Gimme a Smile: Laundry withdrawal

  • Sunday, July 31, 2016 1:00am
  • Neighbors

I have laundry withdrawal. I never thought I would say those words. All I want to do is wash my clothes, and I can’t. It’s been two and a half weeks since I’ve had a working washing machine in my house.

Picture a family of five coming home from a three-week vacation, suitcases bursting with dirty, smelly clothes. Now imagine that one of those five is getting on a plane in less than 24 hours for two weeks at camp, and for some reason desires clean clothes to pack in her duffle. What’s a mom to do? Laundry, of course. Piles and piles of it. At 45 minutes to wash and an hour to dry, multiplied by maybe eight piles, we’re looking at a nine-hour day of jet-lagged laundry, at a minimum. Except … the washing machine is leaking. Water is running across the garage floor in a steady stream. My ability to do laundry is compromised. Forget WikiLeaks — I have a WasherLeaks situation at my house.

Of course, we returned from vacation on a Saturday, the plane flight to camp is on Sunday morning, and appliance repair shops don’t open until 8 a.m. on Monday. What’s a mom to do? Short of purchasing an entire new wardrobe, down to the socks, the only option is the laundromat.

Now I’m in laundry triage mode. I only need to wash enough to get the family through Monday, and get the child on the plane with clean clothes for camp. I load up six laundry baskets, scrounge every quarter I can find in the house and set off on my mission.

What I fondly imagine to be six loads fills eight washing machines, and every quarter in the house is not enough to finance this laundry operation. At three minutes a quarter for the dryer, I would break the bank before my clothes ever had a chance to get wrinkled. Luckily I have lots of time during the wash cycle to realize that there is nothing wrong with my own dryer, so I finish the job at home in time to get clean clothes into the suitcase for the morning flight.

But my laundry travail is not over. A week from Monday (evidently I’m not the only one in town suffering from a malfunctioning washing machine) the repairman diagnoses a broken part that needs to be ordered from out of town. Alas, duct tape will not solve the problem, but the repairman does tip me off that I can slide a tray under the washer to catch the drip. After a week without a washing machine and a second bank-breaking trip to the laundromat, I’m open to any useful hack. My washer is back in action, as long as I remember to bail out the tray after every load. I’m still rationing my laundry, saving the unessential pieces for the happy day when the washing machine is finally fixed.

So, in the midst of the washer drama, with laundry withdrawal still clouding my senses, another appliance disaster strikes. A noxious odor emanates from the freezer, coming from the fan in the back. Visions of toxic coolant leaking into the air make my washer leak seem trivial by comparison. What’s a mom to do? With a brain fuddled by poison gas from dirty socks and fridge fumes, I am about to head to the appliance store to drop a bundle on a new refrigerator, when my son saves the day with his immortal words, “Smells like pickles in here.” Not toxic coolant — pickle juice. A family-sized jar of pickles had fallen on its side on the bottom shelf of the fridge, leaking pickle juice to pool in the wells under the fruit drawers. Somehow the pickle juice had infiltrated the circulation system of the refrigerator, to emerge from the fan in the freezer and cause a panic in a vulnerable household. Case closed, with no duct tape, repairmen or bank breaking involved!

Oh, did I mention the nighttime beeping coming from the garage? I actually thought it was a bird singing a very rhythmic, repetitive song. In reality, the carbon monoxide detector was going off, whether to signal a CO leak or a failing battery, we didn’t know. Woken in the night by incessant chirping in the garage, spooked by a possible poison seeping from our freezer, buried by dirty laundry awaiting the restoral of a working washing machine — what’s a mom to do? Looks like it’s time for another vacation!

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and aspiring author who lives in Juneau. She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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