Sunday, 13 July 2008

Normal is ...


Well, I too used to say that, Normal Is Just a Setting on a Washing Machine, but today, I learned better, 'coz it isn't even that. Normal's an 'effin fantasy!

Mother (yeah, here we go again), wanted to do my washing this morning (despite the forecast for rain). May I just point out that this is the first time it has been "convenient" to do my laundry since I arrived here on June 6th - the first three weeks of which, the washing machine was broken. This, obviously, is no help when you have only one suitcase of clothes, but I digress ...

Nevertheless, I just handed over the bag of all black clothes and casually said that they didn't need any heat. That's where the problems began.

Some silly part of my brain had expected that she knew how to use her own washing machine, even if I was simultaneously aware of the unwritten, illogical law that prohibited me from laying hands on it, since I couldn't know how. Not even after owning various homes and living alone for 30 years.

Because the house I'd been renting in Tenerife had been wired by a monkey, or something (shorts everywhere) and was (meanly) the lowest rating supply that - officially - wasn't supposed to support a washing machine (yet, the landlady supplied one, which looks illegal to me), the only way I could use a washing machine ever there was running it cold, with the heat turned off.

This was fine actually, because laundry detergents these days are perfectly capable of cleaning without heat; I don't crawl under cars to get oil on me, nor roll in mud with pigs, so my clothes are never really "dirty" and, this reduces the energy used and is therefore "greener" and reduces wear on clothes.

And all the washing machines, either mine or in rented accommodation, I'd used in Spain had a setting or means of turning the heat off entirely.

Do you think my mother's washing machine has this facility? Of course not!

OK, maybe that's not her fault, but it is another gripe I have with the UK. If Spain can sell washing machines with this "feature," why can't Britain? To not have it on all, shows how little it really cares about climate change, emissions, being green, despite all the stupid ad campaigns. I doubt it's because mum bought the cheapest model either (I'm sure she did), because, I did too.

But at least we can reduce it to the lowest (30C) or select a less "abusive" program, like the one for delicates then? Oh, no we categorically can't because it's "programmed", she declares, pedantically.

Now, OK, I can get that old ladies have trouble with technology, but she's been doing laundry for at least 60 odd of her years. Surely, she knows that not all clothes should or can be washed on exactly the same program? 

A clue is the row of lights and buttons on the front of the machine that anyone's logic would work out was something that you can use - that the user is meant to have access to, even if they don't do so - to change something.

Actually (see above), it's one of the more logical ones I've seen.

(Well, apart from the "Outdoor Sports" setting. WTF is that? Is that like the old Tampax ads, where (even if you're a bloke) you use them and can suddenly, proficiently ride horses? If I use this machine, will it make me proficient at Outdoor Sports too? Can I watch the Beijing Olympics on it, perhaps?)

No, instead of admitting she had never understood any of it, never dared press a button, she tried to argue that the whole machine would be broken, screwed up, de-programmed forever, if the settings were changed.

"You can't change it," she said, flatly.

And, truly, panic was setting in. You could see the heels begin digging. She was close to launching another of her attacks of insulting diatribe to avoid her being "wrong", just because she perceived something to be too difficult.

What about asking someone to help with it? No. It just can't. Period.

And if this is the level of resistance to such a small change ...

Funny, isn't it: when I was growing up, I was taught, no I had it drummed into me constantly at every moment that "There's no such word as can't", yet these days, I hear it in every phrase. Is this irony or hypocrisy, or both?

The inference here was both that she was not about to allow me to touch anything and, the machine was really not capable of being changed.

According to my mother's argument - and yes, I put it to her slowly - what she was effectively saying is that all washing machines have always only ever had one "normal" setting and nobody can ever change it. Yup, that's what she meant, nay insisted. So, people wash the old man's oil and grease covered overalls and their own delicate nylon smalls on the same hot wash do they? Yes.

If she hadn't been so frustratingly, beat your head repeatedly against a brick wall for relief type dead serious, it would be rolling on the floor comical!

So, yeah, this time, I put my foot down with a firm hand, spent all of .000002 seconds "studying" the controls, before I set it to something more suitable (she grabbed my wrist in panic as I did so, mind you) than the wasteful (not to mention damaging and I need to make the few clothes I've got last as long as I can) hot program that she'd been using, for everything, for years ... 

She was also about to add an excessive amount of detergent, so I put a stop to that too. Then I explained how her wastefulness had more than negated all the switching off and plug pulling that she is utterly paranoid obsessive about.

Normal, sadly, has gone the same way as common sense.

It's funeral will be held ... 

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