Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stuff breaking down

You know how when one light bulb burns out, it seems like they all follow suit shortly thereafter? And for me, it’s always that obscure light bulb, whose spare is never handy – dining room chandelier, fluorescent in the laundry room, freezer (30+ yrs old!) in the basement. We’ve recently had a string of “incidents” of stuff breaking down, I’m going to call it the Light Bulb Effect. When one thing goes wrong, all sorts of other things seem to follow suit. I’m working very hard on not bitching and complaining all the time, so I will state for the record that the only reason I mention this here, is that I’m happy to say (see? not complaining!) we have a wonderful sense of accomplishment in dealing with each of these little mini-crises, both from a physical and fiscal perspective.

The Refrigerator

The day before Mother’s Day – when I was expecting 22+ for dinner – we noticed some water pooled outside the fridge. An investigation lead to the discovery of melted ice in the freezer. We moved a few things out of the freezer and monitored the situation overnight. Which lead to the discovery of a higher-than-normal temp in the fridge and freezer. Something was definitely wrong.

On a side note, do you know the proper temp for your refrigerator and freezer? Our owners manual called for the “ice cream and milk” test. Put a thing of ice cream in the freezer for several hours. If when you take it out, it’s not frozen hard enough, then the freezer is too warm. Same thing with the milk – put it in the fridge for a while, then pour yourself a glass to drink, if it’s too warm, then your fridge temp is wonky. I need things a little more concrete than that, so I researched for hard facts (yay google): 38 for the fridge, 0 for the freezer, I think.

Anyway, we emptied out the fridge and freezer (thank God for a storage freezer in the basement and a “beer fridge” in the garage) and tried a few tricks to get ‘er going. Then, my neighbor LEN suggested we check out www.repairclinic.com. The site helps you diagnose your appliance problem and helps you order the right parts. After one false start (wrong part ordered) we installed a new “defrost thermostat” (thanks for your help LEN), and crossed fingers. It worked, but only intermittently. We called a repair person (at this point, we were 7+ weeks into no fridge in the kitchen), he pinpointed the problem immediately, ordered a part, installed it TWO WEEKS later, and we are good to go. Total time to resolve (TTTR): 48 days. That’s slightly longer than the gestation period of a kangaroo. Cost: $60 (to repairclinic.com) + $170 to “real” repairman (sorry LEN!)

The Light Fixture

Yesterday, a ceiling light fixture just up and fell off. Crash! Broken glass all over the place. It’s been there 8 years without a problem, then BOOM! We have some guys working in the basement right now, and so it’s possible that all the vibrating and pounding caused something to jiggle loose. Still haven’t replaced it, because really, I need something like this to linger for a few months first, but hopefully eventually I’ll be able to just replace the glass part, and not the whole thing. TTTR: 24 hours and counting. Anybody wanna place bets on this one? Cost: cheap, real cheap, I hope. Keep your fingers crossed.

The Car Window

Ordinarily, I would have ignored something like this, but our son just turned 16 and that means driving (I’m actually gagging right now). The car needs to be in top shape mechanically. So the other day when I couldn’t get the back passenger window to open, I ignored it at first. Then a few days later I came out to the car, and the window was open. I tried the auto switch thingy, and it wouldn’t work. So I found I could force it up by sandwiching the glass between my palms and pushing up. Two more go-rounds with the window being down of its own volition, I realized it needed professional help. I made an appointment, took it into the dealer, and was notified that we’d missed recall notices on FOUR different things! So in addition to the window getting fixed, they fixed a whole bunch of other stuff that hasn’t gone wrong yet, but may break down in the future. Possibly when my baby is on the road by himself. And I am sitting on the front stoop chewing off all my fingernails with worry. That will never do! But it’s all better now! TTTR: ~2 weeks. Cost: $163 (window only).

The Perfect Storm

You know that book/movie “The Perfect Storm?” Three major storms all come together and make this one massive mess (sadly causing the loss of 7 experienced seamen). Well we had three chaotic incidents occur all on the same day recently, a "perfect storm" of Stuff Breaking Down. And ok, two of them were technically my fault. But, but… well don’t make me feel any worse about it than I already do, ok?

The Phone:

DB put a pair of cargo shorts in the laundry. I checked the pockets and threw them in the next load. I did not, unfortunately, check the “cargo” pocket, which contained his cell phone. Which apparently is not water proof. I really think he wanted to be super pissed at me, but he did throw them in the laundry, and I did check the OTHER pockets, so technically we share the blame on that. Always thinking on my feet, I quickly remembered that we had a decommissioned spare cell phone (same service provider) that could simply be configured with his number. TTTR: about an hour on the line with customer service. Cost: FREE!

