Overworked Beast


Nope, we’re not talking about me – we’re talking about the washing machine.

Just before we left Somerset West, back in 2007, we replaced the fridge, the stove and the washing machine. The stove has long since gone by the wayside. We’d schlepped it up to Springs, not knowing that houses in Gauteng generally came with a stove. So, we stored it for years, then sent it back to Cape Town, where Mom and Keith used it in Gordon’s Bay. Then Keith passed, and Mom moved to a smaller house where the stove did not fit.

Wimpy took custody of said stove. When he sadly passed earlier this year, the stove was sold. I believe, fifteen years later, it was still in good working order.

The fridge is also limping along. It probably gets used more than the washing machine, simply because it’s always on, always fullish, and always being wrenched open by one family member or another. The handles have fallen off—several times. The compartments on the side of the door have broken. The cold meat drawer is now just a container that sits on a shelf. The veggie drawer is stuck together with tape, but still, it works. There’s idle chitter-chatter every now and then of replacing it, but then I say, “Nah! Let’s just wait until it dies.”

Especially after the crap we had replacing Mom’s fridge earlier this year. The first new one didn’t work. Although it took us a few days to figure out that it wasn’t getting cold. Despite the fact it was only two days old, we could not just get a replacement one. Oh no. The technician had to come out and verify that it wasn’t working. Check that we’d managed to plug it in correctly and all that stuff.

But it was the holiday period between Christmas and New Year, and all the technicians were either harried to death or on holiday. So he took a good couple of days to arrive, and honestly, things started to happen only after I bitched on Facebook. It was wildly frustrating, and instead of the new fridge being a nice surprise for Mom when she came home from Cape Town—it was a mess of note. We definitely won’t buy from that place again. I’d name and shame, but they did eventually sort it out in the end, so I’ll refrain.

Back to our hardest working beast…

Mom has her own washing machine, so ours only serves six people. I say only with tongue in cheek. Rollo makes enough washing for two.

In the beginning, when the big kids came home, we each used to have a day. This was mainly because the washing line at Charmaine’s place was tiny and in the shade half the day. So unless it was a nice hot, windy day, one load was as good as it got. Yes, we have a tumble drier, but generally, that’s only used for a few minutes to soften the dry washing.

Or if it’s raining.

I can’t remember who had which day, but I know Luan washed on a Sunday. It was the only day that he was home to do it. I’d always tried to keep the line free of clothes on the weekend when we sat outside on the stoep and braaied. But such silly little niceties flew out of the window.

Back then, Luan used to diligently iron everything, too. Fast forward seven years, and now he doesn’t iron a thing.

Then, we moved into our house in 2017. There were plenty of sunny washing lines, and the poor machine continued to work daily, but now, often thrice daily.

Luan always complained that it left little flecks of washing powder on his clothes. Finally, he discovered if he shoved them in the tumble drier for a few minutes before hanging them up, it got rid of them. The rest of us didn’t care too much about those flecks. They disappeared in the quick end tumble anyway. Then Luan had an ah-hah moment and discovered if he used liquid washing powder, the problem disappeared completely. But that stuff is expensive, and we go through way too much of it—so he bought his own.

The dial was always grubby, no matter how often I cleaned it, and the numbers and letters wore off, so it was hard to find the exact place. I’d write the G in with a Sharpie, but it kept disappearing.

It also got to the stage where you always had to double spin your washing.

Sometimes, I’d be in the kitchen, see a load lurking, flip the dial, and send it on its merry way.

Then the owner of the washing would come in and do it again.

When he was a teeny tiny tot, Rollo loved to watch the clothes turning in the machine. It kept him nicely occupied for long periods. We’ve since discovered that this is quite a telling autistic trait. Although, now that he’s older and on meds, he just opens the door (if it’s not on) and carries on hooliganizing in the kitchen.

Then, a couple of months ago, the washing machine door started getting cranky.

You had to load your washing, close the door, and turn the dial (it was a manual machine) back from H (double spin) to G – which was the cycle we all used. You also had to check the temperature. Luan likes to wash his grubby, often blood-flecked green overalls at 90 degrees. Sometimes Em tries to shrink her jeans and uses the same temperature.

