Tuesday, February 17, 2004

My Washer Is Part Paper Shredder

Back Article published Feb 17, 2004

At the moment, I’m wearing a gray fleece shirt with white dots all over it. The dots didn’t come with the shirt, however. They are 5,000 pieces of lint.

I don’t know if it’s my washing machine or if I need to take a course called “Clothes Washing for Dummies,” but my laundry has been looking mighty strange lately. In fact, I’m at the point where I think going down to the river and beating my clothes against the rocks would make them look better than my washer does.

For one thing, when I bought this washer two years ago, I thought it was pretty strange that when I asked the clerk where the lint trap was, he said there was no such thing.

Every other washer I’ve owned, there always was a place where wayward lint would gather, and I’d clean it out regularly. But with this washer, the lint is going to places unknown. And that worries me. I know it’s just lurking in there somewhere, growing larger and larger until when I least expect it, it will explode all over my wash…when I’m washing dark colors, of course.

Another weird thing about this washer is that even on the most delicate cycle, it turns everything inside out. This totally mystifies my husband.

“How does it do that?” he asks every week, holding up his inside-out undershirts. “You think that maybe if we try turning the clothes inside out before they go into the washer, they’ll come out the right way?”

It sounded logical, so I tried it. It didn’t work. The only explanation is that the washer hates me.

Take, for example, a few weeks ago. My mother and I went shopping and found some gorgeous chenille sweaters on sale. I bought one in light blue and she bought one in pale green. I wore the sweater and loved it. In fact, I loved it so much, I didn’t dare wash it. Finally, when I couldn’t wear it any longer unless I sprayed it with an entire bottle of Febreze, I closed my eyes, held my breath, and dropped it into the washer. I turned the dial to the “delicate” cycle and prayed.

In retrospect, I guess I probably should just have washed the sweater by hand, but I figured that wringing it out afterwards would be more damaging than putting it into the washer.

I figured wrong.

When I took the sweater out of the washer (and I am telling the absolute truth here) it looked as if it had been attacked with an ice pick. I immediately called my mother.

“Are you sure it wasn’t moths?” she asked. “Sometimes they will gnaw on clothes but the holes won’t show up until you do the laundry, and then everything falls apart.”

“My wool sweater was hanging right next to this one,” I said, “and that one’s fine.”

“Well, maybe your moths are just fussy eaters.”

But I knew that moths weren’t the cause of the holes. It was my killer washing- machine, El Diablo, which I was beginning to suspect was crossbred with a paper shredder.

So I took the sweater back to the store and asked the girl at the service desk what I’d done wrong and how I could have prevented the sweater from turning into something that looked like a giant fishing net. She didn’t offer any advice; she just gave me a refund.

Another thing I can’t figure out is why I currently own 10 pairs of green panties. They didn’t start out that way. They once were pretty pastel shades of pink, blue, yellow and lavender. Now they all are the same drab green color, kind of like army-issue underwear. Is it the washer? The water? Personally, I’d rather have it be the washer, because I don’t even want to think about what the water might be doing to my internal organs if it can do that to panties.

Aside from calling an exorcist or trading in my washer for another one, I guess there’s not much I can do to achieve laundry perfection. And I guess it really shouldn’t bother me that I’m covered with lint or have to wear green underwear, or that my husband gets dressed in the dark and often goes to work wearing his clothes inside out. At least everything is clean.

And believe it or not, having El Diablo for a washer actually does have a plus side. There’s this monogrammed red sweater with penguins and igloos on it that I received as a Christmas gift…and even though I haven’t worn it yet, I’m pretty sure it could use a good washing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

My computer’s being held hostage

I like to think of myself as an easygoing person, someone who doesn't lose her temper too often. But in the past few weeks, I'm embarrassed to confess, I have lost my temper twice. And coincidentally, on both occasions, the target of my wrath was a store manager.

The first incident actually began last September and involved a large electronics store. One day, my laptop computer began to randomly shut off and then turn back on, as if it were possessed. Finally, it shut off and stayed off. No amount of coaxing, sweet-talking or threatening would make its little screen light up again.

So I returned the computer to the store where I'd bought it. It was sent off to be repaired free of charge under my service contract.

Well, the technicians who repaired my computer goofed up a few things in the process and ended up keeping it for six weeks. During the fourth week of those six weeks, my service contract expired.

That was in November, and I haven't seen my computer since. Why? Because it's being held hostage for $688.

The technicians insist that because my service contract has expired, I now have to pay for the repair. And I told them I don’t think it’s fair, so I’m not going to pay them a cent. I’ve tried to convince everyone from the custodian to the general manager at the store to take my side, but to no avail. In fact, I probably would have made better progress if I had spoken to the trash receptacle out in the foyer.

Meanwhile, as the stalemate drags on, my poor computer is collecting dust on a shelf somewhere, and I am forced to use an old computer that’s so slow, I can read War and Peace in the time it takes me to get online. Still, even though I am getting desperate, I refuse to give in and pay the $688. It’s the principle of the thing.

The second incident occurred just a few days ago when I decided to go shopping for Barbie dolls at an area toy store that is going out of business and selling everything at 20-40 percent off.

Well, any die-hard Barbie collector, which I have been for the past 40 years, knows that the condition of the box Barbie comes in is as important as the doll itself, so I spent quite a while searching for flawless boxes. No scratches, no creases, no dents. Perfect.

I finally brought my selections up to the register and carefully set them down on the counter. The clerk rang them up, then suddenly whipped out a thick, black permanent marker and scribbled out the bar codes on all of the boxes.

I gasped. "What are you doing?"

"We have to do this so people can't return the items," she said. "All sales are final."

"Well, I don't want them now," I said. "You've ruined the boxes."

"Too late," she said. "I already crossed out the bar codes, so you have to take them. No returns."

Upset, I immediately tracked down the manager, a young guy who listened expressionlessly to my complaint. Finally he said, "Look, people ask for discounts on damaged boxes all the time. You're already getting 20-percent off, so what's the difference?"

"The difference is that those people who asked for discounts knew in advance that the boxes were damaged!" I said. "I, however, was under the impression that I was buying a perfect item. Why don't you mark the sales slips instead of the boxes? That's what Ames did when it went out of business and it worked fine for them! Or maybe you should warn people in advance that you are going to scribble all over their purchases!"

He shrugged. "We have to do what the holding company tells us." With that, he turned his back toward me and started talking to someone else.

I wanted to ask him how he’d like it if he went into a clothing store and spent an hour trying on pants until he found the perfect pair. Then, when he went up to the checkout counter to pay for them, the cashier took out a permanent marker and drew a big smiley face on the seat and told him he still had to buy them!

But I held my tongue.

So now I am the proud owner of three Barbie dolls with scribbled-on boxes. And any day now, I expect to receive a ransom note for my computer.

Forget easygoing. I can feel myself rapidly transforming into a crabby old lady.