It seemed that everything happened at once. For one thing the armrest fell off the driver’s side door of my aging van (my only vehicle, except for a dilapidated broom that I am grooming to take its place). The armrest is a pitiful specimen of plastification. It was held in place with three plastic pins, which sheared off flush, plus two plastic screws. The plastic washer/spacers had disintegrated into a tiny pile of rubble with a half-life equal to that of nuclear waste. I can get along without an armrest except that it is the thing with the gripper which one grabs to close the door.
This inconvenience is not the end of the world. It is a mere armrest on a ’97 van. Try to find a replacement; just try. I think I’ll glom the whole thing back together with epoxy glue so I can close my door without cutting my fingers on the knifelike piece of metal exposed when the armrest fell off.
Then I lost my keys. No big deal. I keep a spare. But it was my favorite set. A bright red bottle opener dangled from the key ring. It made the keys hard to lose. I never used the opener. I just liked it. I looked high and low, in, up, and under. I checked the refrigerator, the cat’s dish and the tea kettle.
I wanted a duplicate set in case of catastrophe. That sent me scurrying into a hardware store. While the keys were being ground, I picked up tubes of epoxy glue for the DIY job on the arm rest. Then I remembered that the ice maker on my refrigerator had quit dispensing. All the parts of the ice maker are either electronic or plastic. Fixing the ice maker equates to replacing the refrigerator. I had a better idea.
Before the days of automatic ice, O Best Beloved, we survived with ice trays. So I searched the shelves and purchased a set of two ice trays, plastic, of course, plastic being the only option.
Earlier that same morning I had called an appliance repairman to talk about my washer. It had begun to sound like a John Deere threshing machine and had started to walk around the laundry. I figured a bearing was going. My washer is a mere six years old. I thought they lasted 20 or 30 years. (Insert laughter here.) Mr. Repair asked me a couple questions and said yes, indeedy, my bearings were shot and to expect leaking next. For a moment I thought he was talking about me. He informed me that the bearing, plastic, of course, is an integral part of the transmission. In other words, buy a new washer.
Meanwhile, back at the hardware store, tucked out of sight, was an appliance section. I wandered about, peered into top loaders and front loaders. I fondled the price tags. I blanched. As long as I am in Havre, I thought, I’ll check around and make comparisons. I picked up my purchases and started from store to store.
If ever you find yourself in need of a good dose of depression, I highly recommend shopping for a major appliance. The more I looked, the more I learned, the more I despaired. I suspect all washing machines are cranked out of one factory in Lower Slobbovia. A huge vat of liquid plastic is poured into a funnel which sends it through a series of molds and presses and arms and relays and tubes and conveyers with all kinds of thuds and squeaks, eventually making its way through the Rube Goldberg process and out the other end, where it is stamped with a manufacturer’s name, falls off the edge into a box and from there onto a truck to the store near you, all at a price you cannot afford.
And the machine itself is only the beginning of the expense. It needs hoses, sold separately. As is the soap. That is, the special soap without which the sensitive machine will self-destruct in mere seconds. It’s true. The salesman told me so. Add to that munificent sum the delivery fee and the installation fee, unless you are strong enough to lug it home yourself.
What is a woman to do? Our grandmothers, several generations back, might have gone to the river and slammed their wash onto the rocks to get them clean. Given the turbidity of the Milk River, I must pass over that option. Besides, most of the year, it is frozen.
But, voila! I can still buy an old-fashioned wash board, made of corrugated metal with a wooden frame. No plastic parts to fall apart. Please save your bacon grease for me so I can cook up a batch of lye soap.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little different. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)