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Washing Up Blues

"E30" said the dishwasher smugly. "Beep" it added, in case I hadn’t noticed what was going on.

"What does E30 mean?" I asked.

"It’s a flood warning," said the dishwasher.

"What should I do about it?" I asked.

"Turn me off and wait for a few seconds then turn me back on," said the dishwasher. "If I still say E30, turn me off again, disconnect the power, turn the water off and call a service agent."

I did as I was told. "E30," said the dishwasher again. "Beep, beep." And then it leaked copiously all over the kitchen floor.

I splashed across the kitchen, turned the dishwasher off and disconnected the power. I couldn’t do anything about turning the water off. The valve seemed to need a special tool which I didn’t have. I certainly couldn’t turn it by hand. I concentrated on mopping up the water that was covering the floor. Eventually the floor seemed reasonably dry, so I left the dishwasher to fend for itself.

All this happened late on a Friday evening. Clearly I would not be able to call anyone about it until the weekend was over, not without paying exorbitant call out fees anyway. Annoyed, I resigned myself to suffering through the terrible first world problem of having to do the dishes by hand for several days. I resolved to cook small frugal meals that used the minimum number of pots, pans,  plates and utensils. I have a friend who cannot make himself a cup of tea without dirtying every dish in the house. I decided that he would be persona non grata until the dishwasher was fixed.

The next morning, the kitchen floor was covered in water again. I started to mop it up and Jake the Dog came to help me by lapping up as much of it as he could. "Yum, yum," he said. Between us, we got the floor relatively dry again. I pulled the dishwasher out from its cubbyhole, disposed of the four dead cockroaches and six cat toys that I found lurking in the recesses, and then I slid a towel under the leaking dishwasher. By the evening, it was soaking wet, so I changed it for another. The next morning I had to repeat the operation. The day after that was Monday and everyone was back at work. This was fortunate, because I was starting to run out of towels. I rang the store from which I’d bought the dishwasher about eighteen months before and explained the situation. "We’ll get a technician out as soon as we can," the store spokesman promised me.

Later that day I received a text message telling me that a technician would be arriving some time between eight and ten the following morning. Rather to my surprise, he arrived exactly on time. Jake and I watched with interest as he dismantled the dishwasher and peered inside. "Good grief," he said, sounding very surprised. "How many hoses does a dishwasher need?" He counted them. "Seven hoses," he said. "I’ve never seen a  dishwasher with seven hoses before. I wonder what they all do? Come to think of it, I wonder what they connect to."

He poked around for a while. "Aha!" he announced in triumphant tones. "Here’s your problem." One of the seven hoses had a very clean looking cut all the way through it. It looked for all the world as if the hose had been cut by a knife, though I couldn’t even begin to imagine how that could be possible. I had definitely washed a lot of sharp knives in the dishwasher but none of them had been anywhere near any of the hoses.  Perhaps a sword wielding cockroach on a quest had survived whatever peril it was that had killed its four brethren and had managed to crawl inside the dishwasher where it had accidentally slashed the hose during a fight. Perhaps I had too active an imagination.

A steady dribble of water leaked out of the cut.

"Can you fix it?" I asked the repair man. He shook his head.

"Can you replace it?" I asked. He shook his head again.

"It’s not a standard hose," he said. "It’s a proprietary size and length and it’s specific to this machine. I’ll have to order a replacement."

"How long will that take?" I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Depends if they’ve got one in the country," he said. "If they have to order it from overseas it could take months." Then he brightened. "But it’s quite a new dishwasher," he said, "so the chances are good that they’ll have one in stock. If they do, it will only take about ten days." He took a lot of photographs of the inside of the dishwasher. "I’ll set the wheels in motion," he said. He reassembled the dishwasher and started to pack his tools away.

"Can you turn the water off?" I asked. "So that the dishwasher stops flooding my kitchen."

"Sure," he agreed. He reached behind the dishwasher with a magic wand and made mystical gestures. "There you are," he said. "That should keep things dry until we get the rest of it sorted out."

Nothing except a lot of manual washing up happened for several days. Then the phone rang. "You have two choices," said a voice. "We can give you a whole new dishwasher, but you will have to agree to forfeit the rest of your warranty. Or we can repair the dishwasher and your warranty stays active until August 2021."

Since I wasn’t aware that I had a warranty, this offer took me a little by surprise. Maybe I should have read the small print a little more carefully. Either way, the choice was a no brainer. "I’ll take the repair and keep my warranty," I said. "How long will it be before you can come and do it?"

"We’ll be in touch," said the voice, and the line went dead as the voice terminated the call.

A lot more manual washing up happened and then, a week later, the phone rang again. "Will you be available tomorrow between eight and ten in the morning for someone to come and repair your dishwasher?"

"Yes indeed," I agreed enthusiastically. Manual dish washing had completely lost what little charm it had once had. I was eager for a fix. So to speak.

The next day a man arrived with a new hose and a bag full of elaborate tools. He stripped the dishwasher down, detached the old hose and threw it away. Then he attached the top of the new hose to a mysterious valve at the top of the dishwasher. He led the hose down deep into the bowels of the machine and scrabbled round inside it trying to attach the bottom of the hose to an equally mysterious valve at the bottom of the dishwasher.

"Ouch!" he said suddenly. He winced a bit and withdrew his arm. He examined the blood that welled copiously from a large gash on his forearm. "I hate it when that happens," he said.

"How did it happen?" I asked.

"The edges of the frame are incredibly sharp," he explained. "Because they are all internal and not normally exposed to the outside world, nothing is done to smooth the edges off when they come out of the press that manufacturers them. So it’s as if all the internal workings of the dishwasher have been built inside a cage made out of razor blades. You have to be really careful when you scrabble around inside it to fix things. I generally end up making a blood sacrifice to the Gods of the Soapsuds before they’ll let me complete my repairs." He took a sticking plaster out of his toolbox and used it to bind his wound. Clearly he’d been expecting this event and had come well prepared. He reached back inside the machine to try attaching the bottom of the hose again. "That’s almost certainly how your original hose got cut open," he said chattily. "The dishwasher was probably assembled a little clumsily, late on a Friday afternoon when the workers got careless because they were looking forward to the weekend. I imagine the hose would have been a bit too close to one of the sharp edges. As the pump forced water through it, the hose would have vibrated back and forth against the edge. Eventually the edge would have cut all the way through it, just like it cut my arm." He began to put the dishwasher back together again. He turned the water back on and connected the dishwasher to the power. "There you are," he said. "It’s as good as new." He took his leave and Jake barked a fond farewell. He likes people who come to the house with bags of tools.

I turned the dishwasher on. "E42," it said smugly and beeped seductively. It sounded happy.

"What does E42 mean?" I asked.

"It means thank you for fixing me," said the dishwasher. "Now how about you fill me up with dirty dishes. I’m eager to get back to work."

"OK," I said. "I’ll invite my friend round to make a cup of tea. That should give you lots to do."

"Sounds good," said the dishwasher. "Beep, beep."


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