There's dry wit, and then there's dryer wit

As I sat on the floor, my hand stuck deep inside the clothes dryer, I had plenty of time to ponder my plight. I recalled a high school English teacher who wrote on the board on the first day of class, "How did you get here? Where are you going?"

At last I had the answers: Lint. And nowhere fast, unless the dryer came with me.

If you've never been coupled with a major appliance, you may wonder how anyone could be so inept. Easily - when you work at "home," as it's so innocently called. "War zone" might be more accurate, and killer dryers are just the start of it.

When my 9-to-5 job went the way of all flesh, I wasn't worried. I would set up shop as a wordsmith, profiting from my irresistible native wit. Ensconced in my cozy home office, I would create. I would emote. I would make that English teacher proud.

So each morning after my kids slouched off to school, I sat down at my computer to share my gift.

Words fairly flew from my fingertips - for an hour or so. But as the flow slowed, the pull of other tasks grew. Paint the closets? Sure. Clean under the dishwasher? Why not? Exhume the dryer lint? I'm your girl.

If something's worth doing, it's worth doing well, my mother always said. So I didn't stop when I'd emptied the little lint basket. No, I unplugged the machine, pulled off the exhaust hose, and peered down it. Just as I thought: enough lint to stuff a sofa.

Intrigued, I examined the exposed innards of the mechanical beast. Who knew? The hose connected to a metal pipe that met up with a little fan at the front of the dryer. The fan felt especially furry, but I couldn't reach in far enough to clean it.

At that point, less persistent types might have lost interest. Instead, I heard a voice (Mom?) intoning, "If at first you don't succeed..."

So I tried again, contorting my body to insert my hand into the void. Just as I reached the fan, the wheel turned, trapping my finger. I struggled to free it, but no go. My finger was stuck, and therefore, so was I.

Hmm. The house was empty, the street deserted because my neighbors are not smart enough to work at home and get stuck in their dryers. No one could hear me shout, but I felt obliged to try.

"Help," I ventured feebly. "Help, help?"

Eventually the dog wandered in, gazing forlornly as if to say, "Now what have you done?" Concluding that I was not, in fact, going to feed him, he let me pat him with my free hand and padded back to bed. Good old boy. If by some chance the UPS man should show up, I knew I could count on the dog's frenzied barking to drown out my SOS.

I panicked. Not because I was in any true pain or danger. My kids would come dawdling off the bus in a few hours and spot me on their way to the TV. They might prefer me like this, of course, but they'd remember who pays the cable bill. They would call 911, the fire department would bring the Jaws of Life, and I would be free.

No, I was dismayed at the prospect of just sitting there, hour after hour, with nothing to do but ... think.

I thought of my other ill-fated repair jobs: the toaster that blew up, the vacuum that spewed a cloud of dirt, the self- cleaning oven that cleaned itself right out of business.

I thought of Mom: "No matter how bad off you are," she'd say, "there's always someone worse off than you." I didn't see how, unless that person had both hands stuck in a dryer.

I'm not sure how long I was married to a Maytag, but I kept wiggling my finger and finally wrenched it free. I took it straight back to the computer, sat down, and vowed never to get distracted again. I had a job to do, and I would do it.

I groped for inspiration. What could I write about? Nothing ever happened to me. Write about what you know, someone said. And it wasn't Mom. It was, come to think of it, that high school English teacher.

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