Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fridge Fright

Our family lives in an unmitigated appliance hell. Looking back, I should have realized what was in store for us on my wedding day when the blow dryer I was using tried to speed things up by shooting flames at my head. I have since shorted out many other blow dryers, but none have ever matched that first flame-out in terms of drama.

The list of sick appliances we have owned over the years is extensive. For a long time we seemed to be stuck in a defective furnace phase. In a brand new house with a brand new electric furnace we managed to have it break down several different times. The worst was the time we came home from a trip to Vancouver to discover that somehow the furnace had turned on and had never shut itself back off. By the time we got home it was over 30C (close to 90F) inside our house and that baby was still going strong. At least we didn't have a fire. No, the fire would have been in the gas furnace when we lived in Richmond. Okay, technically it wasn't due to a defect in the furnace, unless you count the fact that there was an open space at the bottom where too much cat hair accumulated as a design fault. Before this event I had no idea that burning cat hair could result in such huge flames.

Hot water heaters have also given us some grief over the years, starting early on while we were living in Fort St. John and continuing to challenge us right through our Nelson years. Oddly, it was also at our new house that we had the worst bout of hot water woes. Two different times we had a burner go out, and by the time we moved I suspected that burner number three had just bit the dust. If, after one of your teens runs the hot water out, it takes four hours to get hot again I don't think I was just being paranoid.

I fondly look back on Richmond as our appliance purgatory phase . Yes, there was that incident with the furnace, but for the most part our problems were transitioning to the kitchen. Unbeknownst to me, a whole new appliance terror was just around the corner. This was the transitional stage where some of our appliances now had digital circuitry. That fancy new stove we purchased for our kitchen? The one with the digital key pad and display? All I can say is I am glad when it died it at least had the decency to do so while still under warranty.

The thing about purgatory is you still don't know which way things are going to go. So I remained optimistic that things would be better in Kamloops. After all, the house we were moving into was only three years old, the appliances were all new and name brand, and many were still under warranty. Yes, you are allowed to laugh.

Like clockwork, just as each warranty expired, so did the appliance. It is as if some guru pre-programed them with a Hindu worldview. We pay huge sums of money to get them fixed, they live a new life for awhile, then die again. It is like they are all striving to be reborn as something better and are caught in an endless cycle of life, death and rebirth, which, sadly, leaves us in an endless cycle of spending.

Our front loading washing machine had the drum break off its attachments to the machine in an event our repairman described as "highly unusual." Then there is our dishwasher. It has resulted in the repairman visiting us several times, each one to replace digital components that have fried themselves. What I had hoped was a one-off incident with the stove in Richmond actually proved to be the portent of doom for our appliance malfunctions here in Kamloops. The computer components are all made in China, and to put it bluntly they are junk. Not only are they all designed to self-destruct, much like those messages in the old TV show Mission Impossible, they apparently don't even keep these components in stock in Canada. I have a theory that it is because they are afraid of contaminating their warehouses with these sub-standard products. And yes, I might be a bit bitter. This means that when your dishwasher dies you pay to have the guy come tell you its dead. Then you wait six long weeks for your part to come over on the slow boat from China. Then you pay for the repairman to come back and fix your dishwasher. We repeated this process three times, and by the time we were finished could have more than paid for a new dishwasher.

We are now entering a stove phase again. It started during the Christmas season of 2008. Should I ever reach a point of deep enough healing I might someday blog about that total holiday fail, but for now I will restrict myself to our dead oven, the one with the 25 pound Christmas turkey sitting in it. This was when I discovered that it just wasn't dishwasher parts that come on that boat from China. Now I am not saying that everything that is made in China is horrible. After all, my daughter-in-law Diana was made in China, and I think she is terrific. (However, if she had any computer chips or digital circuitry boards in her I might be forced to downgrade my opinion.)

Our recent stove episodes have, surprisingly, not involved circuitry. When the burner on my ceramic top died back in July I felt oddly relieved. After all, it was just a burner, right? In the good old days of those open ring burners you could easily change it yourself. Not so with the ceramic tops. So we paid for the initial call for the repairman to diagnose the problem, then waited four weeks for the new burner to arrive, then paid for him to come replace it. Not only did this cost over $300 by the time we were finished, I was starting to worry the neighbors might be wondering if I am having an affair with the appliance guy his truck is here so often. It would have been much nicer having the burner fixed had it been possible to have it on anything but high heat. No matter what setting I turned it to the burner remained red hot. Clearly this was not a good sign. I once again called the repair place, whose number I now have memorized, thankful that at least the burner was under a 30 day warranty. Which, of course, turned out to be totally worthless because it wasn't the burner that was the problem it was the switch.

I am sure by now you will understand when I tell you that before the repairman came yesterday I left the house. I went for a long walk through the brush near our home, deciding that a potential bear encounter was preferable to one with the appliance guy, leaving my husband to deal with this latest appliance failure. And just so you know we don't discriminate against small appliances, during the time period between the burner fix and the switch fix our rice maker died. It was rice maker number six, not that I'm counting or anything. Oh- and the reason for the title of this post "Fridge Fright?" Simple. It is the one major appliance in this house that hasn't broken down. Yet.


  1. Brilliant! I really should not admit to laughing at misfortune but I am so glad to find I am not the only person who has jinxed appliances.

  2. I'm glad it made you smile! And I am so sorry to hear you have the same tale of woe in terms of your appliances.

  3. I have to comment quickly and go. I'm trying to block certain memories and I'm afraid lingering over this post will breakdown the emotional walls I need to be able to walk through my kitchen or laundry/furnace room without getting upset.

    Good luck with the fridge--are you sure the light goes out when you shut the door? I had one in which it didn't. The light went off when I pushed in the little switch...but closing the door did NOT push in that switch.

    Ahhhh...I stayed too long!

  4. Hi Kristie,
    I wish I was kidding. It was a combination refrigerator/easy-bake oven. When I discovered hot food on the top shelf, I thought the kids had been leaving the door open. But no, the switch was actually too deep into the refrigerator for the door to make contact with it. I think there is an old joke about a guy who worried so much he even worried about the light being on in his fridge. I never would have guessed he was right to worry! =)

    I did make the connection--I think I recognized you from some of the photos on Bekah's blog. She is a smart young lady and liked her blog the first time I read it. You both have a nice way with words.

    Take care,