Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Another Weekend, Another Appliance Breaks Down

Saturday heralded the start of another of the universe's onslaughts against me.

It all started rather promisingly, with me able to fill the day with small chores and avoid actually doing any real work. This is how I like to fritter away my time on this benighted planet, to no good or lasting effect.

I did have a moment of almost-fiasco when I flossed my teeth prior to yet another follow-up visit to the orthodontist and pulled off the temporary crown he has me wearing while waiting to see if the tooth will stop hurting before Christmas. However, the dentist just glued it back on again, so that was that.

Then, around tea-time, events took a distinct turn for the worst.

It started, as these things so often do, with a small disaster that snowballed into full-scale inconvenience-on-a-stick. We were dining on our signature Friday evening meal, pizza with a side order of hot wings (and yes, it was Saturday, Friday having been deemed "stew night" while I wasn't paying attention). I was finishing up this delicious repast when I dropped a bone on my T-shirt. The shirt in question was my favourite one, sent to me by the Steviesis all the way from Grande Prairie in north west Alberta, Canada. I was well steamed at this turn of events, since hot wing juice is a) bright orange and 2) damn-near impossible to get out of clothing. Action was called for.

I took myself to the kitchen, doffed the shirt and scrubbed it with cold, soapy water, but it was no use. The shirt was already stained, so I went to the next stage and took it to the laundry room for some Spray'n'Wash. While that stuff was penetrating the fibers, I dug out some other stuff to be laundered and loaded the washing machine, which I set going while I had the lid up.

The machine won't run with the lid up, but it fills just dandy, and I wanted to adjust the water temperature more finely than the settings on the front panel allow. Just for kicks, once the water was in I pressed the safety cutoff "deadman" that is normally activated by the lowering of the lid and noticed that although the machine was circulating the water as per normal (I've done this before) the agitator wasn't doing the clothes-cleaning twist. I theorised (somewhat feverishly) that the agitator had lifted off its spline and pressed it down. While this did provoke some oscillation, it wasn't the dervish-like back-and-forth that gets clothes sparkling white and country fresh.


I hurriedly moved the clothes into a bucket and lifted out the agitator, then restarted the machine.

Thank Azathoth! The shaft was being all twisty like it should, so there was no stupid gear/belt/veeblefetzer inside the works that had broken. It was just the plastic inner spline that had stripped.

At eight o'clock at night.

After the parts stores had closed for the weekend.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, a splined joint is a way of joining two parts, usually a shaft and a wheel or a shaft and another shaft, so they lock together torque-wise but can be separated or slip longitudinally while rotating to allow for changing shaft length, such as on the rear axles of a TR6 or a washing machine agitator that needs to come off for servicing. It consists of a sort of elongated gear-like arrangement on one half of the setup, and a matching socket on the other. The "teeth", which are called "splines", lock together and mean that the socketed part will rotate in sympathy with the gear-like bit, but the two can slip lengthwise if needed. What had happened on the washer was that the shaft's steel splines had gradually milled off the plastic socketed splines due to the motion and the incredible resistance offered to it by a drum full of garment soup. Frankly, I'm astounded the thing lasted as long as it did.

No sooner had I replaced the agitator (to safeguard the shaft end and prevent graphite-like lubricants from entering the drum or getting on clothing) than Mrs Stevie entered the theater of operations and demanded to know why I would even think of running the machine with the lid up. I looked her in the eye and pressed the deadman, causing the water to circulate and the agitator to just sit there, and said "so I could tell if this was happening. How long do you think we've been simply soaking our clothes in soapy water rather than actually, you know, cleaning them?". Mrs Stevie replied that if I was going to be difficult she wasn't going to talk to me at all. Thus was an unlooked-for bonus scored that evening.

Sunday, I made a quick sortie to Sid's Obscure Appliance Parts, Taxidermy and Ammo Shoppe but it was closed. I thought I saw Sid run into the back of the store as I got out of my car, but I must have been mistaken because a sign gave the hours as "Sunday - 10 am - 1 pm Clossed". I resolved to maybe take off Monday and come back then, at which time I could attempt to get the part I needed, probably some sort of insert; Sid would know. I thought I might also mention to him that I found his obviously hand-altered sign to be a bit unprofessional, and that he should just spring for having a new one made up. For one thing there was an obvious spelling error in it. For another, red gasket sealer is no substitute for ink.

I drove home and thought I might try to get informed on the job from the internet, so I signed on and got googling. In no time I had amassed a large portfolio of artwork depicting young ladies in various stages of undress and in poses ranging from the tasteful to the gynecological. I filed these away on a CD for more leisurely examination before Mrs Stevie got back from whatever she does on a Sunday morning (I've found her to be impatient with the scholarly process and quick to jump to conclusions) and continued with my search for erudition, washing-machine wise.

I found that most machines have a separate agitator/spline arrangement. I found that this was easy and inexpensive to replace. I found that our machine used a one-piece, hideously expensive, combination agitator and glued-in spline adaptor, so that was all right. I promptly ordered one, bumped the price by another 30% by getting it delivered next-day by courier, and had it sent to Mrs Stevie's workplace1. It actually arrived this morning (Tuesday), so I can look forward to a spot of washing machine repair when I finally get home tonight.

The women decided they couldn't stand to be in the house another minute (approximately three minutes after returning from Church) and left again for I don't know where. I decided that the pool water had cleared enough for me to get in it to clean it properly.

The pool robot of extreme uselessness had done an OK job on Saturday, with only the usual amount of turning upside down the minute I wasn't looking at it, cleaning the same small spot fifty times while mountains of algae littered the rest of the floor and coming to dead stops for minutes at a time, but the pool needs to be squeaky clean before it gets put up for winter. I donned my swimming gear, set up the vacuum, lowered the ladder and sprightly climbed down into the water.

Which proved to be just above freezing point.

Once my heart had restarted I was able to stop screaming in only four or five minutes and get to the business of cleaning the pool. How exhilarating it was to feel the water warm around my body, then cool abruptly again as I moved and the layer of insulating warm water caught in my body hair (now erect, making me look rather like a big, blue cactus) was replaced by new, cold water. Each time I sang of the joy I felt. I found I could avoid unnecessary exhilaration by moving by means of my toes, rather like Tom from Tom and Jerry does from time to time. Forward motion was then slow enough prevent "operatic" moments.

In a matter of hours I had the pool spic and span and was able to claw my way out of the pool into the tropical 65 degrees Fahrenheit of the open air, and go inside for a well-earned shower.

Mrs Stevie, it turned out, had been at the laundrette between lattes. She had washed all the clothes that had been almost cleaned in our machine. One of the things she had washed was my T-shirt. It was absolutely clean and stain free.

  1. The courier needs a signature and that would be the only way of providing one other than by having the thing delivered to the in-laws which would in turn require me to undergo lengthy interrogation and haranguing over my stupid choice of washing machine like I had any say in the matter at the time I digress

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