Call me Mrs. Otto. . . repeatedly

There have been a few times in the last six months or so when I’ve loaded up the washing machine with clothing and have later walked past the laundry area (it’s sort of a closet off of the kitchen) and stepped in some water.

This is bad, because I never wear shoes in the house and it makes my sock all soppy. Oh, I guess it’s also bad because it would appear that the washing machine has a leak. EXCEPT! Except it doesn’t always do it. And it’s never a HUGE amount of water. Just every now and then—just often enough to drive a sane person crazy, what with the wondering if THIS TIME, IS IT REALLY BROKEN? or will it stop again?—there is some water.

Me, despite being incredibly cautious in nearly all ways, I am relatively unbothered by this phenomenon because it happens so rarely. Most of the time, the washer works and doesn’t leak. How serious could it be? Whatever. Otto, however, is not so lucky.

I’d actually forgotten that we’d had this problem, because it had been so long since it last happened, when we returned from vacation and Otto put some laundry in the next morning.

I promptly walked through the kitchen and stepped in a large puddle.

Otto immediately started wiping up the water and inspecting the washer. He reached around the back of it and felt for moisture all along the back of the machine, along the wall where the pipes go, and then after mopping up he was down on his belly on the floor with his headlamp on (sexy!) looking underneath. Otto’s a pretty handy guy, but he couldn’t figure out where the water was coming from.

My response: Oh well.

I may have even argued with him. Dude, c’mon. It only leaks sometimes. Murphy’s Law dictates that Sears will come out here with their mandatory service call charge and not even be able to make it leak. It’s not a big deal. Why spend the money?

Otto was not to be dissuaded. And in fairness, he rarely feels so strongly about something that he INSISTS, and I had to admit that my cavalier attitude might be asking for trouble, so he called Sears to schedule a service call.

We’ve done four loads of laundry since then. No leaking. Of course. I complained several times that we were going to end up paying $65 for nothing.

Yesterday morning a service tech from Sears showed up on my doorstep. As it happened, he arrived when I was on the phone with someone I’ve been trying to reach for a week. So I did that THING which I know is terribly rude and obnoxious (but I didn’t know what else to do!) where I answered the door while on the phone, asked the person on the phone to hold on a sec, said hello to the service tech and said “I’ll be off in just a sec, the washer’s this way”), led him to the machine, and went to finish my call. I felt like an asshole (“Hello, lowly servant. Allow me to finish my important business before speaking to you.”) but there you have it.

ANYWAY. Once I got off the phone I rushed back into the kitchen.

Me: I’m SO sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, I just had to finish that call, I’ve been trying to reach him for weeks. Let me start again. Hi! I’m Mir!
Him: *shaking my outstretched hand* Well hello, ma’am, my name is Amos, and I’m from Sears. It is certainly my pleasure to meet you.

Amos was an older gentleman with a thick southern accent and a peppiness about him that made me want another cup of coffee or twelve. He sounded SO HAPPY to be here in my kitchen looking at my washing machine. Now that’s job dedication, right there.

Amos: Now, ma’am, Mrs. Otto, what seems to be the trouble with the machine?
Me: Well, sometimes when we do laundry we end up with water on the floor. But only sometimes. And not that much water.
Amos: Mmmmhmmm, mmmhmmm, I see, mmmhmmm, alrighty then Mrs. Otto, what I am going to be doing here, Mrs. Otto, is I am going to remove the entire case and have a look then, Mrs. Otto. We’ll see if we can’t find the problem.
Me: Great! If you need me, I’ll be right through there in my office.
Amos: Yes ma’am, Mrs. Otto, that’d be just fine, just fine, Mrs. Otto. Thank you very kindly.

I truly WISH I was exaggerating, but I am not. Amos was not only VERY EXCITED to be here with my possessed washing machine, he was so overly polite as to be a real live caricature. It would’ve irritated the snot out of me except that he did seem very kind and genuine. Still, every time he called me “Mrs. Otto” I found myself mentally counting them off.

So he banged around for a while and then called to me.

