Among the purchases we had made prior to completion of the renovations was a washing machine. Michele made accommodations for it in the guest bathroom, next to the shower and, on completion of the interior construction, Colleen arranged for it to be delivered so that Michele’s crew could install it. After a week at the villa, we had enough dirty laundry to justify putting a load or two into the new machine.
I looked at the front of the washer and realized that the controls were not as idiot-friendly as I had hoped. Yes, the dial stops were in pictographs rather than in words, but some of the symbols were not obvious in their meaning. The manual was no help, it being only in Italian, so I concluded that a trial-and-error approach was in order. I mentioned that to Jessica and she immediately left the house. I’m wasn’t sure why. I mean, what could go wrong?
I placed the clothes that would serve as guinea pigs in this experiment into the front of the machine, closed the door and filled the soap tray with liquid detergent. Since we decided to forego a dryer in favor of hanging the laundry out to dry, I set the spin cycle speed to 1,000 rpms, the highest speed available. I then turned the control knob to a setting that seemed to be a mid-length wash period and pushed the button that looked like it would turn everything on. It did, and the machine began to do what washing machines do. Water poured in, the barrel rotated, things agitated, suds appeared. I knew this because I sat on the toilet seat and watched it all happening. Confident that all was well, I went outside and told Jessica that it was safe to come back in.
As the washer continued to do its thing, I prepared a fresh tomato and burrata insalata for our lunch, topping each with a generous amount of torn basil leaves and local olive oil. The washing machine, based on the regular noises it was making, was having its way with the dirt in our laundry and we were happy. That is, however, until the process reached the spin cycle.
It started with a whirring sound that increased in frequency and volume, like a jet engine coming up to speed. Sweet. But then, there was a loud “clunk,” followed by another and they kept coming. Clunk, clunk, bang, clunk. we sprinted into the bathroom to find the machine, which had been in the corner against a wall, now headed out the bathroom door into the hallway.
“Oh my god,” yelled Jessica. “Turn it off.” Right. I pushed every button, twisted every knob and flipped every switch. The thing would not stop walking. At 1,000 rpms of energy, it was difficult for us to even hold it back. As a last resort, I thought of pulling the plug but I didn’t know what damage that may do. In desperation, I pushed several buttons and turned some knobs simultaneously and, miraculously, the pitch of the motor came down and the drum began to spin slower until it stopped. We breathed a sigh of relief.
We were just beginning to compose ourselves when the machine started the forty-five minute wash cycle all over again. The two of us managed to get the obviously-possessed major appliance back in its original location and stared at it for a while as it, once again, filled with water, chortled and churned and made our now clean clothes even cleaner.
“I’m sure it just needs to be leveled,” I said, bringing that idea from deep within my vast knowledge of washing machine mechanics. “I think we just turn the feet to do that.” So Jessica, thinking for some reason that I knew what I was talking about, proceeded to raise some of the adjustable feet and lower others while I picked up one corner of the machine or another. Meanwhile, the thing kept on washing clothes as though we were completely irrelevant to its purpose. We finally got it to a point that it did not move at all when we tried to rock it, so we were satisfied that it was level. Then, we just waited for the spin cycle to kick on.
I don’t know that we’ve ever watched a movie that so captivated our attention. There we were, standing in the bathroom, staring at a washing machine. I suppose this went on for twenty minutes or so before “rrrrrrRRRRRR“, the drum began to turn, faster and faster and then, “bang, clunk.” The haunted appliance took its first step toward the door.
“Jump on it,” I yelled and both of us got on top of the machine and sat on it. The banging and clunking continued, but the extra weight kept the thing from moving.
“Maybe we should just stay here until the whole thing is done,” Jessica suggested.
“Hopefully it will shut off then.” I agreed.
“Is it okay if I go get a book to read?” she asked.
“I’ll be fine,” I said. “Go ahead. Can you grab my book too?”
So, we sat on the washing machine for the next half-hour, reading our books, listening to the whirrs, the bangs and the clunks and waiting for the machine to turn itself off. In the process, we discovered that only one of us needed to sit on top of the washer in order to keep it in place so, for the next three loads of laundry, we took turns. We would sit on the toilet in front of the machine until the spin cycle started and then take up our position. Somehow we knew that it wasn’t suppose to be this way, but it was working, our clothes were getting clean and we like to read.
For the next three visits to Villa Tutto, one of us would dutifully perch on the washing machine as it spun our clothes nearly dry until, one day, we paid insufficient attention to where it was in the process and the spin cycle began with neither of us in position. The centrifugal force sent the machine bouncing repeatedly into the newly-tiled wall of the bathroom, breaking two of the tiles. That was enough for Jessica.
“Call Michele,” she instructed me, and I obeyed by calling Colleen.
Michele and Colleen came around the next day and we told him about the washing machine and its attempts to escape. He slid the violent appliance away from the wall, took out his cell phone and began speaking with someone in animated Italian, which is saying something, since all Italian is animated.
He turned to me. “Did you remove the bracket from inside?” he asked in Italian and Colleen passed along the translation. “What bracket?” was my answer, apparently an unsatisfactory one. Michele excused himself to run out to his truck. He came back with a screwdriver that he used to remove the bracket that keeps the machine’s drum in place during transport. That bracket, we learned, must be removed before the machine can be used. Now free to perform its magic, the machine was fed more clothes and soap, turned on and left to work happily. When I heard the sound of the spin cycle, I ran from the kitchen to the bathroom and watched in anticipation of the “clunk” I might hear but, nothing. Just the smooth whirr of the 1,000 rpm motor wringing every last drop of water out of the material inside.
Never again have we sat on the washing machine. I sort of miss it.