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Flash Fiction


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After my retirement I thought I should participate more in household chores and help my wife out. Beyond the routine task that I was doing of collecting the garbage bags across bathrooms and kitchen and getting them out for pick up on the designated day I was looking for an upgrade. After all, I have known a little bit about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. My self-actualization urge demanded that I do the laundry. But my wife would never allow me near the high-tech washer and dryer that we had bought. Every time I offered to do laundry she would promptly say that it was all tricky and I would mess it up. She would promptly remind me of the sweater she could not wear because a few years ago I had mistakenly put it in the dryer and shrunk it to the size of a knitted tea coaster. Somehow I have never learnt to take the fifth amendment to the follow-up question of “Did you know how much it cost?” I honestly did not know but hoping to ease the loss I had given a low estimate. Pat came the reply: ”I know you go for cheap sales in a box store. This one I had bought in the boutique stores” and the price she had quoted was about four times my estimate. Of course I knew the fudge factor in her estimate was close to a hundred per cent but I did not dare to contest it. From that time onwards I always wanted to do laundry to impress her and redeem my self-worth in the field of chore-ology.

The new high-end electronic menu-driven washer and dryer that we had bought increased my appetite to operate them. But I had a curfew not to get near it. Thinking my wife was asleep, one day  I started looking at the machine and my fingers accidentally touched some button. As if it has been programmed by my wife, it started giving a beep immediately. With her sharp ears, she figured out I was trying to fiddle with the washer. She responded immediately: “I told you not to go near the machine. If you break it, we need to change the chip and that will cost more than a new machine. Let me see what you have done.”  ‘Nothing happened , no sweat’ I replied simultaneously bending down to see  the scrolling words on the small plate. They were going at a rapid speed and with my bifocal, it was not easy to read. The maximum speed I can handle was the CNN chyrons. The message on the plate was perhaps double or triple the speed. Whatever little I could read did not make any sense and that is when I realized I might have changed the menu to Spanish or German! My wife came down, pushed me away, saying she needed space and did not want me watching over her shoulders. In a second she did something and the beep was gone.  Told me she cancelled the menu and showed me out of pity where the cancel button was. To test my skill, I tried to touch the cancel and with my stubby fingers touched something else and the beep went again. Like a firefighter, she quickly got to the cancel key. This machine had made a big dent in my self worth and I wanted an opportunity to redeem it.

When my wife had gone out on a shopping trip, I thought I will do the laundry and thus reduce her work on return. Also, I wanted to really master the machine. There was a good amount of time before her return and I had a sufficient margin for a few mistakes now that I could locate the cancel button. After all, these machines are foolproofed.

Unlike my old machine, this had multiple slots in the soap area. One for soap, one for bleach and another for fabric softener.  Luckily the contrast in the print colour was helpful to identify which one was what. After filling the soap and loading the clothes I carefully read the settings and pushed the delicate setting to be safe as there were a few of my wife’s outfits in the load. I learnt quickly that the buttons were feather touch and when I pushed hard they repeated the menu and started beeping. Further, my index finger was sprawling to more than one key. Immediately I switched to my little finger. Finally, I managed to set the cycle etc and pushed the start button. I did not realize the first time that I needed to keep pressing it for three seconds and there was a countdown. When it showed one I took the finger off. Nothing worked. Then I did again and this time I obeyed the instructions and held it for three seconds. The machine made a click and there was a sound of a lock. I was reminded of the game show where the host asked the participant whether that was the final answer that could be locked in.  I thought I have conquered.

Lo and behold after a couple of spins it stopped and flashed an error message LF. Ahah, I have come prepared this time looking at the online manual. That was load facto (LF) and I might have to add more clothes. That was where perhaps my problems started. I ran upstairs and found a few more of my shirts and a couple of my wife’s blouses on our closet floors. Quickly I got them and filled the washer and went through the drill. This time the load cleared and the wash went smoothly. I was having the thrill of my life when the machine announced the job done by a gentle music.

Then it was time for the dryer. I remembered I should check the instructions carefully otherwise I might get another tea coaster. Most of the items were drier safe. Only in a few of the items I had some difficulty. One had pictorial instructions. The IKEA generation assumed everyone was pictorially literate. I could not figure out whether the picture meant line dry or it was a sign for a top-loading dryer. I was ready with the google search and figured it out.

