Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Laundry Post-Script

After 4 straight hours of up to 3 people working on our washer-dryer combo machine, the repairman pronounced it fixed. At this point, we had one repairman and one translator in our home. This must have been the worst translator I have ever encountered - so inept that she was laughable. This woman tried to guess my question, rarely allowing me to finish my sentence before she answered. She listened to 5 minutes worth of talk from the repairman before attempting to translate for me, and then only giving me a few sentences.

When he had finished work, I had the workman through the translator to explain to me how the machine works. The complete breakdown had come as no surprise to me - the machine never seemed to function normally. The same setting would run 45 minutes on one day, and 5 hours on the next day. Clearly something was wrong, so I asked for directions.

Step 1 (the translator explained): Turn on the power.
Step 2: Press the start button.

Its really quite simple, she explained.

Her simple explanation had ignored about 5 buttons and a rather complex knob, some notches marked only in Chinese. I began to ask specific questions.

Lynne: How do I set the washer to cold water or hot water?

Laundry Team: You can not. It is all the same temperature.

Lynne: Well now, I find that hard to believe. I have never used a washing machine which does not allow you to change the temperature.

Laundry Team: Yes, it is all the same temperature.

Lynne: How do I set the washer to cold or hot water?

Laundry Team: It is all the same temperature.

(repeat this cycle a few times, and then proceed)

Lynne: What temperature is the water? Is it hot or cold?

Laundry Team: It is warm. It is all warm.

Lynne: That is a problem. Some of my clothes need cold water only - not warm. That is a problem.

Laundry Team: Oh, no problem. Just tell the machine what clothes you have, and it will wash them correctly.

Lynne: Oh, I do not understand.

Laundry Team: Look, (points to the knob with various laundry settings) just set at Synthetic. Then it will wash them correctly.

Lynne: You mean, these settings are all different temperatures?

Laundry Team: (Looks at me quizzically.)

Lynne: Which of these settings is cold water, and which is hot water?

Laundry Team: I do not know.

Lynne: Can you ask the engineer?

Laundry Team: He does not know.

Lynne: (exasperated, and nearly yelling) Who is he? Isn't he the engineer from the factory? If he doesn't know, who does?

This little bout of yelling didn't help anyone.

Lynne: (after taking a deep breathe) How do I know which setting to wash my clothes?

Laundry Team: This says "Synthetic" so you use it to wash that. (Clearly, she does not know the definition of the word Synthetic.)

Lynne: But I need to know if it is hot or cold.

Laundry Team: Oh no, you do not need to know. The washing machine will know. It will receive the clothes, and it will know.

I marvelled at her faith for a moment, and then changed the subject.

Lynne: Where do I put the soap?

Laundry Team: In this drawer, right here.

Lynne: There are 3 drawers for soap - which one do I use?

Laundry Team: They are all the same. You can use any of them.

Lynne: Hmm, that doesn't make sense. Which one is for bleach?

Laundry Team: The one in the center.

Lynne: And the other two?

Laundry Team: They are for soap. They are the same. You can use either one.

Lynne: So, why are there two?

Laundry Team: Yes, there are two.

Lynne: Right. So, why are there two?

Laundry Team: Yes, the two are the same.

Lynne: Right. So, why are there two?

Laundry Team: Yes, it is up to you.

Lynne: (grabbing her arm to force her full attention) WHY - do you understand? WHY are there TWO - do you understand TWO? WHY are there TWO?

Laundry Team: (puzzled that I would even ask) I do not know. They are both the same.

Exasperated, I give up. A few moments later, the Laundry Team reopens that drawer in a new explanation of the washing process. They say that more water fills the drawer on the left, and that it will work much better.

At one point in this conversation, I stormed off yelling. The advantage of working with people who don't speak your language is that you feel no guilt when you tell them off. They can not understand what you are saying. This new habit of mine will not serve me well when I return to life in an English speaking nation.

The washing machine does seem to work, although not at all as the Laundry Team explained it last night.

No comments: