The Ghosts of Our Broken Washers

Sometimes things in your life end up playing a different role than you need them to. Maybe you’ll buy a book that becomes a bolster for an uneven table. A necktie could wind up tying closed a rickety closet. A trusted friend could end up being the one who tries to hurt you the most.

It’s like the original washing machine that we had in our last house. Its name should be taken ironically because it didn’t wash anything. We wound up mostly using it as a surprise flash flood making machine.

Actually, I take that back. We didn’t use it as a surprise flash flood making machine. It was the washer who decided, “Yo. I don’t want to be a washing machine. I’m going to make me some floods.” It was as if it had found its calling in life right there in my laundry room.

For years, this unhelpful appliance had the exact opposite result and would do it covertly. There were no loud crashes or sudden bursts of flowing water. Instead, about half an hour into the wash cycle, I’d turn around from my computer in the next room to peer out the door to where our household items were floating by like the Small World ride at Disney.

The water carrying these things across my house was usually less than an inch in height, but it made up for it in reach. From one end of our first floor to the other, there was a thin layer of murky water and it was always a shock. Because of that, it usually took me a few seconds to adjust my eyes to what I was seeing.

Is the house suddenly tilting? Why are those socks floating…oh man!

It was maddening. Closets would have to be cleaned out, bad words would have to be said, and I’d swear that I was going to do terrible things to that washing machine with a baseball bat. The worst part was that didn’t happen every time and never gave you warning that it was about to ruin the afternoon. You just went from responsible laundry washer to Leonardo DiCarpio in Titantic within the blink of an eye.

washAt the time, we lived in a community development, so any issues with pipes inside the house was our responsibility and anything outside was that of the homeowner’s association, who were always so lovely to deal with. We assumed that the issue was ours and we had more than a few plumbers come in to fix it. And they did.


Before you knew it, the surprise floods would start springing up again.  Not only was there still no notice, but the spinning monster of doom would seem to lull you into a false sense of security for a few weeks. It would smile at you with that big clear window face as if to say, “Go on. You need clothes, bubbulla. Wash ‘em. I’ll be alright. Go have a snack.”

Ten minutes later, he’d vomit soap water all over my house.

Finally, after years of this watery nightmare, the development discovered that the issue indeed was from the outside pipes. They called in the A-Team of plumbing who, amazingly, dug out my entire front yard, fixed the issue, and filled the hole back in all in one day. I was pretty impressed. Even more impressive? After years of torment, that washing machine never flooded again.

I, however, never stopped checking on it every few minutes to make sure it didn’t.

Any time I ran the wash, I’d have to run back and forth to see that there wasn’t a biblical ark race taking place in main hallway. Every bubbling, gurgling, or bump in the night that appliances make sent me scurrying to check on it like a trained dog. It was almost an involuntary reaction. I knew there was no more danger but, still, I needed to check.

Over time, I checked less, but I still did it right up until the day we moved out. That washing machine had done a number on me. It was as if I had altered my view of what a washer does. To me, they didn’t clean clothes. They hurt you. Washing machines were evil. It was a twisted way to view them, but makes sense given my constant reassurances that I was correct in my thinking.

Today, we live in a new place and, while I have a completely different washing machine with completely different pipes in a completely different house, I still come dashing in at the first thought of trouble. That’s pretty embarrassing to say. I can’t fully escape the memory of what that last one, the one I trusted to do all my laundry, did to me. Even though this new one has never done wrong by me or given me reason to question its ability, I sadly still do. A part of me always will.

I’ve had a lot of broken washing machines in my life. Only one was literal and the rest were all figurative. It may have been a person or a situation, but there have been many events that tainted my view of all events to follow. It was the broken washers of my past that caused me to relentlessly check on future “washing machines” who weren’t looking to flood me with misery. I just assumed they all would. They always had before.

Moving past that is easier said than done, though. In life, we learn from what we know. Those who affect us don’t just affect us in that moment. They affect us in all our moments going forward. Sure, you can get past the overwhelming sense of whatever emotions they conjure up inside you, but those feelings will always remain. It’s important to not make those who come after pay for the sins of ghosts they never met.

When we sold the house, the new people apparently did the whole remodel gimmick. Most of the home I loved was torn up, the washing machine included. Today, it’s not flooding my house or even there to make me come running with the slightest bubbling noise. I have a new washing machine now and it cleans our fabrics. That’s what it’s supposed to do.

It’s hard to forget the floods of the past. We all struggle with it. I’m trying, though. After all, you gotta have clean clothes, right?