Friday, May 7, 2010

When It Rains, It Pours

This post is a bit dated but I had enough things happen to me the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, that I just had to write about it, albeit a bit late.

Monday, the coffee maker died. People who know me understand I can drink coffee by the gallon. I’ve alluded to this in a few older posts. I love the smell of coffee. I love the taste of coffee. I can drink it all day long and still not really get enough. When people look at me like I’m some sort of freakazoid from the java solar system, I usually respond with some comment along the lines of, “there are worse things to be addicted to.” I drink decaf as much as possible to keep the heartburn at bay and moderate my caffeine intake. Other than that I see no adverse affects I’m doing to my body.

My wife also uses the coffee maker to make hot water for her foo-foo cappuccino powder. Our coffee maker gets used every day and sometimes 2-3 times daily on the weekends. Having it malfunction is not a good thing.

So I called the 800-number support line. Of course they were closed for the day. So then I brought the user’s manual to work because that had the model number on it. After waiting on hold for 30 minutes I finally got to talk to a live body. Here’s a hint to businesses that use automated answering systems. It gets a little wearing when I’m told every 20 seconds that my call will be answered in the order it was received. I can’t even enjoy a whole song on the waiting system because the voice has to interrupt and remind me my call will be answered. I knew that, now please just let me listen to the music. Even bad music is better than an annoying voice telling me for the thousandth time my call will be answered.

The live body asks me what my problem is. “My coffee maker doesn’t work”.

“Did you clean it with vinegar?” she asks, way too quickly.

I was ready for this question. “Several times,” I said.

“When did you purchase this unit?”

“Less than a year ago.” I answered, patience running very thin at this point. I told myself to be thankful she was at least speaking English with an American accent. A rarity in phone support these days.

“I need to have the model number and series number, this can only be found at the bottom of the unit.”

“Excuse me?” I asked

“I need the model and series number from the bottom of the unit.”

“I don’t have that.”

“I need to know the series number before your warranty claim can be processed.”

“I need to call back later, are you sure I don’t need anything else, any other number?”

“That’s all you need, sir”

“You’re sure, absolutely nothing else?”

Now she’s laughing at me, “I’m sure, sir, just the model and series number.”

I groan, now I’m going to have to wait on hold again and who knows when I’ll have the coffee maker with me during business hours? But I resign myself to my fate.

Tuesday, the washer died. Things just got a little more serious. We’re a family of four and we wash clothes practically every day. Not being able to wash is huge. They say bad things come in threes, I can’t wait to see what Wednesday has in store. My wife calls me early that afternoon shrieking because the washer won’t drain. So I took the rest of the afternoon off and raced home to see what could be done.

The code on the washer was “LD” which apparently means “Long Drain”. I called an 800 number for this as well, I was put on hold again but this time it was only for a few minutes. I found out the washer was still under warranty and they would dispatch a repair person at once.

Now a smart person would have just left things in the hands of professionals. Unfortunately, I’m not always what one would consider a smart person. There was still a load of soaking laundry in the washer half filled with water. The “LD” code meant that the drain hose was clogged. So that sounded simple enough if I could get the drain hose out and clear it, maybe I could at least finish the load in progress.

I must also register a complaint with the Whirlpool owner’s manual. I found the page that listed the error codes. We have a wonderful digital push-button washer, too bad it didn’t work. “LD”-means long drain. The solution is to clear the drain hose. Absolutely nothing else to tell you how to clear or disconnect the hose. Totally worthless instructions.

The back of washers and dryers are never in convenient places. I had to pull out the washer, disconnect the power and water hoses, vacuum and clean the several inches thick of dust, and finally I was able to squeeze myself back there.

The hose entered the back of the washer at the top, but then fed down inside and connected to the wash basin at the very bottom. So I had a panel and some plastic tie-downs that I needed to remove first. Then I was able to see where the hose attached to the reservoir underneath the washer.

If you can picture the most cramped, hard to get to place, that’s where this hose was connected. There was a huge clamp securing the hose but no good way to press the pinchers together. The clamp was really big so I had to get my large long-handled pliers to get around it. My patience really started to get tested as I moved and jiggled the pliers in every direction imaginable to try and get the clamp off. Finally, I managed to squeeze the pinchers and remove the clamp. Then I pulled off the hose.

It was then that Hoover Dam broke open. The reservoir underneath the wash basin probably held 2-3 gallons of water. When the drain hose was removed all that water started gushing out. I quickly slammed the hose back on the outlet and considered my situation.

My hand was holding the hose onto the outlet, the clamp was off, and large amounts of water were spreading across the floor of the laundry room and soaking into the seat and legs of my jeans. What on Earth was I going to do?

I believe “Lord help me,” were the first words out of my mouth. It was then I noticed several rags lying about that I had brought in to help keep things clean and (chuckle) soak up any leaking water. I thought if I could twist a rag in a tight enough wad, I might be able to shove it into the outlet so I could take the hose off and clear the blockage. I might not stop it completely, but hopefully I’d avoid any more gushers.

