First thing Saturday morning I decided to fix the washing
machine. This decision had not been reached lightly. The cold
water pressure was weak so I had checked with two experts at
work (i.e., they had both owned washing machines at one time or
another) and determined that it was a sticky solenoid. I grabbed
my toolbox and told my wife what I was planning.
"It'll be fixed in ten minutes," I explain as I head down to
the basement. Meanwhile, she is looking up the number of a '24
hour emergency plumbing service' and entering it into the
speed-dialing function of the telephone.
"Shouldn't I call the plumber?" she asks, making it obvious
that she doesn't understand men. Of course, she has her reasons
- I've had some bad experiences. In fact, I've yet to tackle a
home improvement project that has actually improved the home.
But today I was feeling confident. I carefully removed every
screw from the back of the washing machine only to discover that
it still wouldn't come off. So, using the largest screwdriver I
could find as leverage, I applied gentle pressure until suddenly
there was a god-awful screech followed by two loud snaps and the
back of the washing machine flies off like a cork out of a
champagne bottle and smashes against the concrete wall with a
thud that shakes the house.
I hear the basement door open above me. "Should I call the
"We don't need a plumber, everything is going according to
plan," I assure her.
Of course, I'm not exactly sure what the plan is. The back of
the washing machine is filled with enough wires and hoses to
launch the space shuttle and I have absolutely no idea where to
begin. So I slowly begin removing parts, looking for anything
which might remotely resemble a solenoid, which is a cylindrical
object which can be magnetized (I looked it up in the
Every hour or so the basement door opens. "Should I call the
Finally, with head held low, I humbly tell her, "It's time to
call a plumber."
Personally, I believe I was on the verge of figuring the whole
thing out, but I could tell that she was starting to get
nervous. A short time later Mr. Smarty-pants Plumber arrives and
views the carnage.
"What the hell happened here?" he asks in disbelief.
I tell him the only thing that pops into my head. "Vandals.
We've been having some problems in the neighborhood."
"Must have been a whole gang of them to have caused this much
damage," he suggests and I can only nod my head in agreement.
He continues to review the scene of destruction, occasionally
muttering "Hmmm" under his breath. Somehow, I intuitively know
that every "hmmm" is costing me an additional fifty dollars.
Finally, Mr. Overpriced Plumber starts putting everything back
together again until, like magic, the washing machine is back in
one piece and pushed against the wall.
"Exactly what were you trying to do?" Mr.
Couldn't-make-it-as-an-electrician asks as he's calculating a
bill larger than a small country's gross national product.
I seize the opportunity to show him he's not dealing with just
any goober who walked in off the street. "The cold water
pressure was weak," I explain. "Sticky solenoid."
"Uh huh," he responds and reaches behind the machine and twists
off a hose. He taps the nozzle against the palm of his hand
until a black, gooey glob of sludge oozes out. Then, with a
final twist, he reattaches the hose.
"Your filter was clogged."