As proper Chapmans, we can’t simply have small problems. That would be too easy. We have to start with a minor issue, and then allow that to snowball into a colossal undoing - the kind where my wife and I look at each other and say “How on earth did we end up here!?” Teeth are gnashed, our bank account dips, and we decide that we need to go to church more often.
One of the more classic examples of this scenario hit us over Christmas. We had just recovered from the great busted TV incident of 2018 (a Maggie oops) and were hoping for at least a week without disaster. But fate is a cruel mistress and shit happens. More specifically, a cat shit happened.
We really like our new cat. Leo plays well with the girls and seems to get along with everyone. He does, however, have one shortcoming: a predisposition for sneaking into our garage and using our dryer as a litter box. The fist time, I caught him in the act. Oddly enough, I saw him head that direction and had the immediate thought of “I bet that little penis thinks that is a litter box”
When he pulled this stunt again, we weren’t so fortunate. Allison had her arms around a soaking wet pile of clothes, and made the (quite understandable) assumption was that there wasn’t a pile of poop in there. For several costly minutes, our clothing, blankets and a few towels got friendly with some steaming cat diarrhea. I was upstairs making dinner when I heard Allison call from the basement “Matt, the WORST thing that could happen has happened!” This type of statement raises a lot of questions, but deep down I knew exactly what had occurred.
Optimistically, I thought we could vinegar our way out of this. Ask any lady over 60, and she’ll tell you that a little vinegar will fix anything. Case in point - my Grandmother used to drink a glass of apple cider vinegar every day for her health. After Allison scrubbed the inside of the vessel with anti-bacterial soap (in tears and gagging the entire time), we soaked a towel in water and vinegar, then tumbled that sucker into oblivion. Two cycles later my nose judged that poop-related scents were gone and we had prevailed.
The next day, Allison challenged me to get a good close whiff up in the drum. Every part of me wanted to believe we had stopped the snowball of chaos in its tracks, except, the smell WAS there. It was like a cat farted in the shower while eating a jar of pickles.
There was no sense in arguing at this point. She, at that very moment, was still trying to Q-tip out the remnants in a last ditch effort. At the end of the day, it isn’t worth the paranoia that everything we own maybe has a hint of that injected.
We are minivan people now, so I loaded up and off I went (without moving any seats, it should be noted) to the Lowe’s - where they had exactly one of the discounted GE options that my wife picked out. We were locked and loaded in 8 minutes with a new dryer. Easy-peasy. It doesn’t hurt as bad when you just insert the credit card and refuse to look.
Dryers are a great opportunity to re-establish your super strong manliness in front of the fam. They come in a big box, but really don’t weigh that much. I quickly dispatched the new unit, all by myself, and had it in position. As someone who has only owned hand-me-downs to this point, however, I started wondering where the power cord went. For those who aren’t thinking I’m a dummy at this point, I’ll do you a solid by informing you that this involves a little “installation” (as Lowe’s calls it). Eventually, it was realized that I needed to forcibly remove the cord from the previous unit and individually connect 3 chunky wires to the corresponding (unlabeled) terminals on our new unit.
220 volts is not to be trifled with. I know that. 2 years of my collegiate life were spent designing, building and piloting an all-electric vehicle across North America. After 4 hours straight in that cockpit (bladder constantly filling), one gets pretty good at running the math of what shock levels a person can tolerate. With the help of my trusty Phillips head, everything was connected. I plugged the unit in, hit the Start button, and a satisfying whir of mechanical components came to life. Job done.
After announcing to the family that problem had been solved, I took to enjoying my half day off and sat down in front of my long-neglected racing game for a few laps around Daytona. The virtual tires hadn’t even warmed up when I heard another dreaded call from the garage. Despite my repeated “no, you aren’t doing it right” response from the other room, I was summoned to face reality. Seems my QA testing should have at least included a few tumbles of the drum. And just like that, back to unhappy wife.
I pulled the back cover off and furiously tried other arrangements for the three wires. This ultimately seemed like a straightforward process, so after triple checking and inventing a few curse words, I called up my uncle, who knows a thing or two. We determined that I was likely not the problem. It took GE support about 5 minutes of stock questions to give up on me being a good husband today. I looked again at several soaking piles of laundry, then began to take my rage out on un-installing this piece of garbage.
Throughout the support process, we had flicked switches on and off numerous around the room, but I am still an idiot for blindly ripping out what happened to be a live connection. Positive collided with negative in a flash. From there, it is tough to track what happened, because all I could see was purple.
The first thought, once I could see again, was “how much hair do I have left?” Thankfully undead Chappy still had most of it. Next was the pain of five hundred dollars going poof. In the haze of my electro-chemical science-experiment-gone-bad, I was sure that any hope of returning this thing had gone up in smoke. Surely the professionals at Lowe’s would see explosion remnants and chalk this one up to poor “installation” of which services I proudly declined upon purchase.
Allison ran downstairs to what was surely a disturbing scene. She weathered my scatterbrained explanation before taking pause and returning with two beers. We decided to call it a day and try again tomorrow. With an ambiguously terse explanation of “it’s been a really bad day” to my boss, I asked off the 4 remaining hours of my holiday work week.
Having grown well accustomed to the Chapman curse at this point, I knew that the best way to get out of this situation was to involve others. My Uncle and Father showed up. We talked through a game plan to fool the good employees of Lowe’s, but ultimately employed none of these tactics. I am honest to a fault, but annoyed conviction and a truncated version of my story was plenty to convince the lady who could honestly care less.
With the conviction that there’s just no way this could all happen again, I actively sought out a replacement dryer that looked as little a litter box as possible. No reason to tempt fate one more time.
The new unit was unloaded and installed in less than 10 minutes…an amazingly simple process when things work as they should. Heading back up to the main level, I saw Leo - still happily oblivious to the train wreck he set in motion. “If you must find an alternative to the litter box,” I pleaded “please just poop on the dog bed like a normal cat.”