Amos: Mrs. Otto, ma’am? (one)
Me: Yes?
Amos: Mrs. Otto, could you please come and have a look at what I’m doing, Mrs. Otto? (three)
Me: Sure. What’s up?
Amos: Well, Mrs. Otto, ma’am, (four) what I have done here, Mrs. Otto, (five) is I have completely removed the casing and checked for any dampness, Mrs. Otto, (six) and I didn’t find a thing, and so now I am filling the drum with water as you can see, Mrs. Otto, (seven) and there is no water leaking anywhere.
Me: Murphy’s Law.
Amos: Ma’am?
Me: I told my husband that if we called for a repair it wouldn’t leak.
Amos: Well, Mrs. Otto, (eight) I am surely going to try to find the problem, Mrs. Otto, (nine) but if I cannot replicate the problem I cannot fix it, Mrs. Otto, (ten!) I tell you truly, I’m a very honest man, Mrs. Otto, (eleven) and I will not tell you I’ve found the problem if I haven’t, no ma’am Mrs. Otto (twelve), because that wouldn’t be honest or right.
Me: Well I appreciate that, Amos. You take your time and see what you find.
Amos: Yes ma’am, Mrs. Otto (thirteen), I surely will. Thank you!

He banged around for a while longer and then called me back again.

Amos: Now, ma’am, Mrs. Otto (I had to stop counting; it was making my head hurt), I have an important question for you which I need you to consider carefully, please, Mrs. Otto, before answering. When you have this water on the floor, Mrs. Otto, is it soapy water?
Me: Nope. It’s always clear.
Amos: Mmmmhmmm, mmmhmmm, I see, mmmhmmm, yes ma’am Mrs. Otto, well then, I do have a GUESS as to the problem, but Mrs. Otto, please understand that I cannot CONFIRM this, and I will continue checking ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, Mrs. Otto, but I have been doing this, thank the good Lord, for 35 years now Mrs. Otto, and I do believe I may have an idea of what might be happening, Mrs. Otto.
Me: Great! What is it?
Amos: Well, ma’am, are you often washing very full loads?
Me: Hmmm. Yes, I think probably we are.
Amos: Mmmmhmmmm, mmmmhmmmm, that’s just as I suspected, Mrs. Otto. Come please have a look at this, Mrs. Otto. Do you see here, Mrs. Otto, how this drum tilts inside the casing? Yes, of course you do, Mrs. Otto, I can see that you are a bright woman Mrs. Otto! Well, fill this up too full, and the drum can tilt forward like this, Mrs. Otto, and then do you see where the water comes in here, Mrs. Otto? That can end up splashing BEHIND the drum, Mrs. Otto, like this, and then the water would go down here and underneath, Mrs. Otto, and you’d have water on the floor.
Me: Oh.
Amos: Do you see, Mrs. Otto? I cannot say for CERTAIN that that’s your problem, but given that I cannot find any other problem, Mrs. Otto, that would be my guess.
Me: So… the washer is fine?
Amos: Yes ma’am, Mrs. Otto, I do believe it is.
Me: And we are stupid?
Amos: Oh no MA’AM, Mrs. Otto! It’s a very common problem there, and you would just need to pay a bit more attention, and maybe not do such large loads, if indeed that’s the issue Mrs. Otto.

I was then treated to a long speech about how rightly he should charge me $85 for “unable to diagnose” but instead he would just charge me the $65 service charge because God doesn’t want him to make things more difficult for people, and should the problem persist I have 30 days to have him come back out free of charge, and before he left could he just say a few kind words, please, Mrs. Otto, and then he said something that sounded suspiciously like a PRAYER, and ended with:

Amos: I thank you very much, ma’am, Mrs. Otto, for the opportunity to serve you. Once again, my name is Amos.
Me: Oh, Amos, I don’t think I’ll soon be forgetting you. Thanks for your help.
Amos: Well thank YOU, Mrs. Otto, and I do hope that you will have a very pleasant day, Mrs. Otto!

And then he left the house with my $65 check, hereafter known as the MRS. OTTO TAX.

Otto: So what did the repair guy say?
Me: He said we should put less stuff in the washer, Mrs. Otto.
Otto: …??
Me: Nevermind. I’ll tell you about it when you get home.
Otto: Oooookay….
Otto: And it’s nice how you don’t gloat, too.
Me: Call me Mrs. Otto.


  1. Sheila

    wait… did you say he PRAYED over you before he left? Was it a blessing for your washing machine? Help me understand, Mrs. Otto.

  2. Jean

    I love your stories. You tell them SO well. I can see Amos talking to you in your house in my head.

  3. Cheryl

    Oh Mrs Otto – I love Sears too!!! But not in a warm, fuzzy way, unfortunately. They call me very regularly to either sell or update warranties on my appliances. Sadly, I did not purchase my appliances at Sears. Nope. Not Sears. Not sure how they got my name and number, but they sincerely care about my non-Sears appliances. I take the time to explain that I don’t own anything from Sears, but they won’t take No for an answer. They also offer to put the cost of these warranties on my Sears charge card. You got it – I don’t have a Sears card. I really find this amusing. Maybe if I got to talk to Amos I could explain, but …..

  4. Flea

    OMG!!! I’m actually laughing out loud!!! THE SAME THING HAPPENED TO ME! You totally should have blogged about this before calling Amos. :D

    Mine happened when I was washing bedding. Those big, poofy comforters will do it every time. And I felt so STOOPID!

    Happy washing!

  5. Leandra

    I thought for a minute he was going to be like Wally’s friend on Leave it to Beaver…oooh, what’s his name??!?? You know who I’m talking about “Yes, Mrs. Cleaver, No Mrs. Cleaver.” But it sounds like you got yourself a genu-ine good ol’ boy! Who prays over appliances.

  6. Becki

    Well, I’m a big believer in blessings and prayers. And I would venture to guess that any future water found on your laundry area floor is holy water–so gather it up and save it to sprinkle on other ailing appliances (although perhaps not while they’re plugged in…)

  7. Megan

    Wait – you have a washer in your KITCHEN? You mean you don’t have to brave the garage with its icy, icy floor to do a load of laundry? You could… and I’m projecting a little here… for example place your clothes in said washer then wander over and select a delicious piece of cheese from the refrigerator all while wearing socks?? Damn hedonist.

  8. Kristi

    Old fashioned service right there, Mrs. Otto. I hope you were in your best 1950’s dress with your hair up and dinner simmering on the stove while cookies were baking in the oven and the floors were freshly mopped, a la June Cleaver. You know he came right out of that era!

  9. Summer

    You’ve done another public service here, Mrs. Otto. I too have had that sometimes-randomly-leaking thing with my washing machine, and I couldn’t diagnose the problem. Ultimately I guessed that maybe it was leaking from the bleach or fabric softener dispenser, so I stopped using them and the leaking stopped. But until you posted Amos’ questions, I’d never stopped to think that maybe if it was the bleach dispenser leaking, then I’d have BLEACH on my floors and not WATER. It’s probably the same problem you’ve had, too-large loads. I’ll continue with my plan of not calling a repairman.

    For Megan’s benefit, I’ll mention that my washing machine is upstairs, near my bedroom. Makes it so much easier to fold clothes in front of the TV. Hedonistic life is great.

  10. Sara

    I had a similar experience with our pest control man when he came to rid us of mice. (MICE!! Which are now either extinct or have moved on to greener pastures, thank the good Lord! I could go on, but that’s a whole ‘nother comment and just thinking of them makes me shudder.) ANYWAY! Our man was sooo very polite and I believe it was sincere. He also used Mrs. Lastname so often that my own name took on that weird quality that a word does when you use it over and over. He didn’t however pray over any of those damn mice. (And why would he? Damn mice…) OH! And his name was very apt for a pest control man: Leroy Grubs!

  11. Crista

    Hilarious, Mrs. otto! And I love how they charge more for not being able to fix it.
    You know “Mrs. Otto” will never die after being drummed into our heads like that, Mrs. Otto;)

  12. All Adither

    I don’t know what’s worse than soppy socks. Ew.

  13. Ei

    Funny, I was seething this morning because there was a spot of water on my floor under my brand new washer. After I ran a load that was probably too full. Thanks for paying the $65 for me Mir. Er, I mean Otto.

  14. Jodi

    OMG, when I read the problem I just about said aloud, “You’re overloading!” Luckily I stopped myself, because I’m at work and people would stare. My washer does the same thing and although I had figured out the problem, that doesn’t stop me from overloading it. I’m trying to find that sweet spot between FULL and SWAMP.

    Maybe “Amosed” should be in the dictionary. Meaning: to address a problem in a nerve-grating but gentle way.

  15. Jennifer

    Having the washer and dryer in the kitchen is soooo lovely, and I’m sure to tell everyone who tried to talk me out of it how convenient (er, hedonistic) it is.

  16. Julie Stiles Mills

    Trust me. Whenever you see water, pay attention to it! Take it from someone who has a very friendly relationship with the guy who rents us the industrial fans and de-humidifier every year or two. Our house has had so many water “incidents” we affectionately refer to it as “casa aqua.” Here’s a blurb from my family blog about it:

    “The house of water. This time it was a pin hole leak in a copper pipe. It’s amazing how much water can come out of a hole the size of a pin. “ANOTHER Casa Aqua incident?” you ask? Yes. Another “incident.”

    FirstHusband comes in from the back porch and says . . . you know, I have no idea what he said. It’s all a blur. Cut to him assuring me it was only leaking outside. To quote Pink Girl’s latest favorite saying, “YeahhhhhhhNO.”

    I walked straight into the living room, kicked off my shoe and pressed my foot down against the wall and the piano (parallel to where it was leaking outside). Wet.

    oh. i am so surprised.

    Ten minutes later, the piano is in the middle of the living room, the contents of two bookshelves are stacked (alphabetically) all over the dry portion of the room and the bookcases themselves are upside down so the feet would dry (hopefully). The next day the familiar sound of industrial fans BLAST what we now affectionately refer to as white noise. Or should we call it “wet” noise?”

    In our house, $65 dollars would be so worth it.

  17. Crisanne

    Why Mrs. Otto, ma’am. You sure can tell a lovely tale, Mrs. Otto. And Mrs. Otto? I do hope you have a nice day, Mrs. Otto. Now that’ll be $65 please, Mrs. Otto, ma’am.

    I guess you should be glad you didn’t get someone as “helpful” as the folks from the optical store! We had repeated issues with a dryer once and the repair man spewed obsenities from the laundry room the whole time he was working. I was so glad Belle was just a baby!

  18. prophet

    yer killin’ me here. . . . . Mrs. Otto, Ma’am, I mean!

    And God bless Amos, too.

  19. Aimee

    Oh, Mrs. Otto! How you do make me laugh.

    Bless you and your overloaded washer.

  20. Burgh Baby's Mom

    Mrs. Otto, could you please send Otto over to my place, Mrs. Otto? I ocassionally have a small puddle outside my fridge, Mrs. Otto, and can’t figure out where it’s coming from, Mrs. Otto. Mrs. Otto, the water line is turned OFF to the fridge, Mrs. Otto, so I just don’t understand. Thank you, Mrs. Otto.

  21. MomCat

    I agree with Julie — if you see water again, tell that washer it’s history. It took three minor indoor floods (and three ruined wood floors….*sob*) to get my husband to replace ours. And the old washer – it KNEW when he was going out of town, and then it would let its hose loose and release its venom upon me. He could never make it leak. I have dear friends (whom I love and to whom I will bequeath large sums of money) who came over on all three occasions and helped me move furniture, sop up water and set up fans. After the last time, our insurance company scolded us in a letter and said “If you do that ONE MORE TIME, young lady, we’re canceling your policy.”

  22. jennielynn

    Wait, does this mean we have to call Otto, Mr. Otto?

  23. elizabeth

    just love the idea of paying more to NOT fix it. makes no sense whatsoever. but when you get tired of trying to figure out “overloaded” go for the front-load machine. can’t hardly overload them and they don’t randomly leak from the tub if you try. mine came with the house (previous owners wouldn’t/couldn’t move it) I eventually upgraded to the matching drier and am in laundry heaven. as much heaven as laundry can be anyway.

  24. Jan


    Hey, speaking of “Mrs Otto”, once, a long time ago, you said that someday you were going to tell us why you call him Otto. Any chance that someday is today? Or tomorrow?

    My brain, she does not handle the loose ends very well; this is seriously the sort of thing that I will very possibly wonder about at 3 in the morning until the DAY I DIE. Take pity.

  25. carson

    Mrs. Otto, ma’am, I don’t mean to worry you none. But we had a bit of the same problem over here? And it just kept happening every now and again, no matter what the load was. Until it finally hit critical mass and every drop of water that was supposed to be exiting the house ended up on the basement floor.

    Tree roots through our main line to the sewer.

    So, Mrs. Otto, just keep an eye on that, ‘mkay?

    God bless.

  26. Melanie Marie

    Ive got one better, my dishwasher was leaking so I called for repair only to find out it was the dishsoap I was using that cause the leak. WTF.

  27. Emily

    I love it!

    You are such a talented writer and it’s always a pleasure to read your blog :)

    Now, I have a really random question for you: Does Amos pronounce his name as A-moss or A-miss?

  28. Pave.Gurl

    I, myself, have been subject to any number of “Miz Pave, indeed, Miz Pave” rambling explanations (I get the first name instead of a last ‘cos, you see, I am not married. As such, I shall always be addressed by all people to whom I am not related as Miz Pave, because I could only be Miz Gurl if Gurl had been my married name at some point).

    I am Southern myownself, for real and for true, and probably do the same thing when I am talking to people. ‘s just ‘cos we all love Dale Carnegie so very much, is all. I’ve never actually seen it written out, so it neveer really occured to me that it might sound a mite off to someone from “away.”

