Life is so exciting for the young. I remember being filled with anticipation of all the things I would do as an adult. I couldn’t wait to drive or to have a place of my own to live. And then the milestones were ticked off, one by one. The drivers license at sixteen. The voter registration at eighteen. The first legal drink at twenty-one.
Then there were the other milestones, perhaps a little lower in impact, but important nonetheless. My very own car at seventeen. Which was, of course followed by my very own car insurance bill. This was an introduction to “real” adulthood, as opposed to the “fun” adulthood of my youthful imagination.
Real adulthood, it seems, is all of the unpleasant stuff that you never think of during those years of anticipation. I have never forgotten the day that what it meant to become a homeowner really sunk in. It was the day that I stepped into an ice-cold shower one warm, sunny weekday morning. “I must call the landlord” was the first thought into my head, followed immediately by “Oh, right.” That was the day that the checkboxes of real adulthood began to fill my life card.
Owning a house brings on real adulthood like few other things (marriage and parenthood come to mind). It brings about the need to deal with things that cannot be put off, and with the budgetary tradeoffs that come with them. So, even though I would have really preferred a gas water heater, I settled for an electric because it was a straight replacement.
The list has been a long one, as all such lists become as a guy moves from his twenties on into what I still like to think of as middle age. OK, late middle age. Off the top of my head, I can think of two water heaters, two central air conditioning systems, a furnace, three washing machines, four dishwashers, two refrigerators and a gas range (which involved helping an elderly contractor run a gas supply line through a crawlspace). But I have never bought a clothes dryer.
When I bought my first house in 1987, there was a old but functional washer and dryer in the basement that came along with the place. “These won’t be around long” was my first thought. As for the washer, I was right. Not long after marriage and a first child, the old washer did its best Chrysler minivan impersonation by eating its transmission. As a young attorney who was willing to spend good money for a good appliance, I paid the “Maytag premium” for the new washing machine that I was sure would serve my growing family for a long time. Until it didn’t. Rinse and repeat, as they say on the shampoo bottles.
But all the while, the old Kenmore dryer kept running. It wasn’t pretty, especially after the door got sprung and wouldn’t stay closed. A steel barrel bolt from the hardware store and a few sheet metal screws fixed that. But I knew that it would soon quit on us, as all appliances eventually do.
Which was why, when a secretary offered a free dryer that a relative wasn’t taking in a move, I jumped on the offer. Best of all, it was the updated twin to my old dryer. Which was still working, so the new one sat twenty feet away in the basement. As parts on the old dryer wore out, it was easier to pirate them from the new dryer than to actually do the swap, which would involve messing with gas lines. But at some point, spousal pressure to get rid of the old one became too much, and swap them I did (re-pirating the pirated parts, of course).
The new one was a big upgrade. Instead of being from maybe 1968, this new one (branded as a Whirlpool instead of a Kenmore) was from the first Reagan administration. The door even stayed closed. Through the lives of two additional washing machines.
I started to worry about it again awhile ago when something started squealing, but a little lubricant on the rollers shut it up. Then came complaints that it wasn’t drying. A clogged lint pipe was the culprit. I guess this will happen when a dryer lasts so long. Well, last month, it finally had a part break – the thin rubber belt that makes the drum turn.
Had the current washing machine been new enough that matching dryers were still sold in stores, I would probably not be writing this. But a quick check of the internet revealed that a new belt was under $10 and was not that hard to install. What the heck, I decided, let’s splurge on the new rollers too. Under $25 (and under two hours) later, the ancient Whirlpool is whirling again, drying laundry just as it has since the days when a Chrysler K car was still a novelty.
Why did I spend that time tearing the old thing apart and putting it back to work? I don’t mind spending money, but I like it to be on things that either improve my family’s life or make it more enjoyable. Things like appliances don’t do that – you only get back what you had before you spent the money. And maybe I am a little bit of a sucker for a challenge. I have a few mechanical skills, and a device that is not working properly is perhaps more of a threat to my manhood than it should be. “Pay the man” is an admission of defeat, although one that is sometimes either wise or necessary or both.
This time, however, I exercised my rightful dominion and authority over my recalcitrant appliance and showed it who was boss. And I have to admit that it feels good. No, I mean really, really good. Different things feel good to different people, and fixing something that was broken floats my boat like few other things.
So here I am with an unfinished life. I have never gone skydiving. I have never eaten raw fish. And I have never bought a clothes dryer. And I am just fine with all three. Just how long can a gas dryer possibly last? I guess I will be the guy who will let you know.