We were both afraid to go into the room. We walked back and forth in front of the door for several days, avoiding the inevitable. Things were piling up outside and I knew that we couldn’t hold out indefinitely. But I didn’t want to be first; nor did Mary Ellen.

Our son Brett was home from college for winter break. “Brett, you try it. I’m just not comfortable with the whole idea” I said. “It’s so big. And so blue. I’m scared to death of it.”

“Dad, they’re just laundry machines.”

Easy for him to say. He’s young. He grew up in a high-tech world of computers, iPods, and Internet surfing. When I was his age, Post-it notes were the rage. Now, I was faced with technology I would have to master sooner or later. Our old washer-dryer set had been on the fritz and as luck would have it, my wife won a brand new set of appliances in a raffle.

They arrived last week and I watched as the two behemoths were installed by a crack technician. “Don’t I get instructions?” I asked, expecting a short tutorial. Instead, I was handed a 74-page manual. In four languages.

I stared at the two appliances for several minutes. Our laundry room looked like the cockpit of a 747. Between the two machines there were over three dozen buttons. Each not only lit up when touched but emitted a series of short annoying beeps as if it were trying to communicate with me like in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Our old washer had two settings. Going from a normal cycle to a gentle cycle is not something a man does lightly, so I never messed with that. My wife sometimes ventured there, but for the most part, the Wolfsies put a normal spin on things.

I don’t have a lot of confidence with washers, in general. My wife won’t let me load the dishwasher because she says I don’t respect the slots. I think this is a design flaw inherent in the product. When I load my camera I have very few decisions to make. I don’t have a gun, but seems to me that the people who manufacture firearms have made it pretty clear where to stick the bullet, so that even after a few Coors Lights you’ll get it right.

Somehow I end up melting all the Tupperware. I’m OK with cups and glasses, although my wife claims it matters which end is up, which I think is just an affectation on her part. Mary Ellen also has this thing about rinsing the dishes before I put them in the washer, but you don’t run underwear under hot water before throwing them in the clothes washer. I’m right, aren’t I? I can see you nodding your head.

I scanned the buttons on the new Whirlpool and eyed the dial that gave me options such as silk, quick wash or wool. One setting said hand washables, but I wasn’t going to stick my mitts in there while that monster was turning. The setting for big, bulky items was OK with me, but I think the whole idea of it scared the dog half to death. One setting said sanitize, which I had thought they threw in with every cycle.

The dryer had a setting called super hot, which I told my wife was especially for her. If we had been in a fancy restaurant that might have gone over well, but we were standing in a room knee-deep in dirty sheets and pillow cases.

My favorite button is the one that adjusts the volume of the other buttons so that if you are down in the basement, you can hear the machine upstairs alert you that you are no longer washing, you are now spinning. I’m amazed Mary Ellen and I ever managed without this feature.

I have to go now. My socks are calling.

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