Illustration of washing machine needing repair

Appliance failures and other household headaches sometimes come all at once. Repairing the wonky washing machine could end up being a nonstarter. 

RICHMOND — They say problems come in threes, so, after a couple of things — like the lawn mower not working and a flat tire on the car — you may have one more repair coming.

Perhaps the rule of threes only applies to big stuff, like mowers and cars. When it’s little stuff, it seems more like a parade.

For years, in humid weather, the fluorescent light over the sink has refused to operate. Instead of fixing it, I’d just give it a whack with a metal spatula, the dog would bark, and the light would come on. A few weeks ago, it seemed way past time to update the fixture.

Was that potential fix the start of the parade? At the office desk one day, I felt myself sliding toward the floor. It wasn’t me having a spell, it was one of the roller balls on the chair suddenly falling off. Without totally crashing, I caught myself. The chair is not fixable.

When a friend mentioned that she had to call several different repair persons within a couple of weeks, I started to review what was going on in this house. The washing machine, alive long after most of its laundry contemporaries have been junked, didn’t drain the rinse water. Sometimes. Other times, it worked just fine. And instead of wringing out the sheets, I found that making it spin again worked. The repair person is scheduled, but I foresee a shake of the head at the senior status of this machine.

A few days later, potatoes that survived the garden floods of August roasted in the oven without a problem. Delicious. The next time I pushed the Bake pad, nothing happened. Without warning, this also-aged appliance had decided not to respond, and I had obviously postponed replacement at least a day too long. Fortunately, the rarely used convection roast button was still alive, especially since it seems to take forever to get an appliance from maker to kitchen these days.

It wasn’t over. A weekend guest reported water coming out of the shower where no water is supposed to flow. And then, while opening a bottle of Chianti, the metal corkscrew broke. It was nice that the cork was already out of the bottle. And somewhere in that drawer of everything from mashers to thermometers, another corkscrew lives. Then a seam opened in a door frame, moving a board and several panes of glass.

But, the worst was being upstairs close to the witching hour, dog asleep downstairs, when something crashed. It was loud, like a patio table levitating and banging down on the cement. A search of garage, cellar and downstairs rooms produced nothing. No tree had hit the car, the patio furniture was in place. I went to bed, a bit concerned that perhaps I had reached the age of hearing things but not concerned enough to lie awake.

Some folks would say a poltergeist was at work, one of those mysterious — probably mythical — spirits that are supposedly responsible for loud noises and objects in a house being moved or destroyed. Not believing in ghosts, I was just plain puzzled. And then, on a cold, cold evening, I went to light the fire set up in the fireplace by a weekend visitor.

And there, behind a big chair, on the floor, were the four wrought-iron tools used to poke around in the fireplace and the wrought-iron plate that had been attached to the brick wall for at least four decades. Not a poltergeist. Not a band of physically fit mice. Not a mental aberration. Just more wear and tear — and way past the rule of threes.

It’s hard to know if the parade is over, and knowing how sensitive computers are, I’m saving after every graph these days.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her website is