Down With "Smart" Appliances

Image via Shutterstock.
Image via Shutterstock.

My washing machine broke about a week ago. I am not mad at it: The poor fucker is older, quite a bit older, than this website, and for the past several years has been running pretty much nonstop to accommodate the fact that my two sons basically are very adorable piglets that talk and have occasionally unsteady pee-control. It had a good run! We’re replacing it soon.


In the meantime, though, I have been using the new, fancy, “smart” laundry machines of a very kind and accommodating family member who lives nearby. In appliance terms, so far as I can tell, “smart” means the laundry machines contain sophisticated sensors and shit, so that they can discern the state of the clothes and adjust the timing of their cycles accordingly, to achieve optimal clothes-washing efficiency. As a practical matter, this means that after you put your clothes in the washing machine, add detergent, set stuff like water temperature and wash type (bedclothes/delicates/whites/etc.), and press the “Start” button, the machine spends a couple seconds, like, analyzing your wash or whatever, and then a digital timer tells you that the “estimated” wash time for your load of laundry is 59 minutes.

And so you kind of mill around for a while, do some bad tweets on your phone, and when you come back 59 minutes later the timer tells you that the “estimated” remaining wash time is 39 minutes. And so you mill around some more, feeling progressively more awkward and stranded at this home that is not your own home, because you can’t leave until your children’s clothes are clean and dry, and when you come back 39 minutes later the timer tells you that the “estimated” remaining wash time is 17 minutes.

At some point you repeat this whole thing with the dryer. Hours later you return home, having blown pretty much your entire day on a buncha friggin’ SpongeBob shirts.

This is bullshit! My old washing machine just had a random-ass number on the dial: 14. You spun the dial to 14, not knowing what 14 even referred to, and you pulled the knob outward to start the cycle, and you walked away, and like 35 minutes later the washing machine stopped washing your clothes. Were your clothes perfectly washed? Who knows! They were 35 minutes cleaner than they were 35 minutes ago.

The judgment of my old washing machine was that 35 minutes was a good work-shift, a fair amount of washing. If your clothes could not be washed to sparkling freshness in 35 minutes of good-faith effort, that was your own damn problem. Maybe you should stop being a gross slob.

Maybe my old washing machine couldn’t “sense” things or “estimate” numbers, but it believed in Personal Responsibility. It was not a helicopter washing machine, infantilizing my kids’ shirts with its looming micromanagement. If you ask me, that is plenty dang “smart” enough for anybody.



That’s why I keep it old school and beat my clothes on the rocks down by the river.