    Being Southern is fun, innit?

  29. jp

    Ok Mir…..

    Here at Plumber’s Crack we have a technical term for your washers condition………

    “Operator Error”

    It’s even printed up on our invoices! Makes me laugh everytime, although our Customers don’t appreciate my sense of humor.

    Go figure

  30. beth

    LOL, my very first thought when you said random water spots was overfilling the washer and it sloshing out the top. I do it all the time but was able to figure it ut without the serice fee. That guy sounds kinda kooky though.

  31. The Other Leanne

    Funny, I keep hearing Amos’s voice as that guy from “Mad About You,” what was his name? *goes a-googling* NAT, played by Hank Azaria (“Yes, Mrs. Buchman, Murray is ready to go Mrs. Buchman”).

  32. Jenny

    We are (were) chronic overloaders, too. It would only happen with big loads, on cold, when we had selected “GIGANTIC” load size, which I guess means that it doesn’t shut off the water until the level is higher? Anyway, yeah. I think it’s kind of a crock, though, because when you can select “GIGANTIC” as your load size, shouldn’t you be able to… I don’t know… wash gigantic loads? Freaking false advertising on the washer we inherited for free. Oh, wait.

    I have a mental image now of the guy pausing and taking your hands in his and saying, “Let us bow our heads, Mrs. Otto,” before proceeding to pray over your washer dilemma.

  33. Amy-Go

    Oh my Lord in Heaven how I MISS people like Amos! Please God let me come home to the South someday and not have to spend my whole life here where politeness is an afterthought! SO not kidding!

  34. D

    Mrs Otto – I’ve just called the husband, we’re moving to Georgia so I can meet Mr. Amos and have him pray over me and possibly my Sears washing machine.

    Gotta love folks like that … and when they’re sincere, I do. :-)

  35. carolyn

    Mrs. otto, ma’am? I have over stuffed my washer several times and it has leaked. I wash smaller loads now. Take slonger to get through all my dirty clothes, mrs. Otto, but no water on the floor. Thanks for allowing me to comment on your blog, Mrs. otto.

  36. Kathy

    it takes a while to get used to that “SOUTHERN” hospitality – I’ve lived here (originally from Mass) for 16 years and it still surprises me – and no, not every repair man is like Amos, but I have run into more Amos’s than, well, other kinds of repair men, but I have to say I never had a repair man “pray” over my washer before!
    Glad you were right!!

  37. Heidi

    Leandra, someone else may have mentioned it already, but the phony suck-up from Leave It To Beaver was Eddie Haskell. I know strange things.

  38. el-e-e

    Definitely one of your best “Welcome to Georgia” stories yet. Probably a gem of a guy, but DUDE! needs to relax with the Mrs-ing!

  39. Cele

    too funny, this explains why I don’t call when my front loader (and I’m not talking my bra) leaks a little too. Just a little bit, only once in a while, and well damn it is clear water.

  40. Brigitte

    Oh, THAT’S the problem! Luckily, ours is in the unfinished basement, plus I (yawn) watch it fill, due to some incidents where our washer forgot to stop filling, so as long as the puddle is tiny, I don’t care much.

    And for Megan . . we had a refrigerator that would always make a little puddle right in front, and it was persistent condensation between the “fridge” and freezer doors (but I never did figure out how to make it STOP).

  41. Meredith

    Mrs. Otto,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and simply adore it, you, and your entire family. I felt compelled to respond to this particular post because I have made the acquaintance of a person who does exactly what Amos does, repeats and repeats and repeats the name(s) of who he’s talking to throughout conversations. At first it made me uncomfortable, but now I find it endearing.

    As for your washing machine problems, let’s just say sometimes you’re a tad too eager to get your family into clean clothes. Lighten the load baby. Amos wants you to be happy, and there’s nothing worse than soggy socks.

  42. Wendy

    That is what they call Southern Hospitalilty and it makes living in hell that much easier.

    Also, I need to check if our bug guy is moonlighting. This was all to familiar.

  43. Daisy

    “And we are stupid?” HAHAHAHAHA!!

  44. kj

    So glad I stumbled upon this post. My washing machine has done the very same thing recently. Started fretting about it but reading your post has saved me future fretting and possible Amos-es with far too many “Mrs.” and “Maams” and household appliance prayers. Though I suppose that’s much better than tatoos and cigarette breath and profanity…

  45. Beth

    Being horrible with names, one thing that occurs to me is that may be partially how Amos keeps track of people’s names — constant repetition.

    Thanks for the PSA, Mir!

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