I didn’t want to look in that direction, but I could tell he was silently beckoning my attention. He has a way of doing that. He may be a man of few words, but he has powers. And he was using them as he stood leaning against the door frame to the laundry room, waiting patiently for me to give in and look up from across the long kitchen living area 25 feet away. I was no match for him and looked up helplessly into his gaze.
As soon as I did, he said, “You want to learn how to fix the washing machine.”
It wasn’t a question or a command. It was calm and non-threatening, but fully voiced. It was even in the midst of some commotion in the house, as others vied for my attention to give direction about household activities. But like a rabbit caught in the magic of a snake’s hypnotism, I stood up and approached the laundry room, knowing I was going into potential disaster. (click on any photo to enlarge)
Not that he is a snake, by any means. He is full of kindness and care in his power over me; but I didn’t want to fix the washing machine, so I am the wimpy rabbit. He knew very well I knew nothing about fixing washing machines, but he likes to try to teach me these things. Partly it takes the tedium out of it for him. And, since I know very well that he doesn’t really care if his clothes are clean, I knew he was doing it for me.
He already had the front panel and top of the washing machine removed, exposing the main washer tub and the black rubber hoses, including the one with the hole in it. My first reaction was relief that he had already done that. My second reaction was that small tangle of rubber hoses was attached using the same clamps that I have learned to use in sprinkler repair! Then, my joy was moderated by him “asking” what we should do next. Buy a new hose?
Wonder of wonders, I thought I saw that might be easier to cut the hose and reattach, and tentatively suggested that. I may have been extra creative because I really didn’t want to go to the black rubber hose store right then. He acted impressed at the possibility of a cut and splice, but I never really know if he has already thought of all the options and is just leading me along… Either way, he thought we might as well give it a try and handed me a piece of a ratchet nut driver to test the size. I name this tool now, but at the moment it was a shiny, cylindrical piece of metal with two differently shaped holes, one in each end. So, I gingerly maneuvered my hand down in the narrow space and tried each hole on the bolt for size. I dutifully reported that the square end didn’t fit. He looked temporarily startled, then chuckled, that of course it didn’t. That was the way it attached to the handle. He took it back and attached it to the ratchet handle and handed it back to me. Great.
I let my eyes unfocus as my memory tried to remind me about having seen this tool used before. Ah, yes, it makes a friendly clicking sound as it is turned, then pulled back to turn again. I stuck it down and over the bolt, while dear hubby chanted “lefty loosey” quietly in the background. The space was constrained so that it would only turn a 16th of an inch at a time. I couldn’t even tell if the bolt was being held by the tool, to be unscrewing and coming out. The 16th of an inch was barely enough to hear any ratcheting back, which totally took the fun out of it. This was going to take me about 3 years. I mentioned my concerns to the boss. He offered to help and had the bolt off in a jiffy.
The black rubber hose was easy to pull off of the metal nub that was part of the circuit to the incoming water source. Okay, it was easy to watch, but I know how to do it now. Then, the hose was held up for me to cut “at just the right spot” with my Cutco scissors. He would have probably used something more exciting, like a knife, but the Cutco scissors did a fine, quick job, and made me feel efficient.
The pipe clamp that had held the rubber hose securely to the metal nub was slipped up onto the new, improved hose end, and then we brainstormed about the best way to align the new design. He showed me where the rubber hose had been rubbing on the inside of the outer side panel of the washing machine. The rubber hose may have lost the battle, but it had actually dug a groove in the metal in the process. We wanted to avoid the same problem with the side of the washing machine or with any of the sharp hose clamp ends. I suggested duct tape to hold things in place, but since the previous set up had lasted for nearly 30 years, it was deemed unnecessary. The gangle of hoses and clamps was turned this way and that, the angle was adjusted once with another hose clamp in the middle of an inexplicable connection, and finally the boss was satisfied. And he said I could go ahead and put the washing machine outer shell back together. I gave him my best helpless look. It didn’t work.
But he did ask if I wanted help. He handed me the correct screws, showed me where they went, and helped hold the front metal panel in position. He only laughed a little when I complained that putting the screw in place hurt my fingers. It was not at all obvious what the screw was screwing into, either. It felt like the sort of exercise that is given to people in solitary confinement to see how long it takes them to go crazy. A little shifting of the panel made the point of attachment fall into place. He finished “his side.” And he made sure my side was secure. Or, rather, he made my side secure.
Next, it was time to screw in the bottom screws, the heads of which were at a 45° angle directed at the floor. I could either torque my wrist or lay on the dirty laundry room floor, where everyone enters the house from the barn and garage. I opted to torque my wrist, not knowing when I would get a shower next. The screwdriver was too long to fit properly with those constraints, and kept slipping out of the slots in the screw. I was worried I was going to strip the screw head before I got it screwed in. I know from past experience that I am strong enough to do that. Stubborn repetition is not good in this situation. Apparently, the boss also thought it was possible I might ruin it, or he was feeling hopeless about my progress in other ways… We switched places. I tried to help hold the metal panel in place, which he tolerated with no sign of contempt. Let it be known far and wide that he never shows contempt or disgust at my efforts. He sometimes makes it clear that I am not to try certain things by myself, but he is always friendly about it.
The next step he truly needed my help for. He wanted a load of laundry run to test the fix. He doesn’t know how to do that. I do. Happily, nothing leaked. My much appreciated modern appliance works again. I know someone is out of a job of washing the clothes by hand, but I’m okay with that. I expect they are, too, and have found something else to do. My washer works for a very cost effective rate and does a great job compared to hand scrubbing on a wash board! Who knew it was so much like sprinkler repair?!