The Good Life: It Only Took 5 Years To Admit Mistake

“Well, why did you buy it in the first place?”

The question came from my brother-in-law. It concerned a gnarly, growly gasoline-powered pressure washer — or one that would have been gnarly and growly had it not sat, partially assembled, in my garage for five long years.

Not only did I never fire it up and use it; I had not even put the initial envelope of oil into the crankcase.

So it only took me five years to admit to myself that I had made a mistake.

Every year, I vowed that this would be the year in which I would bedazzle my wife and pressure wash our faded white farmhouse. Every year, I cleared the stuff away from around the increasingly dusty pressure washer.

I would look at it. It would look at me.

“Nope,” I would say. “Not today.”

I just did not feel comfortable using the machine that I had bought.

That is illogical and irrational. I regularly run gasoline-powered gizmos of the same size or even larger: Portable generator, riding mowers, ATV. A chain saw and my string trimmer are gasoline-powered.

I never delved into the “Why?” of why I would not use this pressure washer. I just shied away from using it.

What I did not admit to myself is that, a week or so after I bought the gasoline-powered pressure washer at a good price because it was on sale, I had seen a smaller but still substantial four-nozzle, two-tanks electric powered pressure washer.

I pictured myself grunting and growling to trundle the gasoline-powered washer around to each side of the house, then down to the grove where we keep three picnic tables that are periodically in need of cleaning and restaining.


Then I pictured myself wheeling the electric-powered pressure washer with just one hand. Granted, the gasoline-powered washer was more powerful. But the electric-powered one was powerful enough. It would have been adequate.

I had bought the wrong machine for me.

The simplest thing would have been to return the larger machine. I have returned other unsatisfactory purchases. This one, however, stuck in my craw.

Deep down, I did not want to admit that, halfway through my seventh decade of living, I was no longer up to confidently handling big, heavy stuff.

Usually, I am a realist. I understand that these days, I cannot do hard work outside in summer heat for more than a half-day at a time. I accept the need for an afternoon nap; indeed, I look forward to snoozing on our love seat, sometimes with a miniature 20-pound visiting grand-dog, a Jack Russell/Dachshund cross, stretched out on my stomach.

I have been realistic about health concerns, too. I intensely dislike the feelings of helplessness, even embarrassment, that go along with various treatments for heart disease and bladder cancer. But I am dealing with both, and doing a reasonably good job.

“No more! I will not give in to this, too!” was the subconscious reason why, for five years, I would not fire up a pressure washer that might exceed my ability to control it if I were on a ladder or contorted into one of the pretzel shapes that go along with pressure washing a house.

This year, I exchanged “No more!” for another mantra: “Wake up, stupid!”

So I chonked the gasoline-powered pressure washer into the truck bed, dropped it in my wife’s nephew’s carport and sent him an “It is yours now!” text message.

No money. No reciprocating. I realized, with huge relief, that I just did not want to use that thing.

I bought the smaller, quieter but still capable electric pressure washer. I have merrily bleached, whitened, splattered and soaked the picnic tables and deliberately near-missed several fleeing cats. The house’s faded paint and dingy siding will soon be cleaned, weather permitting.

It only took me five years to admit to myself the answer to my brother-in-law’s question: I made a mistake, that’s why.

Sometimes, that is all there is to it. We make mistakes in life. There is nothing wrong with admitting it, cutting losses and moving on. There is nothing wrong, either, with acknowledging that a 76-year-old person can become less adept than a 46-year-old person.

The day might come when I will need to hire someone to perform the next pressure washing. If so, I can supply a nice machine.

Until then, I squirt, scrub and spatter quite nicely, thank you.

By the bye: Did you know that you can sing profane military ditties at the top of your lungs while using a noisy pressure washer and your wife will never figure out why you are chortling?


Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois, Pa. and Warren, Pa. He lives near Brookville, Pa. Email: denny2319@windstream.net.


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