A couple of months ago the dishwasher, not doing its job up to snuff, began a conversation with me, noise in place of words. Considering how quiet it was when we bought it (top-of-the-line Bosch), I paid attention, informed my husband it may be time for a new one (dishwasher, not husband).
A few weeks ago, the dryer stopped working. We thought about replacing just the dryer but the savvy salesman made it too tempting (Columbus Day special) to get a brand-new washer/dryer duo. Made sense, really. Google the life span of any appliance and it seems that nineteen years—yes, nineteen— is almost unheard of. Maybe they really don’t make things they way they used to. Maybe that premium we paid for quality, back in 1995, really paid off.
A friend tells me his aunt is convinced that appliances talk to each other, and I believe she’s right. How else to explain a noisier-than-usual refrigerator warning me that something’s amiss. I listened. I monitored. The freezer was working fine, still producing ice cubes, meat rock-solid frozen. But soon enough I’d see signs—butter softening inside the fridge, milk not as cold as it should be—that my shiny black double-door KitchenAid was on the fritz. Easy for me to say it again: nineteen years is very, very good. Hard for me not to think about Youngor Jallah in her small Dallas apartment, a broken refrigerator she couldn’t get anyone to repair—until her self-imposed 21-day Ebola-related quarantine came to an end. What I had to clean behind the old fridge when it was removed pales in comparison to the food rotting in hers.
Nineteen years also puts things in a whole new light; side-door freezers do not make good use of space. No big deal in the grand scheme of things, but give me a French door model/ bottom freezer this time. I can actually see what’s inside the fridge, everything in its place, no reason to ever make that mistake of pulling out the carton of grapefruit juice (usually tucked behind the milk) and pouring it into my coffee. Mindfulness is far from overrated. Not having to take everything from the shelf for the sake of wiping away some sticky remnant of some leftovers is a good thing.
Speaking of which, raise your hand if you regularly clean the compressor in your refrigerator or follow the care/maintenance guidelines for other appliances. Sure, I run the self-cleaning cycle in my oven every so often, and my new dishwasher has a removable filter like the old one did, which makes it easy to get rid of schmutz that accumulates. The duct connected to my dryer needs to be cleared of lint build-up about once a year, a task worthy of a pro.
The point? Large or small, those things we call appliances come with expectations that exceed warranties—expectations of maximum performance with minimal maintenance. They are made to last, but not forever.
Small appliances may take some of the drudge out of drudgery but, as the self-propelled vacuum cleaner in The Brave Little Toaster reminds us, chores are not meant to be fun. (This 1987 animated film, btw, is a charmer; Jon Lovitz as the voice of the radio, Jack Nicholson the air conditioner.) Large appliances, well, they don’t want to be any less taken for granted than their more maneuverable brethren. In the small apartment of my childhood we had a washing machine in the kitchen, the only place to put it; no dryer (a code as well as a space issue), which meant schlepping laundry to the industrial dryer down in the basement of the building. That’s what shopping carts are for.
The apartments I would live in when I went out on my own were rentals. A fresh paint job went hand-in-hand with a new lease. Fridge and oven might be spic ‘n’ span clean, if you were lucky. Communal laundry rooms are (mostly) a given; sometimes the only option is the Laundromat down the street. All of which makes it feel so luxurious to move into your own home, brand-new appliances of your own choosing. Oh, to open the oven door, not a drip or a splat anywhere, shelves gliding with ease! Oh, to never have to defrost a freezer again!
So here you have it: the new dishwasher comes equipped with a half-load cycle, and even without the more desirable front-load washer (space constraints got in the way), I can feel better about wash and dry cycles designed to lessen my carbon imprint. As irony would have it, blustery winds knocked down a power line on the very day of a hunting and gathering expedition to Trader Joe’s with the intention of giving that spacious new freezer the goods it begs for. LOL, please. Nothing spoiled in the twenty-four hours we were without power. But, alas, this out-of-the-blue power outage was our tipping point: time to join the generation of friends who have generators.
P.S. My husband has been spotted having a conversation with the stove, asking it to break rank with the other appliances, go for 20+ years.