I know I don't have it as tough as my grandmother, or her grandmother. Most certainly not as difficult as her grandmother. Modern appliances make the washing of clothes, and therefore the maintenance of general personal hygiene, much simpler than in years gone by.
Until said appliances decide they cannot possibly go on.
Clothes washing in our house is more or less a daily necessity. Late last week, as many days before it, I put a load on, slammed the laundry door, and hastened to the kitchen for breakfast. Some time after breakfast the senior recipe tester went in to the laundry to see if the load was done. One of the junior recipe testers, predictably, had no clean school shirt.
A strange groaning noise emerged from the laundry. The washing machine lights were blinking wildly. "Um," bellowed the senior. "Do you know what F11 means?"
The digital display indicated the washing machine was having an F11. It also sounded like it was having a hernia. The school uniform that needed to be washed, dried, ironed, on the body and out the door was resolutely trapped within the machine.
We pondered the situation for a moment. The senior threatened to have an F11 of his own. The junior started wailing about what was he going to wear to school. I seriously considered the dinosaur pyjamas he was wearing at the time.
We averted the uniform crisis with the donning of the sports uniform wrested from the drawer. The noise coming out of the washing machine was quieted by opening a valve on the machine near the floor.
The opening the valve required a large bucket, a significant number of beach towels and the opening of the back door to deal with any left over tsunami that escaped past the beach towels.
We all got out the door with my promise to contact a person to come and pay attention to the machine.
As soon as I got to work I dialled the first number on the repairers list. "I think I have a problem with the pump on my washing machine."
"Right." came the friendly reply. "We can come and see about it next Thursday."
"As in, more than a week away?"
"But I'm going to run out of clean undies by the weekend."
Weirdly, there was no response.
"Are you sure you can't come any sooner than that?" I enquired.
I rang the next repairer on my list.
"I'm sorry, we no longer service that brand."
I rang another repairer.
"We've never serviced that brand."
I rang yet another repairer.
"I don't know anyone who services that brand in this area. Perhaps if you lived somewhere else..." I may have hung up before she finished.
My patience was wearing a little thin. I rang the appliance shop where we purchased the machine to ask for advice on who to call. They gave me the number of the manufacturer and suggested I ask for a recommended repairer.
This seemed very sensible. I phoned them.
"Thank heavens," I replied.
"Let me look you up in our system. It would have been logged for warranty purposes when you purchased the machine. What was the name?"
We went through the usual suspects, name, phone number, address but nothing appeared on the kindly woman's screen. "The only thing I have here is a dishwasher," she said.
"Yes, we have a dishwasher of the same brand, but it's the washing machine that has had it."
"Could it have been purchased at another address, or under another name?"
We went through the senior recipe tester's name, same address details, and his phone number. "No, it's not coming up at all."
I am often grateful to strangers for teaching me things I did not know before. I was sorry that this woman was not able to tell me what brand of washing machine was actually sitting in my laundry, that I purchased approximately 5 years ago, and have used daily since. I am grateful to know which brand it isn't.
I called the first repairer on my list.
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