Funny story... When we first moved into the house, we never realized that it was the hot tap connected to the washing machine. It’s situated in the kitchen where the previous owners had a dishwasher. So, our clothes were all washed at 60 degrees for over a year. Many things shrank. Chris had to do some plumbing chop-chop when we finally twigged what was happening.

Once everything was locked and loaded, you stood and listened to hear that the water had started running in. Then, you gave the door handle a little extra push if it didn’t. This usually did the trick and got it going. But…sometimes, I’d forget and come back two hours later, haul it out of the machine and only then realize it was all still dry and dirty.

But as the poor machine continued to work its neat little square ass off, it became more obstreperous.

Howls of, “Mom! Come and work your magic, please,” reverberated around the house.

Somehow I had the knack. And when the ability eluded me, I learned to whack it in just the right spot.

Hanging out washing is usually a pain in the butt.

Yet, when you finally got the washing machine to work after a healthy amount of tapping, patting, begging and pleading, you were just intensely grateful that you could peg those clean, wet suckers on the line.

But then, one day… it simply refused to work.

No amount of begging, tapping, pushing, or whacking worked.

Luan turned to me with desperate eyes. His supply of vet’s attire is limited.

“Go and ask Mom if you can use her machine,” I said.

The next day, Chris had a go at it. He got out his tools and took it apart. The door switch mechanism seemed to be kaput. After some googling, it appeared that the part was available for a couple of hundred rands. But, seeing as it was Sunday, the shop was closed.

He cleaned the whole thing up beautifully, vacuumed all the rusty bits and put the machine back together. He was rather pleased with himself for figuring out what the problem was.

The ON light lit up.

Odd, because he hadn’t actually switched the machine on yet.

Chris wiggled a few things and gave it a thump. Kapow! The electricity tripped.

Now, my man likes to fix things. Not unfix things. So he took it apart again and scrutinized all the bits and bobs. He reckoned maybe we just needed a new on/off switch and the new door mechanism.

I was a tad skeptical. I’d seen the rusty bits inside, and even if we fixed those two things, what was going to break next?

After tinkering around for way too long, he pulled out all the pipes, declaring it was dead. We needed a new washing machine.

Now, this has been a rough year. We really don’t need more major expenses. But a washing machine in a house full of people is not a nice to have. It’s a necessity.

Tuesday morning rolled around, and Chris called me. He had washing machines spread all over his screen.

“What do we need?” he asked.

I rolled my eyes. We needed some industrial monstrosity that could handle the volume, but the budget and the space were limited.

We settled on a DEFY – 1-6 kg / 800 rpm / A+++ . Similar to our previous machine and the same make.

Takealot said they’d be able to deliver the next day, Wednesday, free of charge. But if we wanted it delivered on Thursday, there would be an extra charge. That made no sense, but it didn’t matter because the sooner, the better, as far as I was concerned.

The machine duly arrived, and I resisted the urge to install it myself and try it out. Chris likes to do things properly—after he’s read the manual. He also insisted we do the first mandatory wash thingy on 90 degrees to clean out any gunk. We both felt a bit like Rollo, standing in the kitchen, watching the machine wash a lot of nothing for two whole hours.

It’s automatic—so you select your desired wash, turn the dial and hit go.

We’re all thrilled that it spins properly the first time, too. Although, I did catch Luan doing the extra spin cycle.

“Why?” I howled.

“Because that’s what we do,” he replied, nonplussed.

“But you don’t need to. It’s a new machine. It spins properly.”
I shook my head, baffled that such a smart kid could be so dense.

“It washes so clean,” Emma cooed.

I agreed with her. The washing looked somehow brighter. Clearly, technology has improved in the last fifteen years.

Luan is also thrilled because there are no more pesky flecks of soap powder on his clothes, and he doesn’t have to splurge on fancy washing liquid anymore.

Now, we’re wondering what to do with the old beast. After all, it has served us extremely well despite its foibles.

Chris considered removing the drum and turning it into a compost sifting gadget but then figured it sounded like too much hard work at the moment.

I offered to cement cloth it into a garden ornament.

But we do have a local guy who raps on the gate from time to time, checking to see if we have any broken (or sometimes they’re working) appliances to give him. So we’ll ask him if he wants it first.

Otherwise… if he doesn’t want it… watch this space.

Rollo hooliganizing in the kitchen.

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