Let me tell you a tale of washing machines.

Once upon a time in the mysterious East, further East than Dagenham and more mysterious than Stepney, there lived a couple, which owned a washing machine. It was a jolly little thing with an Italian-sounding name beginning with Z. It kept them company and in good spirits for over 4 years. And then one day it fell ill.

The mistress of the house decided to do away with Z and pleaded with her husband for a bright, shiny, computerised washer, whose name began with M. M would cost a lot to adopt but he would be an asset to the home, she declared. The master of the house however felt an attachment to Z and decided to pay the medical bills rather than lavish riches to bring M into the house. There was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth by the mistress but unusually the master held firm and Z was saved.

Less than two months later Z died. This time the mistress of the house held the upper hand and the master agreed to put down the pieces of silver to bring M in. He felt it would be churlish to refuse a second time. The sellers of M agreed that they would take Z away and give him a decent burial.

On the appointed day M arrived with great fanfare. Bunting was unfurled and fairy cakes baked in celebration of his arrival. The delivery men were replaced in a trice with an installation man. He programmed the machine and as he did so the master of the house felt a chill run down his spine. The installation man left and declared that the mistress had never had such a machine in her life. And so it proved.

An hour later the mistress was frowning deeply. Verily the clothes were wet but there was no sign of detergent in the window of M. Now M being a sophisticated chap needed no help from the household. M weighed the load and dispensed detergent and softener to his own recipe. Except he didn’t. The pre-loaded bottles of laundry-nectar remained intact and unsullied by contact with dirty laundry.

Furthermore and notwithstanding M also decided that spinning could only be carried out with his own interpretation of the Lindy-hop. Rock and roll, the jive, he could do them all.

The mistress was gravely annoyed. No matter what instructions she programmed M to carry out he resolutely refused to comply. No twin-Tubby the Tuba, this. And so it came to pass the following day that another installer visited the household and pressed all sorts of buttons and controls and declared that everything was fine. He left. It wasn’t. The master of the house was quietly wondering whether Z had yet been buried. He was shaken out of his musing by a demand by the mistress to ‘do something’. The telephone was thrust in his direction and he was programmed to spend the next three hours ‘negotiating’ with the M’s agents to come and replace him.

There were tears. Lots of them. Eventually it was agreed that M had been visited by evil spirits and had to go. The following day M left. And M2 arrived. Smiling, handsome, debonair, everything a programmable washing machine should be. He was feted, installed, tested and the handover party left. The mistress of the house gleefully commanded the servant girl to wash the first load. No detergent was dispensed. The master slunk away to chuckle in Schadenfreude, which is even further East than Lowestoft. The mistress was so emotionally drained (possibly more so than the washing machine) that the department store vendor took pity on her and agreed to make a house call.

Late that night the examination took place and the diagnosis was delivered – dehydration. Low water pressure. Two additional presses of buttons and a miracle occurred. No water into wine but detergent into water. A small dance of celebration followed. And M2 span with a controlled waltz rather than dervish-like whirl. 1600rpm, faster than an old LP.

The following day dawned. The mistress set about the new day with a smile and laundry basket. Until the detergent failed to dispense. Water, water everywhere but no detergent. M2 declared there was none available. But after a long flurry of phone calls it was discovered that he had told us a fib. Detergent there was. The mistress had missed out step 47 in the 55 required to wash a load of shirts. She had not, can you believe this, pressed the DOs button. The master was shocked. How they had mocked the simplicity of old Z. Now it was M2 who was mocking them.

Of course every saga of this sort has a happy ending, in which everybody lives happily ever after. And currently M2 is behaving himself. Except that M2’s near cousin the spin dryer has developed a nasty cough. So the master has withdrawn to a place of refuge so that the mistress can’t see the smirk on his face. A valuable lesson that you don’t always get what you pay for. I should never be so miele-mouthed as to utter the words “I told you so”.

34 thoughts on “Schadenfreude

  1. Miele- mouthed. Very clever.

    I truly regret the advent of digital everything. It makes repairs just about impossible to afford. In some cases, as in the sad story that I’m about to write (thanks for the idea) it would be cheaper to replace the unit and have a brand new one at the end of the day.

  2. The saga of the Miele V Zanussi is without doubt THE most delightful and amusing tale about white goods ever told. Congratulations Mr & Mrs Hardacre. You’ve won 5,000 kilo’s of washing powder and 2,000 litres of fabric conditioner. Just don’t tell M, it might well blow his mind……. 😀

  3. Now you have me nervous as to whether the cousins of M I have living in my basement will develop these tendencies… really, I loved Z. It was time, was all. It had been 20 years, and Z was tired!

    • I had a Hotpoint that lived 20 years. I don’t understand why modern machines die so young. I hope M’s cousins don’t let you down. The label says “Tested to last 20 years”. The warranty is for 12 months.

    • Thanks Joanne. Nothing seems to work easily nowadays. Its a plot to make us buy more but in fact we buy less because we can’t face the stress.

  4. Ah me, so familiar. Washers are individual. We have a saintly (I’ve just checked, it’s an M) and obedient washer, 7 years and going strong. If it hiccups, I treat it with great gentleness and attention, because previous washers were a nightmare and I want this to one to go on forever. We suffer HIGH water pressure (which can be a problem too).

    • The M technician is currently reprogramming everything from water level to detergent dose to Shirley’s blood pressure. I’m not sure gentleness is top of mind at the moment.

  5. Miele mouthed 🙂

    I have neither and to dry they go on the line. However it is over 8 days they have now been on the line as the beautiful Scottish summer weather has disappeared and it’s showers everyday.

  6. In the forest we just put our clothes in the river with rocks on them. You smell like a fish and get leeches but it is cheap. I have heard there are people down South who press their clothes with hot irons. That fixes the leeches.

    • I can cope with most things but I don’t like leeches. I guess you can watch the clothes dry and tickle trout at the same time. Luxury.

  7. I’m intimidated by our M. It’s cleverer than me. It’s good to know there will be other families ready to join the resistance when the M machines become self-aware and launch war against the humans.

  8. Too funny ,Andrew. I’ve got my own version of a fancy-smancy digital washing machine. You are only paying for a high tech gadget which totally is not needed to get clothes washed, rinsed and, spun. I’ve been there and done that and “done in” by Sears. It took me a while to learn a valuable lesson.

  9. East of Eden I enjoyed (book and film) and Krakatoa East of Java even if it is geographically unsound. I look forward to Schadenfreude : East of Lowestoft. Good luck with the wash cycle of life.

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