Entropy is generally one of the less organized forces in the physical world, for obvious reasons. It doesn’t have to mount a concerted attack. It just sort of sits on you and waits. Not so this weekend, however. We fell victim to so many entropy attacks that we think entropy and gravity may have switched gigs temporarily just for fun.
Act I, the Washing Machine
Things started out not-too-upsetting with a washing machine breakdown. We were early adopters when Frigidaire/Gibson came out with their front-loading, stacking washer/dryer units in the late-nineties, and we’re still using them. Every couple years, though, there’s a belt that wears out or a switch that fries or something, and we have to replace it. That’s what happened Friday, when the washing machine failed to finish its cycle.
It wouldn’t have normally been a huge problem, except that we were just about to travel for the weekend, and I had a washing machine full of soggy-but-not-clean laundry, plus a pile of Defcon 5 sweaty workout clothes that I couldn’t just leave sitting around for 48 hours.
Frustrated, but not yet beaten, I carried the soggy-but-not-clean load and the Defcon 5 sweaty workout clothes up to our porch (the same one that soon won’t exist) and laid it all out flat on the floor to dry as it was, or at least to mildew evenly, and we left for our weekend trip to Grandma’s farm on the west side of Michigan.
Flashback, the Chainsaws
At this point, actually, we’d already been puzzled by the odd behavior of our chainsaws. We own two Makita chainsaws, a small one and a big one. Earlier this week, Brent found that neither one would start, which is odd. The small one had been used, but the large one was brand new. He is trying to remove some brush and small trees in advance of our home renovation, so it was really frustrating that instead of doing the actual job, he was spending a lot of time repairing his tools so he could do the job. That turned into a theme for the weekend.
There seemed to be some progress when Brent bought some fancy, super clean mixed 2 cycle gas and small chainsaw started up. But then big chainsaw gave it a stern look and both of them clammed up and refused to start at all. That situation, too, was unresolved when we left for our weekend trip.
Act II, the Lawn Mower
Grandma’s five-acre lawn was in need of mowing when we arrived. My son had reached the age of thirteen, traditional age of lawn mowing among my people, so I asked if he would like to use Grandma’s riding mower to mow the lawn. Our nephew, who was there helping Grandma with some other stuff, warned us that the battery was dead and we’d have to jump start it to get it go.
There ensued more than an hour of lawn mower repair activities before we finally got it going. The lawnmower battery was completely dead. Brent ended up pulling a battery of the same size and type from a chipper that was broken in a different way, but had a usable batter. This other battery was not completely dead, but it was also not charged, so the lawnmower still needed a jump start, provided by our car, but the theory was that the battery would charge up and the mower could now start on its own.
This was where we first suspected entropy was out to get us. The barn is full of power tools and old vehicles. But Grandpa stopped doing much in the way of farm work or tool maintenance a couple years before he died in 2011, and since then obviously even less has been done. Every time we thought of a tool or piece of equipment that could solve our current problem, THAT tool or piece of equipment then manifested a malfunction of its own. It was like being in a tragically backwards Rube Goldberg machine, where before we can mow the lawn, we have to do a list of other time consuming chores starting with unclogging a drain fifteen miles away.
We did get the mower started, however, and Glen mowed most of the lawn before the mower stalled and would not start again.
Act III, Watering the Corn
My nephew, the same one who warned us about the lawn mower, planted about half an acre of corn at Grandma’s house, and he was very excited to see it had sprouted. The weather has been very dry, so I offered to water it for him the next morning, before it got too hot. I thought that would be pretty simple and hands off. I was so wrong.
After four hours of moving the sprinkler around the cornfield, but ending up with alternating dry patches and swampy patches, I stood near the sprinkler while it was running to figure out what the problem was. It turned out it wasn’t resetting itself. If I poked the mechanism with my finger, it would swing back to the beginning of its arc. Otherwise, it would just sit there and throw water onto the same spot forever.
We didn’t want poor Grandma to have to struggle with this sprinkler later when we weren’t there, so we decided to lay out the soaker hoses they had in their barn. This ended up taking hours. I had to use ALL of my college calculus to figure out a way to cover all of the corn with the hoses we had. Then there was the process of running back to the barn to turn the water on to test the hoses, finding a problem, turning it off, and starting over. We had to switch out three of the hoses for leaks and bad connections. We finally got it working and turned it on. All told, it took from about 8 in the morning Sunday until 2 PM to get the corn watered.
Act IV, Lawn Mower Again and Always
It still seemed like the lawnmower might just need a better battery, so we tried charging up the new-old battery we put in it. First we had to push the lawnmower back into the barn, which was not easy since it apparently has no neutral gear. We got it into the barn, and Brent hooked it up to the battery charger, which may or may not have been working properly. The battery appeared to charge. It made little buzzy charging sounds. But when we tried to start up the mower, nothing happened. It wouldn’t turn over. It wouldn’t even try.
Although Glen was standing by with his ear muffs ready, we were not able to get the mower started so he could finish the lawn.
Act V, the Washing Machine Again No I am Not Kidding
I went through all of my spare clothes watering the corn. It was a sweaty, messy job and I had to change after my confrontation with the broken sprinkler. After being out in the sun a couple hours, I fantasized about spraying myself with the hose, but then decided to hold out for a shower, which would be much better.
When we were done with the hoses and the mower, Brent and his mother made a quick trip to the store, and I started a load of laundry. Brent was out of clean clothes, too. I grabbed all of the clothes we weren’t wearing and put them in Grandma’s washing machine while they were out, intending to shower as soon as I had some clean clothes to change into.
When Grandma got home, she said, “Oh, you fixed my washing machine?”
I said, “Um, it’s broken?” Around that time, the washer quit working, and could not be started up again. I was left with a small load of laundry floating in very dirty, ice-cold water. By that time, Brent was already in the shower, not knowing that laundry apocalypse had struck twice.
Very lucky for him, I had left him a not-very-dirty outfit that he had worn to a party the night before, so he was able to put on something less dirty than he was wearing before. In fact, I’d even picked up that last outfit, figuring it might be a good idea to wash everything, since we were going home to a broken washer. Fortunately, I decided it was too much trouble and I would just wash what we needed, so the new washing machine breakdown left us mostly where we started.
At that point, we gave up and headed for home, with our wet clothes in a plastic bag.
Brent managed to fix our washer here at home (knock wood), so I think Gravity and Entropy have gone back to their regular jobs, and Entropy is only just sitting on us, not smashing us under its boot heel.