Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: A Virginia man was washing machined to death.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
Origins: Yet another fanciful "Darwin Award" nominee
We'd love to tell you all the reported facts check out, but that would be lying. There's no record of anyone expiring in this fashion, in Virginia or elsewhere. Moreover, the story is wildy implausible, bordering on impossible. We'll leave it to the science types to explain why mixing baking soda with urine would not cause an explosion (combining vinegar with baking soda merely results in foam) and just concentrate on the claims made about the washing machine itself.
Most units in use in the United States are of the top-loading variety and come equipped with a brake that stops the spinning tub when the lid is lifted. (Some even lock the lid during the spin cycle, making it
We don't doubt anyone stupid enough to try to force
The original version of this bit of Internet lore made no mention of the victim being "a 1998 graduate of Virginia Tech." We're guessing someone from University of Virginia added that detail for additional humorous effect. Rivalry between those two schools is long-standing, as is the penchant for students from each to make denigrating jokes about those who attend the other institution.
This is yet another of those "helpless male" stories in which a man unwilling to master the basics of housework takes a sledgehammer approach to a simple domestic chore. We laugh at the image of the fellow losing his life in a laundry room tragedy because he fits the stereotype we've grown comfortable with, that men attempting to use household appliances are a danger to themselves and others.
Stupidity has its price, says this tale.
Barbara "wash 'n' weregeld" Mikkelson
Last updated: 19 January 2007
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