The next one turned out to be trickier. The instruction tag was kind of crumpled. When I stretched it there were instructions in five different languages and as one would expect the instructions in English were totally crumpled. Smartly I pulled my iron box and ironed the creases out of the instruction tag. To my dismay, the first instruction that became visible was DO Not Iron. I rushed to pull the plug and decided I would dry it outside. .

The third outfit looked a bit expensive and I did not want to fool around. There was no washing instructions tag. There was the brand name and some wiggly lines in a  square. Since there was still sometime before my wife’s arrival I thought I would call the outfit manufacturer. The customer service person was very receptive to my problem and told me that the issue could be resolved if I could upload the QR code. What in the world was QR code and how could  I upload that was my question. The call centre person was very happy to tell me that the company sells a companion washer dryer that will automatically read the QR code and set the washer dryer settings for the outfit and there was is a special sale for a  $2,000 discount. Without waiting for my response he connected me to the sales section that put me on hold. Quickly I disconnected and started googling.

I found a site that precisely addressed my issue. Of course, I had to register. Without asking further questions it popped the message-Male 60 Plus and advertisements for reading glasses and denture gel were popping. I was impressed that vising the site was like reading Tarot cards. I was not distracted as I had a job on hand. I soon found out that they had an app that I could download on my lap top. ( Thank god it was needing a mobile.) I downloaded the app and showed the tag in front of it. It gave a message TTTO.

Puzzled with the message I remembered the call a friend option in the game. I had by chance met an old schoolmate last week who studied computer science and made big in a  software firm. When I was stealthily buying a white chocolate cookie in the coffee shop, and he put his hand and pointing to my continuous glucose monitor patch  asked whether I was allowed to eat cookies. With the unexpected audit, I was shocked and dropped the cookie to see who it was. Luckily the cookie was old and hard it did not crumble. I was surprised to see my friend who was in a hurry to leave. On the way out he gave me his number and told me he was staying in a nearby motel. Though he was living only some twenty-five miles away we did not have much opportunity for meeting each other and I was surprised to see him in my town. I thought he might know the techy stuff and this would be a good opportunity to connect. When I called him he was about to leave somewhere but had a few minutes for me. When I  asked whether he knew the meaning of TTTO message, he quickly responded that it meant Time To Throw Out.

I was not sure what should be thrown out, .my computer, the outfit, or, the dryer. I asked my friend what to throw out. He told me that depended on where I got the message from and added his wife got that from her psychologist and that is why she threw him out and he is in a motel. As he was talking the garage door opened indicating my wife’s arrival and I got a panic attack and passed out in my chair murmuring TTTO . Coming in she saw the outfit in my hand and me muttering TTTO. She thanked me for picking up the outfit for the garbage. Hearing that I perked up. She went on saying that she had scanned the QC of the outfit and it revealed that it had passed the fashion expiry date. She further added if this outfit has not cleared the house  that day  the radio frequency identification would have flagged her on the website. Without wasting a moment, she told me she was going to a meeting of an E-Book club and told me on her way out told  TTYL.

I fainted again in disbelief this time muttering  TTTO TTYL. All along my friend was listening and he shouted from the other end you have now become the originator of TTBB TTYN club. All perplexed  I asked him to explain.

Yes he said ‘You started  Time To Throw Out Talk To You Later TTTO TTYL) and Time To Bring Back Talk To Me Now (TTBBTTMN) Club.  He declared he became already a   member and rushed to  go  to talk to his wife. Suddenly I found myself elevated to the founder of an elite club. Before leaving he suggested that it would be cool as a founder I had the QR code of the club tattooed on me.The thought of the needles poking frightened me and I shouted out loud “No” and that is when my wife woke me up and asked whether I had a bad dream. Realizing I was in the bed all this time I told her TTYL and rushed to the washroom.  She pulled me and told Tell Me Now.I was in a shock and  shouted ‘OMG you knew it’, And I fainted!


Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay

Gopalan Srinivasan (CANADA)

Gopalan Srinivasan was born in a village in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, India. After having his early education in Tirunelveli, he did his doctoral programme at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA). He worked at IIMA for a few years before moving to Canada. He joined the university of New Brunswick Fredericton where he taught over three decades. Currently he is leading a retired life .

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