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Alan Mixes Water And Electricity And Survives

For quite a long time my washing machine has been making extremely strange noises. At various important points in its cycle, it sounds just like Satan sucking up the last dregs of his lava milk shake through a very narrow straw. Slurrrrp!! Slurrrrp!! Slurrrrp!!

On a particular washing day not too long ago, I dumped the dirty clothes into the machine and pressed the necessary buttons to set it going. It chirped cheerfully, and began to suck water through its pipes. I retired to the lounge and left it to itself. Every so often I heard it slurrrrrp as a new point in its cycle was reached. All was as it should be.

After a couple of hours or so it gradually occurred to me that I’d heard no noises from the laundry for quite a while. Normally when the washing machine completes its duties it sings a happy song to let me me know it’s finished. This time there had been no song, only a depressing silence and a complete absence of slurrrrrping. I went to investigate.

I examined the washing machine closely. No lights were flashing and no noises were being made. I pushed its power button, but absolutely nothing happened. The lights stayed stubbornly off. It seemed that the dreadful horror of the Robson underpants had finally proved to be too much for the poor thing. I opened the lid and stared at the wet, soapy clothes. The wet soapy clothes stared back at me.


“Uh?” Robin was still in bed and three quarters asleep. Communication is not her strong point in that state.

“The washing machine’s dead. Shall we go shopping for a new one?”


“I don’t really know what to do with the wet, soapy clothes. Have you any suggestions?”

Robin made a visible effort to think. Even fast asleep, her brain still works. It just finds problems connecting itself to her mouth. Furrows etched themselves into her forehead as she struggled to put herself in gear. “Rinse them in the sink that the washing machine empties itself into,” she suggested.

“But the sink’s absolutely filthy,” I said.

“Perhaps you could clean it first?”

I couldn’t fault the logic. Armed with cloths and cleaners and feeling very depressed, I went back into the laundry. I pressed the power button on the washing machine just in case the repair fairies had visited while I was away talking to Robin, but nothing happened. Maybe the power socket has blown a fuse, I thought desperately. Let’s plug it in somewhere else and see if that makes a difference. I reached out for the plug.


The plug was barely making contact with the socket at all. Somehow it had been pulled almost all the way out. Possibly the recent earthquakes combined with the worst storm in half a century had made the house vibrate so much that the plug had been shaken out of its socket. Or maybe the cats had decided to play a practical joke on me. I’d been wondering why Harpo was sniggering so much...

I pushed the plug all the way in again, made sure that it was firmly seated, and then pressed the power button on the washing machine. Red and green lights flashed merrily as electricity flowed through its circuits again. Hey presto! I’d fixed it.



“The washing machine isn’t broken. We don’t have to go shopping for a new one.”

“What happened?”

I explained about the power plug.

“Didn’t you check that first?” she asked.

“Well I looked at it.”

“Didn’t you push it, just to make sure that your eyes weren’t deceiving you?”


“How many times have I heard you tell people to push the cables firmly when their computer dies?”

“This is a washing machine,” I said sullenly. “That technique only works with computers.”

Robin was unconvinced. “Are you sure about that?” she asked. “I thought it was of quite general applicability.”

“I’m quite sure,” I said and I raced back to the laundry so that she wouldn’t see me blushing with the shame of it all. I set the washing machine to do a final rinse and spin. Slurrrrp!! Slurrrrp!! Slurrrrp!!

By now Robin, annoyed at all the interruptions, had staggered out of bed. “Coffee!” she moaned as the sunshine seared her eyeballs.

“Good idea,” I replied. “I’ll make a pot, shall I?”

“Don’t forget to push the coffee filter machine’s power plug firmly into place,” said Robin. I could tell that today was going to be a long day, full of power cable mockery. But perhaps I deserved it.

Once the washing machine had completed its cycle and sung its happy song, I went into the laundry to get the newly cleaned clothes. I balanced the basket on the dirty sink and began to transfer the clothes from the washing machine to the basket, a job I had done a thousand time before. But it seemed that my stupidity with the plug had honed my senses, for this time I noticed something I’d never noticed before. The pipe that connected the hot tap to the washing machine had come adrift. The pipe was just lying on the floor and the fitting that attached it to the tap was broken. Fortunately the tap was turned off so there was no water spraying all over the laundry.


She came into the laundry. “Now what?”

I pointed at the dangling pipe.

“So,” said Robin, “all the time we thought we were doing a warm wash we were actually doing a cold wash because there was no hot water going into the machine?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I wonder how long it’s been doing that?”

“Goodness knows,” I said. “I’ve not noticed the broken hose fitting before, but that doesn’t mean anything. My powers of observation, as we have proved today beyond a shadow of doubt, are not the best in the world.”

“Well,” said Robin, “it should be easy enough to fix. Let’s go to a hardware store and get a new hose fitting.”

To think is to do (doobey, doobey doo). It was the work of but a moment to purchase a new hose fitting. The hardware store had lots of them. Perhaps broken washing machine hoses are a common problem.

The new hose fitting screwed on to the tap with no trouble whatsoever. A grooved prong stuck out from it, throbbing with eagerness to insert itself deeply into the moistly waiting hose. However the prong was too well endowed, and entry into the narrow orifice that the hose presented proved to be impossible to achieve. Taking my sharpest knife firmly in hand, I shaved off some the more protuberant bits. The unkindest cut of all!

Eventually I managed to get the prong about half way into the hose at which point it refused to go either forwards or backwards. It was solidly stuck, which I assumed to be a good thing. I tightened the clip that held it in place and the job was done. I turned on the hot tap. Nothing leaked. Everything seemed to be working as designed.

“Now,” I declared, “I’ll do the first load of warm washing in goodness knows how long.”

“Good idea,” said Robin.

I put unsavoury garments into the washing machine, added detergent and switched everything on. I watched anxiously as the machine filled with water, but nothing leaked from the hot tap. The join seemed to be well watertight. Soon I was soothed by gentle chug, chug noises as the the machine soaked foulness from the clothes into the warm and steaming water. Somewhat to my surprise it progressed through its whole cycle making only the same gentle noises I remembered it making when it was new. The terrible satanic lava-shake slurrrrrping noises were now completely absent.



“It’s done the whole wash without making any of those horrible noises.”

“Hmmm,” said Robin thoughtfully. “So that probably means that the slurrrrrping noises were actually caused by it trying to suck water through the hot pipe and failing miserably. Probably the noises were just the sound of air being sucked into the pipe and then bubbling loudly all through the washing machine’s internal mechanisms.”

“Yes, that’s almost certainly the reason,” I agreed.

“How long has it been making those slurrrrrping noises?” asked Robin.

“About two years,” I said.

“So for two years we’ve been sucking air instead of water through the hot pipe?”


“The hose fitting has been broken for two years and we never noticed it until now?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, we definitely get zero marks on our final exam for our observation certification,” said Robin. “However there’s one thing that’s still puzzling me.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Who turned off the hot tap when the hose fitting broke two years ago?”

I stared blankly at her. I had no answer to that question.

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