Our Kenmore clothes dryer squeals like a 12-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.
Thirteen years of hard labor have stretched its drive belt. The squealing usually lasts about 10 seconds before the Kenmore settles down and gets to work.
I was single until my late 30s, and I never imagined how much soiled laundry a family of four could create.
A lot, as it turns out.
Day after day, month after month, our washer and dryer slosh and spin to shorten our stacks of dirty clothes. There are towers of towels, heaps of hoodies, scores of socks and an overabundance of underwear.
Early in our marriage, my wife and I made a deal. She'd do the clothes, and I'd do the dishes. Timewise, it turned out to be poor deal for her; but to her credit, she has never tried to renegotiate. I think she was afraid I'd toss a red blouse into a washer full of white dedicates, accidentally detonating a "pink bomb."
My wife has, however, started to insist that our two sons, 11 and 16, deliver their dirty clothes to the laundry room and put away their clean ones after they are folded. It's a reasonable request, but compliance requires vigilance.
Our sons have developed the habit of nodding "yes" with their headphones on, whether they hear the question clearly or not. Cute. Sometime I have to lift an ear flap to reiterate: "Go and get your dirty clothes!" Next, you'll see them reluctantly trudging through the house schlepping overstuffed laundry bags.
The fold-and-store process is complicated by our dog, Boise, who plops down right in the middle of an unfolded pile of clean clothes. He seems to like the feeling of warm towels against his tummy. Getting him to vacate his cozy nest takes some doing.
Our older son goes through about three times as many clothes as anyone else in the family. His piles of dirty clothes suggest he does more wardrobe changes a day than Cher in a Christmas special.
"Are you considered well-dressed among your friends?" I asked him innocently a couple of weeks ago.
"I don't know, maybe," he said, a hint of suspicion in his voice.
The internet is filled these days with warnings of children and teens intentionally eating detergent pods, then broadcasting their exploits on social media. This proves conclusively that teenagers often confuse funny with stupid.
Thankfully, we haven't noticed any pods being ingested at our house. But were we to run out of hot dogs and frozen pizza, who knows what will get eaten.
Not only does our dryer squeal, it has also developed a habit of beeping for no reason. Midway through a cycle it will beep several times — always in multiples of three.
Also, the timer does not work reliably, so we are afraid to let it run when we leave the house.
A reasonable person would conclude that it is about time for us to buy a new dryer. But as all frugal families know, you don't euthanize an appliance until it fails completely.
Until then, the squeals and beeps are just reminders that hard work is getting done.
Perhaps some day I'll write the obit for Mr. Ken Moore.
But today is not the day.
Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6645.