14 November 2008

Washing Machine Woes

One of the nice things about our apartment in France is that it has a washing machine. Back in the States, we have to walk down the hallway to use the machine, which is with many folks, some of whom don't leave the machines and driers in a clean state after use, and others of whom will pull your stuff out and dump it on the dirty machine tops if you are more than a minute late to pull your clothing out (plus the machines never run according to time so it is nigh well impossible to get there on time - you are either early or late). And this is pretty good for a student apartment living - the folks living in the building next door have to come to our building and then go upstairs to do their laundry, which has got to be an awful pain.

In India we didn't do our own laundry. It was taken away, done for us, and eventually returned folded. The problem was that it wasn't done particularly well. Several times, items were washed in such a way that colors bled unto one another, ruining a couple of my shirts. Moreover, even when this didn't happen, the clothing was often returned not fully dried and smelled moldy.

So getting to have our own washing machine has been such a pleasure. That is until this past Thursday evening. You see, here in France things are smaller and use less power. The clothing is mostly air-dried (dryers being energy hogs). And one of the innovations they've made are really small, yet efficient top-loading washers (they've got these in Israel also). Traditional top loaders have a cylinder which rotates along a vertical axis, which makes sense since it's sort of difficult to put clothing in through the wall of the cylinder. But these aren't efficient water or energy wise. So often side-loading washers are used instead, which lets the cylinder rotate along the horizontal access. The problem with these is that they take up too much space. So where both space and efficiency are at a premium, a new design was introduced that allows the cylinder to rotate along the horizontal access which still top-loading, namely but putting a set of metal doors into the cylinder that must be latched together before starting the machine. This is the type we have, a Whirlpool AWA6094 to be precise.

Therein lies the problem. Thursday night, tiredly I almost certainly forgot to latch these together before closing the top lid (yes, I know - a properly designed piece of equipment wouldn't allow the top lid to close unless the cylinder was locked). I pressed the on button and shortly heard very unpleasant noises. I shut the washing machine off and found that the cylinder had rotated down, dragging the doors with it, and thereby jamming further movement. It was pretty upsetting - I mean how the hell should forgetting one step and pressing a button result in significant damage to the machine (in but a moment - it's not like the machine was making complaining sounds which I ignored for an hour and then found repeated movement had caused the damage), requiring an expensive repair visit! It's a frigging washing machine, not an automotive vehicle for G-d's sake!

But the damage was done, and after looking at the machine and poking about, I concluded that even with my mild engineering background, I wasn't going to fix this without more effort than the cost of a repairman (I'd have to buy the right tools, somehow find a servicing manual, spend a couple of hours working on the thing, and then cross my fingers that I hadn't screwed it up worse). I was really upset. I didn't sleep well. Thankfully, at least Linda was really understanding.

So in the morning I asked around the office if anyone had encountered similar problems (they hadn't), then called my landlordess. She was pretty useless on this one, telling me she couldn't do anything about it, and that I could contact Darty (an appliance seller/servicer) and see about getting it repaired. Wasn't so much her content (I should arrange for repair) as her presentation - a big part of what got my goat is that she said "well the machine is new" and shortly after told me it was out of warrantee. I then asked how long the warrantee ran, she told me 3 years. So I of course said "but didn't you say it was new?" to which she replied "it is new, it is rarely used". Now I know English isn't her first language, but she speaks it reasonably well and I have trouble she doesn't know that "new" and "like-new" are two very different things.

But either way the bottom line was the same and I found myself in Darty where I met a nice fellow who spoke a good English. He told me that once this sort of thing happend it was really difficult to get unstuck without professional help and gave me the repair number. While there I also inspected the machines and found two items of interest: (1) the new ones don't close unless the cylinder locks (wouldn't have had that problem with a truly new machine) and (2) they all had two protruding pieces of plastic that kept the cylinder from turning unless it was closed. The other thing that I found out was that while unpleasantly expensive (just having the repairman visit will be 60-70 EUR) I probably wasn't in for an inordinate amount of financial pain (he said he'd have trouble believing the repair would be more than 100 EUR on top of that) so I'm probably in the hole for 100 to 200 EUR b/c of a stupid mistake and bad luck.

I got home and looked at the machine again. It turns out that it did have the two prong safety mechanism, have being the operative word in that sentence. In my mind there are two possibilities: (1) the plastic got old and brittle and snapped quickly to my misfortune and (2) they were broken off previously (my landlordess did mention that one of her previous subtentant had some problem with the doors). I'm very curious to see if the broken pieces of the safety mechanism are in the machine (imply option 1 more likely) or absent (implying option 2 with almost certainty) on Monday when the repairman comes.

I'll follow up with a short post to let you know how it works out, or maybe just put something in the comments.

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