A few months ago we had to buy a new clothes dryer. Our old almond-coloured one had resided in our house longer than we had. By April of this year, it had reached the ripe old age of thirty-two. It was one of those well-trusted, generic department-store brands that just about every family owned when I was growing up. The kind you could order from the catalogue. Long past senior-citizen status in appliance years, it was beginning to show signs of its age by emitting a continuous gravelly groan whenever it was in use.
Our dryer had always been loyal and reliable and uncomplicated. And, as far as I can remember, never needed a service call. Sure The Doc may have replaced a belt or a bolt at some point, but these were things we could manage ourselves. The continuous gravelly groan was not. Our dilemma was whether to call a repairman, who would probably charge $100 just to walk in our front door, or leave our beloved dryer at the end of the driveway for the metal recyclers. We chose the latter, hoping that our old dryer would happily live on as a light fixture or an airplane wing.
I am not a person who is stuck in the past. I just don’t replace things for the sake of getting a new model. I replace things when they need to be replaced. In general, I like technology, especially new technology that makes things more efficient. Four years ago, we replaced our kitchen appliances while renovating with great success. Our new convection oven makes me look like a fabulous cook. Not that I was ever a bad cook, but I was never a fabulous one. So there was little or no trepidation when we headed off to our local big-box furniture store to wander around the appliance selection. Something that turned out to be a bit of an overwhelming experience given the variety of dryers available on the market these days. Honestly, the dryers were more confusing than the ovens, cooktops, refrigerators and dishwashers.
We read tags and compared prices and energy ratings. We tried to discern whether the various drum volumes could handle our duvet. Then the salesman took us off to the side and said, “How about this one. It’s a great dryer, plus it’s on sale. I own this dryer, and I paid a lot more than this for it.”
Now this was a big-name dryer. I originally didn’t want this brand of dryer because, where we live, not every repairman is able to work on this particular brand. I had once lived with this brand of a dishwasher and didn’t enjoy the experience when it required service. This was the Cadillac of dryers. Hell it was the DeLorean of dryers. It was grey and space age with lights and buttons and an impressive dial. And it was labeled as being impressively energy efficient when you used the normal cycle. The price was also too good to ignore. I christened it Marty. Marty the Maytag.
Marty arrived at our laundry room door a week later. I could hardly wait to assess his prowess. I read the instruction manual front to back and left it open on Marty’s top, deliberately displaying the cycle guide to refer to until we got to know each other.
My first load was darks of the mixed variety. I pressed the power button and Marty lit up and played a tune. The default cycle (normal) is used for–according to the guide–work clothes, casual wear, mixed cottons, sheets, and corduroys. It had a drying time of 78 minutes. (That’s 1 hour and 18 minutes!) I pressed the start button and couldn’t resist gazing, just for a minute, through Marty’s smoked glass porthole to watch my laundry spin to the top of the drum then drop, spin to the top then drop. It was entertainingly hypnotic.
One hour and eighteen minutes later, Marty turned off with musical notes that sounded like a kid learning to play their first instrument. My dog has fleas! The clothes were not dry. They weren’t soaking wet, but they were wetter than damp. I restarted Marty using the timed dry cycle, setting an additional drying time of 30 minutes. The timed cycle uses high heat and is not energy efficient. In the end it took 1 hour and 48 minutes to dry my load.
Marty, I discover, is a bit persnickety. If I put a white load in the dryer, which is usually pretty small and may contain anything from panties and a bra or two, to an off-white facecloth, to my white jeans, Marty thinks I am breaking the cycle rules. Obviously a face cloth does not belong in a normal dry load, it belongs in the power dry load with towels, except that the rest of my towels are dark. Apparently Marty doesn’t subscribe to the like-colours-together laundry method. In this case, Marty decides, and I can’t figure out why, to dry the facecloth, which is in the wrong cycle, but not the underwear in the correct cycle.
Sometimes I test Marty and put exactly what the cycle guide says I should in his big mouth, but I have already pissed off this appliance so such attempts are futile. Marty, the arrogant shit, refuses to acknowledge my efforts and still delivers damp to wet laundry at the end of the cycle.
The solution to this is to toss everything in using the power dry cycle, which takes all of 37 minutes, or the normal cycle with the more dry (more heat) option, which takes 42 minutes. Both are not energy efficient and will probably ruin our clothes, but that’s what I usually do. Even then, there can still be damp waistbands and seams. Occasionally I try a different setting with my fingers crossed, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. There is no rhyme or reason to this. No consistency. It is a crap shoot and Marty holds loaded dice.
All the fancy buttons, lights and settings do nothing but look expensive. I miss my old uncomplicated dryer. I’m sure there are new model dryers out there that do what they are supposed to do, but Marty is not one of them. Although my dryer is supposed to be sensitive and actually sense when the laundry requires more or less time, Marty is nothing but a oversensitive diva who thinks he’s too good to sit next to my hard-working twenty-one year old Sears washer. I am dreading the service call that I know will eventually come–most likely two days after Marty’s warranty expires.