Occupational Hazard: Moody Appliances


100_0068.jpgIf you find yourself in Eastern Europe, you will no doubt be both pleased and troubled by your washing machine.

The nicest thing is merely having one right there in your flat; you don’t have to pay or walk downstairs to a freezing basement in your socks. You don’t have to wait around for other people to finish using it. It’s all yours.

The more troubling aspects of this scenario are A) figuring out how to use the machine, and B) dealing with it when things go wrong.

As concerns A — you will find a wide variety of settings, cycles, and temperatures, often with explanations on the machine itself or in an instruction booklet in the local language. This wouldn’t be so difficult if your choices resembled those you’re likely to have at home…but they don’t. So many possibilities, most with potentially disastrous results for your wardrobe if you choose unwisely. If your knowledge of degrees Celsius is anything similar to mine, your best bet may be to pick a universal temperature and setting and stick with it.

I’ve had a lot of experience with concern B — things going wrong. My own washing machine is currently not working, or at least is dysfunctional enough that I’m afraid to use it. The first sign that something was amiss was when I noticed black water pouring out of the drainage tube. Then I became aware of a bit of steam coming out of the water and I realized: my load of jeans and dark colors was being boiled.

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I waited for the cycle to end and pulled out my clothes, which were still quite saturated with water. A few moments after I began ringing them out in the bathtub, I was startled by a loud bang, which coincided with my power going out. Something with a fuse, I knew that much.

My neighbors, the daughter and son-in-law of my landlord, did something to make my electricity work again…but the next day, when I plugged in the washing machine I was greeted not only by another loud bang but also a small shock to my hand.

The owner was alerted. A handy man came and explanations were offered. The gist of it is that there is a problem with the machine, not the wiring in the flat, and it has not been fixed. This is problematic not just because it’s inconvenient for me, but because washing machines are so standard in Eastern European flats that there are almost no laundromats. But…it keeps life interesting.

There’s little you can do to prevent electrical fiascoes like this one. I tend to buy smaller appliances once I’m already abroad rather than taking them from home, but for bigger and more difficult to replace electronics — like laptops — give this converter and adapter featured on the Travel Gear Blog a try.