When my family was living in our starter house in 1998, our old washing machine broke. We decided to give the dryer to charity and buy a new matched set. I stepped outside to the driveway on a warm spring day while I waited for the truck that would collect the old dryer.
The house across the street was a mirror image of ours. They’d both been up for sale at the same time, and we picked the one that had an updated master bathroom (which meant there was a cabinet under the sink, rather than just the original bare sink). The neighborhood in general didn’t have much variety; it was mostly small bi-level homes, and the plat had been only half finished when the developer abandoned it, leaving weedy vacant lots and crumbling sidewalks just a few streets over.
The truck arrived, and the driver loaded the dryer into it. He was middle-aged and looked tired, like every day was a hard day at work for him. When I mentioned that we’d just had a new washer and dryer set delivered, he nodded as if that was what he expected; and then he said, “So you’re rich.”
“No, I’m not,” I said in astonishment, looking around at the cheap cookie-cutter houses and thinking about the rust-bucket Chevy Cavalier that my husband had driven to work until a few months ago, when he started getting overtime work regularly enough to feel comfortable buying another car.
“You’re giving away a dryer that still works,” the guy observed. “That’s what people do when they’re rich. So you’re rich.”
He drove off, and I went back inside to start a load of laundry in the dusty, unfinished utility area of the home’s lower level, which was all the space we had for the new washer and dryer set. “Rich,” I said out loud, almost laughing as I shook my head, looking at the cheap little water heater just a few steps away, under the harsh light of a bare bulb.
The washer and dryer gave us good service, both at that house and after we moved into our current home. By the spring of 2014 our kids were through college, and we bought the fancy front-loading set we’d been jonesing for. We thought at first that our daughter might ask for the old set, so we put it in a corner of the basement, where it looked quite forlorn with a carpet remnant tossed over it.
After a while we realized the old set was nothing but clutter, and we called the thrift store last fall to schedule a donation pickup. My husband put each piece on an appliance dolly and trundled them up the stairs and out to the garage.
A truck with two young guys showed up early in the day. When they saw that the washer and dryer already had been put in the garage, rather than being left in the basement for them to carry up the stairs, one guy turned to the other and said with a big smile, “This is a great start to the day!”
“Yeah,” agreed Dude #2, “it doesn’t get much better!”
They quickly put the washer and dryer in the truck and drove away, grinning like they’d won the lottery. I stood there watching them go, as I thought about how little it really takes to be rich.