It’s not easy twisting a rag one-handed. My other hand was still holding on to the drain hose. So I used my teeth, an elbow, and my one free hand to twist up a rag I hoped would be the right size. I went through step by step in my head the motions I would have to go through. Take the hose off, quickly insert the rag, twist and push it in far enough so it would not pop out once I let go.

It really helps to plan things in your head before acting. The rag plug worked surprisingly well, and I was able to avoid a repeat deluge of water. I twisted and shoved the rag as far in as I could and let go.

It stayed. I had to stare at it awhile to convince myself it wasn’t going anywhere. I grabbed the now separated drain hose and stood up. Grimacing as I experienced the cold soaking wetness of my pants.

I took the hose into the garage. I tried to blow through it. Nothing, totally blocked as I was told by the worthless manual. But now how to clear it? It was very long and narrow. I had nothing in my garage that would be able to snake its way through the hose.

Still holding the hose, I paced around the garage, thinking now what? I knew that rag plug wouldn’t last forever. It would either become too saturated with water, or it would pop out and then I’d have a real mess. I usually gesture when I’m talking to myself or others, so as I paced, I shook the hose up and down.

I heard rattling. Something inside the hose was loose. Well, maybe I could at least shake that out. I tipped the hose down and listened to the pleasant sound of rattling as the obstruction made its way down the hose. It finally stopped but nothing came out. When I looked at the end of the hose, I saw a kind of gasket inside that was preventing whatever it was from escaping. So I turned the hose the other way and listed to more pleasant rattling sounds as the object made it’s way out the other end.

I was very surprised when a penny fell onto the sidewalk. At some point in my pacing I had wandered outside. I have no idea why so don’t ask.

Here’s a picture of the obstruction. I apologize for my poor photography skills. I’ve placed a new penny next to it for comparison. It appears the penny had been there for some time. It was fairly worn around the edges. It’s possible it just finally got moved and jostled around enough by the water that it clogged the hose. I blew through the hose again and to my delight found it was completely clear.

I charged back into the house flushed with my success. I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts after I’d finally squeezed back behind the washer. There was a steady stream coming out of the outlet. The rag was quite soaked by now. I went through all the motions in my head again.

The hose went on much harder than it came off. Then I had to fiddle with it to get the clamp and these two notches in the hose to line up with the two pins on the outlet. People who’ve been around me know I have this annoying tendency to have everything perfect so I didn’t quit until the hose and clamp were in proper order.

Then my wife came home from work. (Queue the sinister background music.) She works weekday evenings and had gotten some groceries so it was around 10:30PM. She was hopping mad. “SO WE’RE NO LONGER GETTING IT REPAIRED TOMORROW?” Then, before I could respond, she launched another attack. “EVERY LIGHT INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE HOUSE IS ON!” We’ve really been trying to cut expenses so any unnecessary power usage is a bad thing.

She had no way of knowing that it was only about 15 minutes ago I had turned any lights on to go out to the garage and then outside. I'm still not sure why I went outside. It’s not like they had been on all night.

She also had no way of knowing why I was in my predicament. Yes, I admit, I have a difficult time letting things go if I think I have a solution. But my real reason for attempting the repair myself was because the next day was Deanna’s birthday and we had planned to go out for her free birthday lunch at Paradiso, a local Mexican restaurant. Waiting for a repairman had not entered our plans so it was debatable we would even get to go. You don’t get a free meal every day so my plan was to try and repair the washer enough so we could still use it and then it wouldn’t be so critical for the repair person to come over so quickly and we could schedule the repair another time.

She didn’t know any of these things and if she had, she probably wouldn’t have shouted at me considering everything I had gone through to get to that point. As it was, now I was hopping mad. I told her to go away until I was done otherwise I would lose my temper. We would discuss this after I calmed down, cleaned up, and found a dry pair of pants.

I got the washer all hooked up, mopped up the residual water, and cleaned all the disgusting filth that lurks behind washers and dryers. Then I attempted to finish the load of laundry. Would you believe it still didn’t work? “LD” was still blinking in bold red digital letters. If I had a sledgehammer I might have fixed the washer permanently. Thankfully, the sledge was still in the garage.

Finally, I surrendered to the inevitable. The repair person would still be coming tomorrow and we probably would have to forego the free lunch.

I still had to have a conversation with the Mrs. I found some dry pants and she had made a nice cup of cappuccino (courtesy of microwave oven heated water) We were able to debrief like calm, grown-up adults. (how’s that for redundancy?) We both apologized and all was well. Considering we still had a defective washer and coffee machine.

Sorry folks, I know serials aren’t for everyone, but I’ve got to save the rest for part II. I’ll try very hard not to run into a part III.


Steve at Random said...

All I can say is, "Belinda doesn't let me fix things." I had a free pass to use hammer, wrenches and other tools for the first couple of years but now they are simply around our home for decorative purposes. I wasn't born with the "fix-it" gene. I have brothers and they took all of it. So I end up paying more to get my car fixed at a garage or having a plumber fix things in my home. But our marriage is on solid ground.

AZJim said...

I can't wait for part II. Totaly hilarious. I sure wish someone would have taken a picture while you were back there trying to stuff that rag in there. HA HA HA