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.


Born Free

Born Free Copyright 2013 Wordycara

Born Free
Copyright 2013 Wordycara

For many people worldwide and South Africans, in particular, this has been a week of solemn reflection as we process the passing of Nelson Mandela (Madiba), hailed as the last greatest leader of the 20th Century. Of his many traits that have been highlighted, the one that stands out to me today is his great sense of timing. He had this talent in every sense – from his unique style of dancing coined the ‘Madiba shuffle’, his spot-on public speaking, the delivery of his many punchlines and jokes, to his political and leadership timing that hardly ever saw him put a foot wrong.

It is, therefore, not surprising to me that even in death, his timing has been impeccable. Today, 16 December – the day after his funeral – is the day us South Africans celebrate as the Day of Reconciliation. The focus of the day is for all South Africans to continue to work together to build a nation based on mutual respect and equality.

The past week has allowed us to reflect on the principles that Madiba and his peers held dear. It’s ensured that we’ve taken stock of what we’ve achieved and what still has to be achieved – making sure that we attain the right balance in striving towards a shared future.

Today is not simply a day off work, reflecting on the past. The nature of the day makes us look forward and also allows for some introspection – how are we, on a daily basis, working in the spirit of forgiveness? Do we allow little hurts that others – friends, relatives, foes, strangers – have caused us to fall away or do we hang onto them, allowing them to taint our future interactions and become bigger obstacles than they ought to be?

For me, as I reflect, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that my children are ‘born frees’. The term ‘born free’ refers to children born after the fall of apartheid, who have (or SHOULD have) access to the same opportunities to realise their potential. Now, although my children would technically not have been ‘have nots’ under the previous government, I have termed them born frees because they have truly been brought up free from discriminatory thoughts. While they are aware that people have many different tones of skin colour, they do not care for labels such as ‘black’ and ‘white’. It makes no sense to them. They appreciate that people speak different languages and enjoy diverse celebrations. They are interested, intrigued and eager to consume knowledge about others that makes them true global citizens. They are free to do all of this without constraints to their thinking. What is even more remarkable, is that even though they have far greater knowledge about and interaction with other cultures, countries and people, they remain devoted to the country of their birth. They long for the feel of the African sand under their bare feet, the warm health-giving sunshine, the call of the jackal in the veld on a hot summer evening, and the vibrant colours and characters that paint our everyday lives.

The timing was perfect for the children to learn who Madiba was and why he was so important worldwide (simply told, but sufficient for them to have a better understanding). What great things they have learnt about forgiveness, about making a future that is nothing like your past and about being the very best person you can be each day. They’ve learnt it is possible to break expectations and exceed your own. They’ve learnt that the world is not always fair or right or kind, but it is how you respond to those injustices that is important.

How very fortunate us South Africans are to have a day set aside that allows us to carry out our own little reconciliation – seeking to find a better balance and having the opportunity to extend the olive branch, where needed. Today is the perfect day to reflect, free your mind from the negative thoughts that hold you back and move forward. You don’t need to be a South African to do all of this, and that is why I am sharing it with you.