Friday, 1 August 2008

A power melt-down in my house. And why Samsung rocks.

Humorist Paul Jennings once classified book reviewers as 'batchers, betchers, bitchers, botchers and butchers', according to Bevis Hiller, writing in the November 2007 issue of The Spectator. I think that bloggers too can fit quite neatly into these pigeonholes. I won't offer examples, but surely you must know bloggers who are batchers (they blog in meaningless batches), betchers ('I betcha I could do it better'), botchers (they cannot write), butchers (eviscerating their enemies at every opportunity), and, of course, that most popular category, bitchers.

I sincerely hope this blog doesn't fall into five of these divisions, and only occasionally warrants inclusion in the bitchers' league. And I'm not apologising for this: surely half the point having a blog is so that you can have a little grumble now and then?

So here's my little bitch.

Last Tuesday, I popped a piece of bread into my toaster - which is so elderly that it takes a minimum of two minutes, on its highest setting, to warm a wafer-thin slice - and took the opportunity to stagger to the bathroom for a quick vomit. (At this point, I should mention that I was suffering from a severe bout of flu, topped by an evil gastric rotavirus. I hadn't eaten for three days, but my stomach juices seemed to be eating me, and I thought I fancied a bit of Marmite toast. )

Less than a minute later, I returned to the kitchen to find black smoke billowing from the toaster, and a cinder lying on the counter. Odd, I thought. I twiddled the knob, turned it to the lowest heat setting, and put in another slice. Exactly forty-five seconds later (I know: I was leaning against the counter, counting slowly as I tried control the dry-heaving) the same thing happened: an incinerated crust exploded from the toaster slot, wreathed in black fumes, with a funny burnt-plastic smell.

I didn't suspect a thing. Naturally, NATURALLY, the toast would burn: everything else had conspired against me that week, so why not the toaster? I unplugged the stupid thing, and hobbled to the microwave to warm up a nice mug of hot chocolate. Big, huge, grinning surprise - the bloody machine wasn't working, and I didn't have the energy to wonder why.

Instead, I let out a self-pitying snivel, and wobbled off to the lounge to watch a bit of TV. Thirty seconds later, there was a loud bang from the kitchen, and the lights went out as the earth- leakage switch tripped. (And then, as is the case when you live with children, shouts echoed from every corner of the household: 'HEY.' 'Fuck that.' 'Who switched off the TV?' And then, in unison, 'MOMMMMMY, the lights have tripped.')

So off I staggered to the distribution boards, which are in a cupboard under the stairs. En route to the cupboard, I realised I felt rather spacey: for one thing, all the lights burning in the kitchen and passage were way, way too bright; retina-burning bright, in fact, and there was a strange humming noise in my ears. Either I'm beginning to hallucinate, I thought, or I have meningitis.

But, brain inflammation or not, I was not going to miss The Antiques Roadshow, so I lurched into the cupboard-under-the-stairs and flicked up the main switch. Another massive bang from the kitchen. Like an toddler who doesn't learn from its mistakes, I flicked it up again, and there was another small explosion. I yelled for a teen, told him to push the switch up himself, and reeled into the kitchen. As he lifted the switch, a fork of flame shot from a wall socket, and there was another bang, this time accompanied by a merry chorus of pops, gurgles, burps, growls, beeps and hisses, coming from every corner of the house. 'OFF' I screamed to the poor, bewildered teen, still standing in the cupboard under the stairs. 'Turn the switch OFF'.

He did, but not in time to prevent a massive power surge from frying virtually every appliance in the house.

Then, a terrifying smell of smoke. I bounded back to the lounge on my twelve-league boots to find foul-smelling white smoke boiling out from underneath the TV set. Panic. Shouting. Curtain-flapping, door-opening, child-shooing, tea-making, painkiller-popping and a disgraceful melt-down of the mother figure.

Husband-phoning. Neighbour-contacting.

When the last black tendrils of smoke had gone, some sober damage assessment. The massive power surge was caused - according to Johannesburg City Power - by someone vandalising or stealing some cables one block up from our street.

So, the damage: fridge, microwave, dishwasher, tumble drier, washing machine, toaster, DVD machines, kids' computers, the gate motor, the intercom, heaters, lights, cell phone rechargers, satellite decoder, TV set... I won't go on and on, but, in a nutshell, the surge fried everything that was plugged in at the time, save two PCs fitted with surge protectors, the kettle, and my hair-dryer (there might be a God after all).

We are covered by household insurance, and I am grateful for that, but I am maddened and exhausted by the sheer admin load: the many hours I've had to fritter finding technicians to give me quotes for repairs, waiting in queues, phoning call centres, dealing with technicians, shopping for new appliances, reading manuals, waiting for deliveries, and so on.

We're almost up and running again, but I have learned three important lessons I'd like to pass on to you, for what they are worth:

1. If your toaster acts funny, don't assume it's out to get you because you're having a shit week. For once, it's not the toaster's fault.

2. There are too many electrical appliances in your house.

3. If you insist on having so many electrical goods, make sure you buy the same brand of everything. Trust me on this. I speak as someone who has spent three days begging and pleading - from my sickbed, I might add - with eight or nine different service centres, all of whom have rules and regulations and policies that make South Africa's Department of Home Affairs look like the Red Cross. The winner? Hands-down, Samsung. They arrived the very next morning, fixed two of the melted appliances in a jiffy, and took away the third one. They were polite, helpful, and couldn't have been more pleasant.

On the upside: I have some lovely new electrical appliances in the house. Guess which brand?

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1 comment:

meggie said...

O loving this story. Well, not your bad luck, but what a good plug for Samsung- they should pay you!! I wonder what their service is like in OZ?
I hasten to add, I dont want to test it out!!