Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Taken to the Cleaners

So the washing machine is beyond repair. I was feeling cocky and manly after an episode a couple of weeks ago, when the machine wouldn't spin and, on Kim's suggestion, we started talking to flannel-mouthed appliance salesmen who spoke earnestly about the necessity of replacing our "system." I bailed on the conversation when the numbers starting creeping toward a price commensurate with a Sarah Palin wardrobe update, and insisted on giving our old washer another chance. "It could just be a broken belt or something," I reasoned, now that I understood that belts were involved. We went home, I pulled out the machine with brawny determination, crawled behind and got gratifyingly grimy as I removed the back panel and found...a droopy belt that had been flung from its pulleys. Triumph!

Alas, a couple of washes later, the flooding began. I climbed back there again and removed the panel, but since this time there was no belt to reset, I was out of ideas. A call to a local appliance repair shop brought the news that there was "a man in the area" who could be there within moments.

The guy swaggered into our laundry room (where, it must be pointed out, I had cleared a space, I had pulled out the washer, I had skinned a knuckle disconnecting the water supply, and I had once again removed the 25 screws to liberate the back panel.) He pulled off his ball cap, craned his neck around to see inside the cavity and made his pronouncement.

"Blown a seal. Can tell by the spray pattern. Probably why the belt came off before. Not worth fixing.You need a new machine." He popped his ball cap back on and pulled out an invoice book.

"So how do you want to pay for this?" he asked.

"With seething resentment, " I wanted to say. But instead I fetched my checkbook and wrote out a prescription allowing him to exfoliate 72 bucks from my bank account for the "service call." After he left, I stood there for a moment in the defeated disarray of the laundry room, check-writing pen in hand, silently rebuking myself for not learning a trade that gave me the opportunity to gouge hapless innocents for a consultation-at-a-glance.

I was finally aroused from my reflective reverie when my eyes alighted on the label of the laundry detergent bottle:

"Cleans even dirt and odours you don't see." I could mention that you want a laundry detergent to clean clothes, not dirt. (Which begs the koan-like question: how does one know when one's dirt is clean?) But what really has me flummoxed is those odours I'm not seeing, which is a form of synesthesia I'm not familiar with. I don't think you can eyeball a stench. Although, I am freshly reminded, I can smell a scam.