“What the hell have I done?”
Those words were uttered more than a few times during the first few months after I jettisoned my career in advertising to become chief diaper-changing officer at the home office. Sometimes, they were said in exasperation on a day when I was feeling overwhelmed with an extremely fussy baby and simply had way too much on my plate. But, there was one time in particular when that familiar phrase came blurting out of my gaping pie-hole after I made an extremely poor decision in the laundry room… yes, I said the laundry room.
Allow me to backtrack just a bit so I can explain myself. When I officially started my new gig as a full time stay-at-home-Dad, it was understood that not only would I be responsible for the lion’s share of day-to-day parenting, but also the domestic duties as well. That included cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and the chore that would define my occasional domestic ineptitude… the laundry.
To be honest, none of the other stuff seemed to be a big deal. I can read, therefore I can follow a recipe that will result in edible food. I can straighten up a house, sweep crumbs off a kitchen floor and pack/unpack a dishwasher with the best of them. And, who can’t push a cart through a Safeway armed with a shopping list in one hand, and a baby in the other? None of that phased me. But laundry? Somehow that simple, menial and redundant task became the bane of my existence.
In recent years, I have definitely improved my efficiency in this area, but that doesn’t mean I’ve mastered the fine art of keeping ahead of the soiled apparel game. On more than one occasion I’ve received a gentle reminder from Lianne that she’s down to two pairs of clean underwear, or my daughter will scold me when she is completely out of panties. Even when I do the laundry, it’s possible a huge pile of clean socks and undies will sit in a laundry basket, unfolded, for several days. When I get the angry yell, “Daddy, you didn’t do the laundry!” I will defiantly yell back that I most certainly did, but you’ll have to root through the basket to find a matching pair of socks! That will teach anyone to doubt me.
I remember when a basket of clean clothes sat on the laundry room floor for such an extended period of time that we almost completely emptied its contents, thus solving the whole “folding” issue. So, yes, there have been times when I have fallen off the wagon and have been remiss in my duties. It’s only happened a few times in all of the years that I’ve been staying home, but I know that I’ve totally screwed up when I hear the washing machine start up without me. I will run to the laundry room to find Lianne washing clothes! I’ll protest that I don’t want her doing the laundry because that’s MY job. “Then do it,” she’ll quip. Touché.
The best way to illustrate my ineptitude operating a relatively simple household appliance is to refer you to a passage that appears in chapter 10 of my currently unpublished masterpiece: Dad@Home. The chapter is very appropriately titled “WUMP, WUMP, WUMP, WUMP.” Enjoy.
In our first house, we had the old-fashioned top-loading washer and dryer. If you lift the lid, you see in bold letters: DO NOT OVERLOAD. Bah! That’s for wussies who are scared of their own shadow. I’ll put as many pairs of jeans in there as I want, thank you very much.
Fast-forward to a particularly heavy load that almost made the washer drum eject from its white metal housing. Lianne and I were on the main floor, and all you could hear was a bone-rattling WUMP, WUMP, WUMP, WUMP coming from the top floor! It was the final spin cycle, and the washing machine was violently lurching to the side, banging the adjacent dryer over and over again. I debated turning off the machine, but I saw by the dial that the cycle was almost complete. So, I waited through three more minutes of a house-shaking WUMP, WUMP, WUMP, WUMP and then very nonchalantly moved the clothes into the dryer and came down the stairs. Lianne gave me a very unimpressed look, and I totally deserved it. That was the last time I overloaded that particular washing machine to that extreme, but I always made sure the load was slightly over capacity. Old habits die hard, and that’s why I was very pleased when we purchased a front-loading stackable washer and dryer set in our next home. I almost squealed with delight when I was reading the instruction manual and found out the truly impressive load capacity of this wonderful new machine. It boasted that it could handle fourteen pairs of jeans in one wash. Fourteen pairs? Damn! My massive laundry load days were back, baby!
Everything was working according to plan, as there seemed no limit to the amount of clothes I could wash in a single load, except that one time. Have you ever put a large load into the washing machine, then promptly forgot about it for two or three days? Probably not, but this is me we’re talking about. When I realized my mistake, I simply thought that I should run this heavy, dank, soaked-in load that was very likely at the upper limit of the machine’s load capacity AGAIN. Lianne and I were in the basement watching TV, and there was that violent sound again: WUMP, WUMP, WUMP, WUMP! I obviously had experience with this wumping, so I paused the TV, ran upstairs to the laundry room and was absolutely stunned at what I saw.
What the hell have I done!
That massive, wet load in the spin cycle had moved the stacked washer and dryer about four feet from the wall, ripping off the dryer vent hose in the process! I quickly shut the washer off, and was shocked that the vibrations could have moved two heavy appliances that far. The fact that I had such a hard time pushing them back into place was a testament to the sheer power and force of that spin cycle, and my idiotic plan of putting a huge load of already wet clothes into a washing machine and simply hoping for the best. I reconnected the dryer vent and put the load in the dryer and went back downstairs, pretending like nothing out of the ordinary happened.
When I plopped back down on the sectional couch, Lianne looked at me with a slight frown and asked, “What took you so long?”
“Ah, I was just moving the wet clothes into the dryer… and you know, maybe I overloaded the washer just a little bit? So yeah, that’s why we heard that slight wumping sound. No biggie. It’s all good.”
“If you say so”, she replied, still looking at me with just a hint of disbelief in her eyes.
I was praying that she didn’t notice the glistening beads of sweat on my forehead which were a direct result of my struggle to slide a very heavy washer and dryer back into place. I was embarrassed, but, a couple of years later, I finally gave my wife all of the gory details of this incident and received yet another well-deserved unimpressed look.
I know people casually and routinely toss around the phrase “the bane of my existence” when they are describing something they only mildly dislike. But I think you’ll agree with me when I say on this particular matter, I wasn’t exaggerating. Not even a little bit.