then you fit it over, like this, to choose the size you need…”

Adrielle is grace-filled, and did not laugh. “I will just trust the neighbors to know what we need.”

She returned with the tool.

9 minutes later, laughter bubbled from one certain garage.

There was no clump of hair, bobby pins and twigs intermingled with slime to greet Adrielle’s French manicure as she unfastened the final hardware. Just a cute and innocent round of foam, rolled like a perfect Takis chip and perched sweetly in the drain pipe like a mother hen over her chick.

And what was her chick? Our lost house key. 



Today our washing machine threw a code again. It was the clogged drain pipe code.

If you ever need to get into our house, try ransacking the washing machine drain pipe for a key. It’s as likely a place as any.

Bring your own tools.








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