Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Washing Machines and Firemen

On April 30 we moved from Wilbraham to Littleton MA to be closer to James’ work.  We moved to a much bigger and newer house and one of my favourite features is the fact that the laundry room is located on the same level as the bedrooms.  In New Zealand we would say this is the 1st floor, here in America they say its the 2nd

The house came with a washing machine and a dryer but we also brought our own ones with us since they were only a year old and we weren’t sure what condition the landlord’s ones were in.  The landlord preferred us to use his appliances so we didn’t press the point.  I figured that since I had already convinced him to let me switch his old and extremely dirty oven for my nice clean and much newer one that I should just wait and see how the other appliances performed.

We moved on a Saturday and honestly I had no desire to do laundry that day.  When I went into the laundry on Sunday I noticed that the light bulbs were blown.  Since it’s a totally landlocked room, having no windows, I needed to fix this.  It took me until Tuesday to get round to it.  I did think of doing it on Monday but by the time I really got serious about it it was dark outside and what little light does manage to seep in through other rooms was gone.

So Tuesday was the big day.  I got up on the ladder with my screwdriver and had the minions waiting below with the new light bulbs.  All went well and voila the light shone bright when I was done.

My Mother In Law had done a huge amount of laundry before we had left the previous house.  She had insisted on this saying that in her experience it was best to get the laundry done before a move than to pack dirty laundry.  I have learned the wisdom of this advice as you will see.

I loaded up the washing machine, set it going and went to take care of the baby who had by this time woken from her morning nap.  She was in a good mood and we played a bit while I changed her nappy and got her dressed.  This all took about 20 minutes and we were doing this in the bedroom she shares with Kaitlyn just across the landing from the laundry room.  Suddenly we hear the piercing sound of fire alarms going off all over the house.  It turns out the alarms are hardwired into the electrical system and located everywhere.  It would be impossible to miss them.

I grabbed the baby and as I came out of the bedroom saw that smoke was wafting out of the laundry.  I had no choice but to step into the room still holding the baby and rip the electrical cord out of the wall.  The alarms went silent and Kaitlyn, Abigail and I went downstairs.  I got on the phone to James and said that he had better call the landlord and tell him I wasn’t too impressed with the washing machine and get him to come around and sort it out. 

The girls and I went into the playroom downstairs and got down to sorting this room out.  About half an hour later the alarms went off again.  I raced up the stairs (without the baby this time) and before I got to the top I could see smoke billowing out of the laundry room.  I momentarily thought about buckets of water but then decided that probably wasn’t a completely smart idea.  I had the phone in my hand and so for the first time ever I dialed 911.

The person on the other end asked me what was going on and I explained that my washing machine was on fire.  “The washing machine?  Are you sure its not the dryer?”  No it was definitely the washing machine.  “ok, we’ll have someone there right away.  Are you outside ma’am?”  Yes we were huddled on the front lawn by now.

Now these emergency services don’t muck around here.  Within seconds I could hear sirens and before I knew it my yard looked like a scene from a crime show on TV.  We had 2 fire engines, 4 police cars and an ambulance.  They asked me where the fire was and I said “in the laundry on the 1st floor, the washing machine is on fire”.  Of course they couldn’t find a laundry on the 1st floor since to them this is the 2nd floor.   On their second try they found it (would have thought they could have followed the trail of smoke).

They spent some time in there, took some fans in to blow the smoke out and flung open all the windows.  Then one by one they started coming out and talking to me.  First the chief of police who had been one of the first on the scene.  “So, you’re new here.  Where are you from?”  All the normal questions I get when people hear my accent.  “How long have you had the washing machine?”  Actually its not ours, it came with the house, this is the first time I’ve tried using it. “oh, ok then”.  After that the fire captain guy and then various other fire fighters came to ask me the same questions.  The one female fire fighter said “well, we pulled out the dryer and the washing machine to check them out.  I’m afraid we’ve left a bit of a mess up there”.  That’s ok, we’ll sort it out.  “You know its not all that common for a washing machine to catch on fire, normally it’s the dryers”.  Well there’s not too much that’s normal about our family so that probably accounts for it.

By this time James had managed to talk one of his colleagues into giving him a ride home (I had dropped him off at work that morning).  He talked to all the police and fire fighters. We even had a visit from the neighbour next door who we had never met (funnily enough we haven’t seen her since and now I can’t even remember her name).

The landlord turned up then and he talked to everyone.  Then the emergency services people started to leave.  They all had stickers for Kaitlyn (Emily was still at school) and were super friendly.  Lots of cheerful waves as they went back to their stations.

James talked to the landlord and they decided that we should just use our own appliances and get rid of his ones.  This made me happy, I wasn’t all that keen on his appliances now.

Almost as soon as everyone had left Emily’s bus arrived dropping her off from school.  You can imagine how disappointed she was to have missed out on all the excitement.  She got a complete run down from Kaitlyn and they shared the stickers.

It was lunch time then, so I fed the kids and we settled down to our afternoon activities.  Eventually it was time for Abigail’s nap and I went up to put her to bed.  I thought I had probably better have a peek into the laundry room and find out just how much mess they’d made in there.

I went in and it didn’t look too bad, they’d taken the bottom panel off the washing machine and things were a little out of place.  What caught my eye, though, was my laundry detergent which was in a large pail and sitting on the floor just in front of the dryer.  On top of the lid was a very neat stack of CDs, shiny side up.  I couldn’t remember having CDs in the laundry room, why would I have them in there?  I picked them up and turned them over.  I had never seen anything like it in my life.  It was a stack of pornographic DVDs!!!  The pictures on them were extremely graphic.  Clearly they had been discovered in the bottom of the washing machine where the motor is, the part that was on fire.  Even more obvious was the fact that the emergency people had all seen them, had looked through them and then neatly placed them on my detergent so that I would find them later.

I was mortified.  What must they have thought of us?  Did they think they were ours?  Or worse that James was hiding them from me?  Just how many of them had I told about it not being our washing machine?  That this was the first time we had used it?  That we hadn’t even been in the room because the light bulbs were blown?  No wonder they had all come over to ask so many questions. 

The next night I was cooking dinner and I almost burnt it.  The alarms didn’t go off but it was close.  Emily, who was watching me cook, jumped up and down clapping her hands and said “Oh, goody, can I be here next time the firemen come?” I’m not sure I want to see any of them again.  I would be too embarrassed. 

We have to drive past the police station every time we leave the house (hence why they arrived so quickly) and I get embarrassed all over again.  I figure over time they probably wouldn’t recognize us except for the fact that I am probably the only person in town with a New Zealand accent.  I’m sure if they were to hear me talking they’d all think “oh, there’s that lady that had the porn stashed in her washing machine”. 

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