I’ll admit it. I never truly appreciated our Fisher & Paykel Front Load Series 5 side by sides with 13 cycles each, until January 7, 2011. That’s the day we were reunited. By then, they had been a part of our family for about eight years. Although now that I think about it, we only saw each other on a regular basis for four of those years. That’s because during the other four we were separated by the Atlantic Ocean. They stayed in U.S. while we lived in the U.K.
White, with shiny silver circular knobs, buttons, and dials, we mainly choose them for their size. So petite! So cute! Standing only 33 5/8 inches tall, 25 3/8 inches wide and 25 3/8 inches deep, they fit cozily in the smallish laundry room of our newly purchased home. Imported from New Zealand (we love New Zealand!) we thought they’d suit us well. And they did. But in retrospect, I wasn’t as kind to them as I should have been. I mean I abided by the Flex Alert Rules and didn’t operate them during peak usage hours. I never overloaded or put waterproof materials in them. And I always – well, make that 99.3% of the time – protected them by checking that all items going in didn’t contain any objects that could be detrimental to their health and well-being. Wadded up tissues, rusty keys, leaky inky pens, or lumps of chewed gum hidden deep within pockets…those reckless things were given the old heave ho.
But, did I really give them the credit they so rightly deserved? Did I praise them enough for all they did for us? In a word, no. I treated them, I am sad to say, as…appliances. Just like simple, every day, run of the mill, appliances.
Well…my day of reckoning was to come, and it came on April 25, 2007. That’s the day I knew those Fisher Paykel’s should have been put upon a pedestal. High up there. Way high up there. See, that was the date, I officially did my first load of laundry in England as I began my new life as an ex-pat. And that is the day, I came face to face with my nemesis, the built-in Neff washer dryer – yes, you read that right – “washer dryer” – conveniently located in our galley kitchen.
From my journal: April 25, 2007 E. Twickenham, England
“Have to do some laundry today. Shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.”
Now I got the whole integrated, space saving, energy-efficient selling points of a washer dryer combo. Really I did. I got that the launderer – that being me – wouldn’t have to slog wet clothes into another receptacle for drying. I even got it being ventless, so there would be no need to route a pipe through to the outside. I got it. But, what I never got however, was the fact that it didn’t do its job. It didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Yes, that I minded, a lot.
I was raised with the belief when you have a job, you need to do that job, and do it well. This Neff did neither well. Wash, nor dry. At first, I thought it was me. Never one to list mechanical skills on my resume, I thought maybe I wasn’t pressing the right buttons, or loading detergent in the right place, or maybe I had the cycle times all wrong. But after perusing the manual, it became clear that the Neff was indeed the culprit.
I didn’t want to be at odds with the Neff. I wanted to like it. I wanted to befriend it. I even nicknamed “her” Neffy. Since I knew we’d be seeing a lot of each other, I knew I needed to find a way to get along. That’s when I put my teacher hat on. I asked myself questions like: “How could Neffy work better? Did she have the potential? If so, how could I help bring out the best in her?”
That first month I tried a few things. Logic told me I should start by making sure she was clean. So I descaled Neffy, emptied her filter, and put a sudsy cloth to her cuff and rubbed it clean. I didn’t notice any improvement in her performance, but boy did she shine! Next, I cranked up the spinning cycle to the highest it could go, it helped, but I had to leave the flat each time, to avoid the thunderous noise. The last step I took was reducing the amount of clothes I usually put in. Twenty items, became fifteen, and fifteen turned into ten. Now, the clothes were actually coming out cleaner and drier, but at that rate I would have to run Neffy twice as many times in order to empty our hamper. And after I put all these revisions in place, once Neffy deemed the items “done”, I still had to hang them up and give them another day to dry so they’d be suitable for dresser drawers and the linen closet.
Now this went on for a few more weeks, and then I started to give this issue less thought. I had met a few people and I was beginning to be invited over for tea and conversation. It got me out and about, which brought me to another realization. And it was this. It wasn’t ever going to matter how I changed my laundry process, or if we even replaced Neffy with another brand. The result was always going to be the same. How did I know this? The evidence was there every time I visited someone else’s home, because inevitably, in one room or another, before my very eyes, I saw damp clothes and towels, draped on hangers and drying racks.