The Tractor:

I do love me a John Deere tractor – and a man on that tractor wearing a sweaty Hawkeye t-shirt, umm-hmmm! He's all mine girls! This spring was time for a tune up and blade sharpening, to the tune of about $500. We got it home and went on our merry way with lawn care, but something always felt a little “off.” After a day of working hard on our basement remodel project – oh and rescuing a cell phone from the laundry - DB went out to mow the lawn. I could hear the tractor from inside, and it really sounded terrible, so I stopped what I was doing and went outside to investigate. About that time, DB also decided it was time to stop and take a look inside the hood. We couldn’t find an exact problem, but it did appear that the engine was only connected by one bolt, so it was rattling around a lot, which caused the horrid noise. Since we’d just been in for repairs, DB assumed they forgot to replace some of the bolts. And boy was he pissed! So pissed at the John Deere guys that he got over being pissed at me for the phone thing. Whew, what a relief. The next morning, he called and made it quite clear that We. Were. Not. Happy. Service Manager said to bring it in (meaning hitch the trailer up, load the tractor on the trailer and drive 15 miles on the highway) and they’d look at it. DB got to the dealership, took one look at the dude behind the service counter, and said “Oh Shit.” The dude was like 6’5”, 320, covered in tattoos, with a face that said “Do not cross me.” DB was all ready to open up a can of you-know-what, but quickly kowtowed to Mr. Tattoo. Turns out they discovered it was supposedly something unrelated to their prior work (whatEVER!) and although it would have been regular price to repair, they split the labor cost in half. TTTR: about 7 days? (thanks neighbors for letting us use your mower in the interim). Cost: $170 (plus the previous $500, but let’s just not think about that for now).

The Laundry Sink:

There’s probably some joke in here about everything but the kitchen sink, but please, I’m still not ready to laugh about this one. You see, what I was doing while DB was mowing was cleaning paint brushes. We’d been down in the basement all day applying Drylock to the areas of the basement we’re finishing. I was in the utility sink in our laundry room washing the Drylock/paint out the rollers and brushes. I could hear this horrendous noise (it gets worse and worse as I write this post!), and I dropped what I was doing to rush out and check it out. One thing lead to another and I ended up out there for quite a while. When I came back in, I realized I'd left the water running, and the sink had overflowed, flooding the laundry room, mudroom, and kitchen dining area (wood floor). While I could sop up the water on the floor, my biggest fear was yet to be realized – I knew it was leaking into the basement. I got the first floor under control, went down the stairs and just wanted to throw up. Now, the good news is that the area getting wet was NOT the area we’d just Drylock’d. The bad news is that all the stuff we’d moved out of the to-be-Drylock’d area was located directly under the laundry room. My mess from upstairs was pouring into all the boxes and other crap we’d just placed there earlier in the day. Grrr. No stranger to cleaning up water spills (yes, we’ve done this exact same thing before) I quickly employed the shop vac and another water vacuum. Amazingly, the water sucked up pretty well, and there was no lasting damage. And it didn’t creep over to our newly Drylock’d area. And DB was somewhat understanding, frankly even sweet to me. I mean seriously, shit happens right? And he could tell how truly awful I felt about it. TTTR: hmmm, about two hours of frantic, emergency racing around, emptying full tanks, wringing out towels, sopping up water, flying up and down stairs. Cost: free, sort of. We may eventually replace some insulation that got wet (for the second time), but we’re good for now.

The Doorjamb / The Ceiling in the Parlor

These technically are still not resolved, but we’re much closer to fixing than we were on June 1, so I’m counting incremental progress. 1) We had some wood rot near the base of our front door – thankfully not termites, just rot. DB has the replacement piece, has cut it to size, has it painted to match the house, and just needs to nail it in. 2) A leaking pipe in the kids’ bathroom meant a plumber cut a 18”x18” hole in the ceiling in our parlor. Real nice. We need to replace the drywall, tape and paint that area. This has been and may continue to be a “someday we’ll get around to that” problem, but at lease we now have some drywall, that muddy stuff they stick around drywall and the ceiling paint. Woo hoo. Total time from discovery to resolution: embarrassing – these problems have both existed for at least 4 years, ouch. Cost: not resolved yet. Please cross your fingers for me. Or send a Home Depot gift card. Or a home handyman, for about 1 week. Preferably without a shirt on. Oh wait, did I say that out loud?


So folks, how does the Light Bulb Effect affect you? Got a dryer you can only turn on with a pair of pliers? A door you just can’t open so you go in through the garage instead? Leaking faucet, rusting tools? What’s your home maintenance/repair nemesis? Let’s sit down with a Coors Light and talk it out. I’ll get you through it. I’ve been there my friend.


"I was doing some decorating, so I got out my step-ladder. I just don’t get on with my real ladder." - Harry Hill




ann said...

It's been established that my washing machine doesn't work (see "at the Laundromat...") Light bulbs don't count, because I don't care if we end up with candles. We have one car in the hospital in a little town 100 miles down the road, and just got the other out of the local Volv-i-pital. My big girl is in the midst of tummy problems. The printer is out of ink. Comcast is horrible, so TV, phone and internet is erratic at best - that averages a service call a week. But the coup de grace is my ICE MAKER - I can go to the laundromat, but I want my little hard ice back NOW! I sent a teenage child out at midnight for a bag of ice. I feel your pain.

Liz said...

Whew. We just took out a home warranty policy. After having stings of things break down and bust... it makes me feel better.

And I have a basket full of light bulbs and strangely, none of them ever fit what I need at the time! :)