It began with a most insignificant click. Then the lights went out and it was apparent – after several optimistic attempts to ignore all evidence – that the washing machine was, in fact, a dampening and flooding the floor machine.
There are some definitive parenting moments. The first steps, the gummy smiles, the first time your kid’s internet history gives you a shock. Well this was another one.
This white good had gone bad. (Yes, yes, I know. But the fact that it has done at least two washes a day, every day for four years didn’t help me right now (2920 washes – give or take, since you ask).)
Laundry baskets were brimming over all over the house already. (I’d been swanning at a very glamourous Italian wedding all weekend.)
Crusty socks and foosty towels were amassing in every corner.
Boy Two had been camping (it’s amazing how a bit of mud, some rain and a dash of mysterious red sauce-type stuff quickly become considerably greater than the sum of their parts).
I was due back at work in the morning.
I had one day of corporate workwear left clean.
The smell, while not yet intolerable, had moved from ‘a bit whiffy’ to ‘beyond words’ particularly if you stirred any of the heaps.
The repair company’s office was shut for the night.
Panic was rising.
Wild eyed I recounted this to the mother of daughters. In my shoes, she explained, like I was overreacting, she’d simply make her girls wear their uniforms for more than their usual two or three days. Ha ha ha. I only bred boys so I don’t know if this is a gender issue, but, every parent of sons who got wind (hopefully not literally, though it was possible) of my plight didn’t need it spelled out as they gasped and gazed with that mixture of pity and thank-the-lord it’s not me-ness.
Eventually, the repair person’s services were secured and their visit assured ‘any time between nine and five Tuesday’. Any doubts I’d had about the function of study leave were dispelled when I uttered “my teenage son is in the house all day, so that’s fine”.
Still, that Tuesday was nine days away! Days I filled with, among other things, screeching to a halt outside the nearest laundrette just as the owner was pulling down the security grilles with one of those hook-on-a-pole affairs. “Please, wait,” I gasped. “Noooo. Don’t tell me I’m too late.”
“Well,” she began, eyeing me with alarm and rattling a metal shutter down.
“I’ve got boys and my washing machine is broken.”
“You should have said. In that case…”
Surely it wasn’t always like this. I remember a time when laundry wasn’t even a blip on my radar. Far too mundane and domestic. Wash stuff, don’t wash stuff, it was largely the same. Who cares? I thought. I had bigger fish to fry.
You don’t read about how the great heroines fretted about getting their smalls laundered, do you? Cleopatra wasn’t distracted by rinsing the asses’ milk out of the towels before it went rancid. And you would definitely want to as it would be pretty nasty if left.
One time, I suppose you were either someone who washed others’ pants and shirts or you had someone to do it for you. Progress must be to blame then. Now we have labour-saving devices to keep us from having to scrub skid marks from our loved one’s undercrackers on a rock in the nearest stream. An activity that would probably attract the attention of the constabulary these days.
Fantastic then (OK not quite fantastic because there’s a whole post to be had on who does the feeding of these miraculous machines, but fantastic enough.)
Fantastic then, until the bloody things pack in and, suddenly it’s a calamity and, somehow, you’re the one to solve it. Weird.