The greatest invention of all time (Wow! That’s putting it out there) is the automatic washing machine. No one calls it an “automatic” washer anymore. Today’s generation has no idea what the world was like when this invention first started showing up in basements across America in the 1950’s. It replaced the “wringer” washing machine, which was nothing more than a steel drum with an agitator motor to slosh the clothes around and a set of rolling pin like bars that you fed the clothes into to wring out the excess water. Even that device was a step up from a hand cranked wringer and a stick to push the clothes back and forth in a tub. Before that, I guess it was the “beat the clothes on a rock by the side of the creek” process. I don’t go back quite that far, but I was there when my mother got her “automatic” washing machine.
It was installed in the basement, a few feet from a matched set of stationary tubs that were used to presoak clothes before they went into the wringer washer. My mother kept up the presoak process, like many housewives of the day, because she didn’t trust the “newfangled” machine to get clothes clean with such little effort. Kind of like, what many of us do today, by rinsing dishes thoroughly before stacking them in the dishwasher.
Eventually, people accepted the change and stopped the pre-wash step. The term, “automatic” was put aside and the washer machine became simply, the washer. So here I am, sixty some years later, using an automatic washer, despite getting a, “Tsk, tsk, tsk,” from my wife when I do so. I usually wait until I’m home alone, just like I do when I climb the ladder to wash or paint our 212-year-old clapboards. I’m happiest when I’m unsupervised; I can ignore her plea of, “Just let me do your wash.”
I do it because I don’t like her technique. I like to wash everything in my hamper in one load. And, get this, she thinks the clothes should be divided into piles: whites, colors, permanent press, etc., and washed separately. I cram mine in and set the cycle to large load. I have a two by four handy to jam them in when the lid won’t close. I did add one step, at her insistence. I check the pockets for paper receipts and tissues, so the washer, the dryer and the clothes don’t end up imbedded with confetti. Oh sure, my stuff has wrinkles, some of the stains don’t come out and a few white things have become pinkish. But, wrinkles are in these days and “real men” wear pink. As for the stains, well, if I hold my arm in front of them nobody notices. Trouble is, I’m getting a catch in my elbow and don’t know how long I can continue with that technique. I might be forced to listen to her for a change.
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