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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Mum and the Maytag

mum n maytag.png
Andrew Kreider
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Andrew Kreider fixes the dishwasher with his mother over tea

By far the oldest appliance in my house is the dishwasher. A relic from two decades of raising three children. It was, in its day, a proud flagship model in the Maytag fleet. A Quiet Series, in matte black, with heated drying and tough scrub options.

Over the years, we have washed many things in this machine. Stove grates, buckets, outdoor implements, baby binkies, dog toys. Probably a lot of things that were never supposed to be put in there. But that old Maytag just kept right on trucking.

Until January. When, of all things, the door broke. Well, not the whole door – just the fancy control panel at the top that has the handle and the on-off controls.

That was two months ago. Now it’s March, my mother is visiting for the week, and I have just scored a replacement for said panel, slightly used, on eBay. On our first night together, my mother says, I’ll make some tea while you fix the dishwasher.

And thus a very English repair moment is born. Two workers – one making a pot of tea while the other stands back to inspect the job at hand. Behind them, a panel van emblazoned with a name like “Hardy & Son.” You can see it on motorways up and down the UK every day of the week. On building sites, in factories. Hard work and ingenuity fueled by a good cup of tea. Now here it is in my kitchen. As the steam rises, I get to work.

First of all, I open the door and examine it for screws. I find three likely candidates and proceed to remove them. The door makes a slight groaning sound, and emits a small cloud that smells of old peas. However, this makes no difference to the control panel, which continues to sit firmly in place. Here’s a cup, love, my mother says, and hands me a mug of brown liquid strong enough to make the spoon stand up in it. Ahhhh.

Feeling refreshed, I take a second look at the inside of the door. I discover eight more screws, this time needing a star bit to remove them. I search the basement for the appropriate bit and return in triumph. After five minutes of enthusiastic star-bittery I end up with thirteen screws in my back pocket. However, the control panel is still stuck fast. The drain gurgles ironically, and the smell of stale peas is getting stronger.

Mum and I lock eyes. Silently, we drain our mugs, and she pours a second cup. I can see she believes in me, and thus encouraged I return for a third time to the machine. This time, I clamp a flashlight between my teeth and begin to work the door liner loose with both hands. Catching sight of my reflection in the door, I look like a cut-rate minotaur, perhaps the kind you would ride for five cents at the grocery store. I want to roar, but I have a flashlight in my mouth.

At this point, I hear the sound of a tea cup being set down, and my mother appears next to me. You need help, she says. The rather sad minotaur nods weakly. And indeed, it takes two of us. With Mum running the show, and four hands instead of two, we pull off the door liner, find the hidden screws that hold the old panel in place, and finally set it free.

Moral of the story: Never turn down help from an octogenarian. Now we are on a roll. The new control panel slides into place. And while Mum holds the door secure I screw everything back together. Piece of cake, guvnuh.

We are left with a very fetching two-tone dishwasher – black on bottom, with a white control panel on top. The kettle goes back on to make another cup of tea, and we set the newly repaired Maytag off on its first cycle as a new machine. The smell of stale peas has been replaced by the sweet, sweet smell of success, mingled with fresh Earl Grey.

As I clear up the tools, I tell my mother I think we should start an appliance repair business together. We’ll get a van, I say, and on the side we’ll write: “Kreider & Son.”

Music: “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas

Andrew Kreider was born and raised in London, England. He moved to Elkhart over twenty years ago, but somehow never totally lost his accent. Most weeks you will find him somewhere in the bowels of the Lerner Theater in Elkhart, where he works as a tech and as the audio and lighting designer for Premier Arts.