Sunday, November 18, 2012

When Appliances Attack

There was the teensy matter of the fire in the laundry room shortly after we moved in.

It wasn't a fire, exactly, in that there weren't flames and firefighters and hooks-and-ladders and news crews. No, there was just a blackening, smoking outlet in the laundry room. An almost-invisible fire.

Someone came out from the Embassy. Multiple someones, actually, and they discovered that the American washer and dryer were overloading the Jordanian wiring. They closed off a few outlets, so you can't iron or anything else exciting in there. And all was forgotten. Maybe, they suggested, you shouldn't run the washer and the dryer at the same time.

Now, to understand the next part of this story, you need to know that I suffered some nerve damage in my fingers due to a previous pregnancy-gone-wrong. Long story for another time. Suffice to say that my fingers always feel a little bit weird. Not tingly. Not numb. Just weird. It's a good excuse to never fold laundry, because I can't stand the way it feels when I try to fold towels.

But it also means that when I touched the top of the microwave one morning and it shocked me, I didn't really pay attention. It was just a mild shock, and it just made my fingers feel weirder. I thought I was imagining it. It kept on shocking me, and I kept on thinking WTH, fingers?, until one day one of my kids got shocked, and I finally realized it wasn't my imagination.

Someone came back from the Embassy to check it out, and sure enough, the outlet for the microwave wasn't grounded. Neither was the computer outlet. Or the television outlet. Or, technically speaking, any outlet in the house.

Ah, life overseas. Thrilling! Exciting! Occasionally shocking!

So they fixed that somehow, and my fingers returned to their ordinary numb existence.

Until last weekend, when I made the mistake of touching the side of the microwave with slightly damp hands. I got shocked so badly that my entire arm went numb. An hour or so later, Bart was emptying out the dishwasher - and you gotta love a man who empties the dishwasher, though not as much as one who also folds laundry, hint, hint - when the same thing happened to him. The dishwasher shocked him and sent him flying backwards.

But it was a long holiday weekend and, not wanting to disturb the Embassy guys on their day off, I did what any parent overseas would do. (And this is where stateside parents will shake their heads in dismay, but overseas parents will totally understand my decision matrix...)

Don't touch the microwave, I told the kids. Or the dishwasher. Unless, you know, you really need to. Then just be careful.

And we carried on with our weekend.

Someone came from the Embassy again. And this time, after much shining of lights and touching of plugs and mumbling of Arabic, they determined that all sorts of things are wrong. Electrical things. Wiring things. I don't know what these things are, really, but I know that they involve electricity and sparks and things. (Yes, yes: I make my electrical engineer father very proud, why do you ask?)

There were people from the Embassy here for four hours today, muttering and rewiring and muttering some more. And apparently they aren't finished yet, because they promised to come back tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there was soup to be thawed and a lazy mom who didn't want to bring it to a boil on the stove. So I waggled my fingers and dared that microwave to zap me.

It was fine. No misplaced voltage; delicious homemade soup in a matter or minutes.

But, you know, we have guests showing up for Thanksgiving dinner later this week, and I find myself hoping there are no electrical fires, or inappropriate zapping, or anything else unpleasant. I have a turkey to cook, after all. I don't have time to deal with unruly appliances.

All this to say: living overseas can turn a parent Free Range. Electrical fires. Microwaves that attack. Lightbulbs that explode. That weird ever-present smell of gas in the lobby of the building.

All in all, an ordinary day-in-the-life of an overseas mom.


Michele said... [Reply]

Our kitchen still smells like gas. The guy who came out a few weeks ago said "someone spilled something on the stove, maybe milk?" and... that was that. My ever-present gas smell was explained away as old milk. Still smells like gas. Stovetop still doesn't light properly. Still get the poof periodically when the gas builds up and the pilot takes its time igniting. At least my microwave doesn't try to kill me. And I don't have dishwasher...

Nomads By Nature said... [Reply]

Ah, the joys that we understand too well. We named one of our stoves the Flame Throwing Crap Shooter because you just never knew when the gas burners would finally light and send a blast ball of fire that could singe eyebrows. But after the blast it would settle down and eventually agree to cook a nice meal. When you knew what to anticipate it was just 'normal' to deal with. Did you see Pulling Stakes watching t.v under umbrellas because the ceiling fan was acting like a sprinkler system? Best advice for you, be sure you are all wearing thick rubber soled shoes inside and be careful.

Naomi Hattaway said... [Reply]

LOVE your take on it! We still shy away from our computers when we have them plugged in / charging because we had gotten used to continuously getting shocked while typing.

Sharing with my people ...

Kate said... [Reply]

We have water leaking out of our ceiling fans, and whenever we have to turn it on or off (yes, surprisingly it still works!), we wait for Mitch to come home and do it because he has the best life insurance policy.

Los Skarks said... [Reply]

Wait, you had a dishwasher all that time? Why wasn't I bringing my dishes over to your house to wash? Somehow I've picked another post without dishwashers. The things I do for my country.

Please. Write your own stuff.