An Adult Life Incomplete


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.

16 thoughts on “An Adult Life Incomplete

  1. You lucky guy. Since being married for 18 years now, I know we have purchased at least three, maybe four, driers. All were electric.

    Out of college I was given an old one that is likely still working. The only downside was it would only run for about 30 minutes before taking a break. No sweat, set the timer for 90 minutes every time as it would automatically fire up again after its siesta. 90 minutes on the timer got me about 45 to 60 minutes of dry time. Even better, opening the door did not stop the drum from rotating. Wonderful dryer.

    If and when your drier does throw craps for good, you might consider donating it to some appliance museum or the Smithsonian. You have a rarity.


    • Electric dryers always made me uneasy. The idea of cramming so much current through a thick wire that it gets hot enough to heat other things just never seemed like a great idea. Even toasters concern me.


  2. I’ve bought two (2) dryers in my lifetime. The first was a top-line front-loading Maytag, with the matching washer, in about 1997 when Damion was born. My wife had to have the best of things. Cost upwards of 2 grand. And then that set was the most unreliable piece of garbage I’ve ever seen.

    Fast forward to post-divorce and me moving into this house. I bought a used washer and dryer off Craigslist for $125. Turns out they’re Maytags of the same vintage — but much lower line. The washer is a standard top-loader, agitator. And the suckers just won’t die. The dryer’s heating element has been weak the whole time I’ve owned it; it takes more than 2 hours to dry a load of towels. The replacement heating element is $150. I figure I should just go buy another used dryer. But it works well enough I never seem to get to it.


    • I spent so much on my Maytag washer (about $700 in 1991) because of the one my mom bought in 1973. She left it when she sold her house about 1998. In all those years, she had one service call on it – to replace the plastic dial because the numbers had worn off. The lonely repairman has a lot more business these days.


    • Let me guess…Maytag Neptune? That model destroyed Maytag’s good reputation very quickly. My Neptune set lasted maybe two years.


  3. Well, I’ve bought only one washer and dryer. $150 for both, Adrmiral brand. When we got our first house I bought the set from some guy who was selling it for cash out of a rental house he owned so he could go on vacation to Cuba. That’s what he said anyway, he just might have been selling it out of a house he was renting.
    Anyway that was 17 years ago and they’re both still going, a bit squeaky but when something breaks I can still get the part and keep going. My sister was incensed that her 3 year old front load washer is now junk, but my consumer products engineering mantra is “They don’t redesign anything to make it better these days, they only make things cheaper.”

    Maybe we should go skydiving and bring a chunk of raw fish to eat on the way down.


    • I think your engineering instincts are good. I will pass on the skydiving, as I still carry the pilot’s instinct, which is that there is never a reason to jump from a functional aircraft. As for the fish, I could see it going down and coming up all at once. 😃


      • No pilot ever got hurt staying away from the ground. Wasn’t that in Chickenhawk? I assume you’ve read that one.


  4. Even if it takes *hours*, there’s something so satisfying about being self-reliant and fixing something yourself, isn’t there? Sadly, though, as everything gets computerized that’s becoming more difficult — though I suppose it’ll free you up to go skydiving with Doug and gnaw on raw fish on the way down (with props to Doug for the biggest chuckle I’ve had yet today).


    • We can agree that Doug wins the comment award for the day. We also agree on the fixing thing. My next project is replacement of the $2.36 plastic clip that broke and prevents me from unlatching the fold-down backseat in my car. I love how the internet has eliminated the need for factory service and parts manuals.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Isn’t it wonderful how you can find a video for just about any do-it-yourself project? I just hope I’ll have reliable bandwidth if I ever need to remove my own appendix. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I rent, so if I have appliance problems I just call the super. I have, however, eaten raw fish. I once did some work for a Japanese businessman who always insisted on paying more than I billed him for. One time, he was so grateful that he wanted to take me to dinner at a sushi bar. There was no graceful way to refuse, and I actually got to like sushi.


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