Woman, Machine and a Case of (Im)perfect Timing

Man and MachineThe kids were fast asleep in bed (finally, after a long, looong evening), it was blissfully quiet and I was inhaling my warm cup of tea when I realised I’d forgotten about the washing in the machine. As I made my way down to the utility room, my ‘doom’ sensors started to flicker. I hadn’t heard the familiar, annoying ‘bing, bing, bing’ that usually sounds the end of the cycle and summons me to unload it. Hmm. I opened the door and the first thing I saw, other than the evidence that the machine had tried to run away again by virtue of it being half a metre away from where I’d left it, was the bright digital ERROR MESSAGE. Just two little yellow letters that could elevate the heart rate of every mechanically challenged person and induce immediate perspiration.

My brains fled back up the stairs, grabbing the tea cup and muttering words of denial and something along the words of, “it’ll all work out”. So, instead of relying on my traumatised brains, I followed my instinct. It was all I had left. I pulled the plug out. Then realised the machine was still full of water and hadn’t drained. Oops. What to do? I checked my phone – nope, husband was definitely on a plane and in the air, heading towards another continent and wouldn’t be *vaguely useful until the next morning. *Vaguely useful because I think he has as much mechanical knowledge as I do, except he’s braver and stronger, and can break things apart and put them back again, even if they still don’t work. Typical – always when he goes away and always as he is just out of contact so that I don’t even have a sounding board, a second opinion or someone to blame.

With shaking fingers, I decided to make use of my technology and hitch a ride on the information highway. Google. YouTube. They answered my error message and a patient, kind and helpful female voice guided me through a visual presentation of how to open the machine and manually drain the water from it. I love how it worked out for the guy who was doing the demonstration. There was a lovely little flap that came down and formed a channel and the water flowed obediently into a little water tray that he had ready. All I had was a bucket, a little door that was too low to get the lip of the bucket underneath and a spout that preferred to spew the water right down instead of into the bucket. I emphasise the use of the word BUCKET because that is what I used and it still wasn’t anywhere near enough to contain all the water that came running out. The little water tray in the demonstration was a ploy – a false sense of security about how bad the whole process really is when you’re in your long t-shirt pyjamas, bare knees on the cold floor, trying to get all the water into a bucket and most of it is running along the tiles looking for the nearest exit. Thankfully, we have a drain in the middle of the floor. It never made sense to me because it seemed so shallow and useless… until now.

As I was muttering words we never say in front of nice people or our children, my feisty memory jumped back to another time, long ago, when I was dealing with another kind of water flow…

Husband and I had recently moved into the very first home we had bought together. I had enjoyed a long, robust day at work, begging clients to accept my spelling and grammar changes and getting their very late adverts into their chosen publications through diplomatic – um – begging with our media contacts. I was looking forward to a nutritious, gourmet microwave meal (no kids, no conscience). Husband was away on business and I was going to watch all the girly TV programmes of my choice. As I entered the townhouse complex with my car window open, I was struck by the sulphuric smell that must’ve been from those building works down the road.

As I entered my kitchen through the adjoining door from the garage, I realised that the smell was somehow stronger. As I turned left out of the kitchen and into the hallway, a flow of water trickling out of the guest bathroom on the opposite side of the hallway caught my eye. It was immediately very clear to me that it was more the kind of water that goes out of a house via the toilet than the kind that you allow into a house…

The realisation of what that ‘water’ contained completely overwhelmed my OCD-inclined self and I can only say that my reaction was similar to that of Janet Leigh in the horror film Psycho. It all happened in a bathroom, the ‘visitor’ was unwelcome and there was a lot of water and other stuff.

I realised that I had to take control. I was an independent, salary-earning grown-up and this was no time to stamp my feet and wring my hands like a five-year-old. I grabbed hold of a mop and bucket and approached the offensive stream with purpose. After a few ineffective dabs and a lot of dry retching, I knew this was not going to work. I had to be decisive, a problem-solver and make a mature decision about the next steps to be taken. So, I burst into tears and phoned my dad.

Don’t judge me. There’s a lot to be said for appreciating the value of your parents even after you’ve left the fold. He arrived in a flash, armed with a plunger and already wearing his black gum boots (wellingtons/rubber boots). He’d called the emergency plumbers who were on their way and he’d brought my mother with for moral support as I tried to process the horror of my hallway and living room having been turned into a sewer.

It’s important to note that, at that stage, we were slowly discovering that the very things that usually secure a building certificate were turning out to be non-compliant – plumbing, electricity, and so on. All I am grateful for was that they were also not too perturbed about how to lay the concrete so THANKFULLY there was a slight dip in the flooring (not normally visible by looking at the tiling) that created a channel. All the nasty stuff was somehow making its way out of the front door via the hallway and straight out of the back door via the living room without entering the kitchen. We had no carpets and everything was tiled. These were my silver linings on a very murky evening.

And, so, going back to the other night when I was busy rinsing off the clean washing in the bath, I realised how grateful I was for the fact that the washing was at least clean, although not properly rinsed and that I had drained the machine all on my own. I was very proud of myself.

The kids weren’t too interested though. Neither was the repairman nor my husband.

So, I just had to share my story with you.

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