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 plumber?”
“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 dictionary).
Every hour or so the basement door opens. “Should I call the plumber?”
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.”