When we moved into our house here in Eugene we had to spend a bunch of money on some immediate updates — my memory is so bad I’m fuzzy on the details, but I’m pretty sure the kitchen was carpeted, among other criminal decorating decisions including a strip of hideous decorative flowered wallpaper that bordered the living room walls and a paint job in the main bathroom the previous owner described proudly as “hand sponged” which produced the general effect of a Sherwin-Williams-soaked dog having rubbed itself on various surfaces — and thus had little left over for appliances, so we cheaped out across the board. Our microwave is so old it just has a egg-timer style dial so you can’t program it by seconds, which has resulted in many soft pretzel thawing disasters, and our dishwasher has been long plagued by a weird glitch where it does something mysterious and unhelpful with that expensive fast-dry fluid while reliably producing soaking wet clean dishware every single time, but whatever: our stuff mostly works, even if it’s not particularly fancy.

We did recently have to get a new washer and dryer, replacing the truly ancient used set we had originally bought off Craiglist. The old set had bare-bones functionality: you turned a dial and water would start pouring out, you pushed a button and the dryer would loudly rumble to life. When a cycle was complete both machines released a grating buzzing sound that was apparently intended to notify the entire neighborhood that the laundry was done, although I must say that never stopped me from forgetting to grab things before they succumbed to fatal amounts of wrinkling.

In comparison, the new set feels like an advanced robot duo, full of complex programming possibilities and an oddly charming selection of upbeat electronic noises. Starting a load now involves pressing several buttons before leaving the machine to furrow its digital brow (“SENSING,” reads the display) before getting down to business (“LID LOCKED,” the display informs me, warningly). Boop boop BOOP, the dryer says cheerfully once the power button is pressed, then trills a delightful little tune when it’s finished. Which I of course routinely ignore, because all the technological advancements in the world haven’t solved the ass-painery of folding laundry, especially children’s laundry which is always always ALWAYS inside-out.

As with generations before me, I find myself both embracing and rejecting the new way of doing things. It is undeniably cool that my washing machine feels like something out of the Jetsons, but I’m sure some eventual electronic malfunction will have me raging about how they just don’t make things the way they used to.

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I was asked to check in on my brother-in-law’s cat while his family was vacationing in Mexico, which is a task I thought I could readily embrace — no real responsibilities, since the food and litter situation was taken care of, just the request to infrequently socialize with a cat, which is pretty much one of my very favorite things to do.

The first day I checked on her was about 3 days into their trip, and she was extremely vocal and pleased to see me. Normally too shy to endure being approached, she wound around my ankles with a lot of flopping and purring. It was a nice visit: I took a photo, sent it to Joe, and went on my way.

The next time I stopped by, the cat had clearly had enough of being cooped up without any company: as soon as I raised the garage door, she came flying out in a blur. I mean a BLUR, she was like a small furry Secretariat gunning for the win. She led me on a grim and probably comical-to-observe chase through the neighborhood before sequestering herself in a crawlspace several houses down, ignoring my pleas and the rattle of her food bowl.

I ended up reluctantly leaving, with the plans to come back later and hope she was waiting by the garage. She’s an inside/outside cat but in the family’s absence they had corralled her inside with access to the garage where her food and litter was. Thanks to me, she was now locked outside, with no way to enter the garage or house.

Of course it began raining, like actual aggressive buckets of rain, and when I came back later she was nowhere to be found. I called and called and eventually left the garage cracked enough for me to slither myself out on the ground like some sort of bizarre reverse burglar (I had no key and couldn’t lock the front door from the outside) and that’s when I got the text from Joe:

“How’s my kitty?”

Now. I ask you: what would you do, in that situation? Keep in mind Joe and his family were in another country, enjoying themselves in the sun, and there was nothing whatsoever he could do to help with the missing cat situation aside from worry.

I asked a friend for moral guidance, and she advised that I ‘fess up: maybe Joe could tell me where the cat’s favorite hiding spots were, for instance. I considered this but either out of a true wish to preserve Joe’s vacation or my own cowardice, I went to Riley for a second opinion.

“Yeah … this sounds like a you thing,” he said, after hearing the situation.

“NOT. REMOTELY. HELPFUL,” I told him, although I could deeply identify with the perspective of not wanting to get involved.

He briefly removed his ever-present earbuds to come up with an idea: text Joe back, but say something that was technically probably true without providing any unpleasant details.

She still doesn’t like me, I wrote, But she’s doing fine.

Now that I was both a total failure as a cat caretaker AND maybe also a horrible liar AND I’d left their home unsecured, I went back again after Dylan’s basketball practice that night, and did what John advised: I shut the garage door without entering, crossing my fingers she’d come inside but not giving her the chance to escape again.

Just before I pulled out of the driveway, though, Dylan said he thought we should go in and see if she was hiding under the bed. “I’ve seen her do that before,” he said, and I weighed my options: go in and not find her and then live with that bad feeling, or just drive away while preserving some modicum of hope.

So many things to wrestle with! This was supposed to be FUN.

I did go back inside and at first I was awash in total doom because she didn’t come when we called her and I was like O GOD SHE IS FLATTENED UNDER A MUDDY TIRE SOMEWHERE and then as we started walking up the stairs she was just suddenly there, rubbing herself against a bannister and looking at us like jeez, you guys seem stressed out.

“HECK YEAH,” Dylan shouted, and we slapped palms and tore ass out of there, not even stopping to pet her. Garage door down, cat verified inside, skin prickling with adrenaline, I peeled out of their neighborhood and vowed not to return before Joe did.

Once they got home I learned that the cat probably would have been just fine because she does come and go as she pleases, which was information I could have used before, say, flattening myself on the ground in order to Mission-Impossible my way out of a garage but not before the spiderweb-encrusted door scraped its way across my actual sideturned face — however, all’s well that ends well, and next time I’m demanding either a tranq gun or a house key, or better yet, my own trip to a relaxing beachfront resort because that shit was STRESSFUL.

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