Nothing demonstrates the progress of modern technology like the appliances found in today’s modern home. Where once sat a stainless steel dishwasher capable of removing even the deepest of grime from your grandmother’s china, now sits a molded piece of plastic that gently caresses the small, bite-sized piece of spaghetti that has survived not one, not two but three trips through the dishwasher. To improve the quality of the cleaning cycle, one must upgraded the firmware and then reboot the dishwasher, a task once reserved for the machines that launched nuclear missiles towards our enemies.

Ah, progress.

My mother and father had the same washing machine for nearly 20 years. Made by Westinghouse, this washing machine ran as many as six loads in one day and, aside from the Great Flooding Incident of 1976, ran flawlessly up until it finally gave out and spit grease all over a load of clothes. It’s successor was made by General Electric and served for in it’s place for over a decade.

We are on our second washing machine in our home. The first piece of plastic lasted seven years, but should have been replaced two years ago when the bearings in the spinning mechanism went out. I looked into getting the bearings replaced but the fine folks at Fridgidaire advised me that the project would be costly and in the long run it would be cheaper to just replace the washing machine. I decided to just wait until the dang thing spit grease; when the washer was on spin you could hear it clear out to the road on a hot, summer day. I’m sure the neighbors were amused.

Our current washing machine, a General Electric, stands tall with the dryer on it’s shoulders in the laundry room. The length of a cycle can vary from 30 minutes (on speed wash) to two hours and 45 minutes on the “anti-bacterial cycle”, unless the load becomes unbalanced before the final spin. Then the washer will tumble and churn and think about spinning until it feels everything is just right. The current record for determining the precise environment required for a spin cycle is nearly four hours. It counts down to 7 minutes, then up to 9 minutes then down to 7 minutes then up to 10 minutes. When one notices this is happening, you must press “pause”, wait for permission to open the door, rearrange things and add or subtract an item from the drum to make it happy, stick your head in the damp environment to look around and see that all parts of the drum are covered evenly with soggy underwear, slam the door shut and then press “pause” again. The door will lock, unlock, lock, unlock, lock, unlock and then finally lock again. Water will spurt for just a moment until the washer gets it’s wits about itself and realizes it should be emptying and not filling the tub, then it’ll juggle the hard work you did making sure the underwear is in the right place before starting the whole add and subtract minutes from the time as it’s trying to spin trick.

The old washing machines would just make a banging noise and you’d reach in and get everything in the right place and then send it off on it’s merry way again.

This is progress?

Perhaps our washer needs a firmware upgrade and reboot.