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Published On: Sun, Jun 3rd, 2018

Graduates from the University of YouTube

Chris Morvanby Chris Morvan

There’s a lot to be said for having a go at things yourself around the house rather than automatically calling an expert. It can save a lot of money and, in the current circumstances in Sint Maarten, a lot of time, because the island’s tradesmen are still so busy clearing up after Irma that any sense of urgency that may have existed before is certainly not present now.

But some things are not so easy for the layman to work out. Take a washing machine that rumbles like a stagecoach and, although it will wash, refuses to spin and therefore leaves everything still wet through and needing to be wrung out by hand.

This is not a problem I dreamed up at random. It was a real event, a bugbear that was driving my wife, and in turn me, to distraction.

It was a well known, good quality brand, but the very mention of the name was enough to persuade the specialists that they had other things to do and couldn’t possibly fit us in in the foreseeable future.

“They’re a nightmare to work on,” one of them told me by WhatsApp, his preferred method of communication. He declined to even come and have a look unless I could find a way of diagnosing the problem.

My diagnosis, I repeated, was that there was a problem with the spin cycle, but apparently that was not enough information. It’s like when you go to pay a bill and don’t know your customer number. Merely giving your name and address is not sufficient. Without the number which they have allocated to you, you don’t exist.

What the washing machine man wanted was a code displayed by the machine, which would tell him exactly what the problem was. But the machine was not displaying such a code. Maybe that was a sign of a more serious fault, I don’t know.

Anyway, without this information, the guy wasn’t interested. I imagine he had a long list of customers who did know the code for their particular problem. It was starting to feel like it was all my fault.

Eventually we found someone who was prepared to come and look at it. Very nice of him, you must admit.

He even turned up on time – another huge plus which can never be taken for granted.

He looked at the machine. He mumbled something about the brand and shook his head. He turned it on and ran it for a minute. And he complained that the electronic display was not telling him what the problem was.

“But,” I wanted to tell him, “That is why I called you. You are an expert. You know these things.”

He didn’t know these things or, more to the point, this particular thing.

He wanted to look it up on YouTube, the modern equivalent of the formal training course. “My (brand name, model number) washing machine won’t spin.”

We found a succession of cheerful American “appliance” wizards, who would have you believe there was no limit to their expertise. Do this, do that, order one of these, install it and, to use a British expression denoting a simple and successful conclusion, Bob’s your uncle.

But Bob was not their uncle. They had never even heard of Bob. Their parents were both only-children. They didn’t have a clue.

They, and the real-life expert who was sitting beside me while I searched, could not help me.

It all reminded me of a motor mechanic friend of mine who could fix anything as long as it involved having a spanner in his hand. But give him the slightest sniff of computerization and he would admit defeat and point me in the direction of his 21st century successors.

At length my expert left, unapologetic and blaming advances in technology for making his job impossible.

I found a third man who was prepared to come and carry out what I now knew would be an assessment rather than a solution.

But wait: he did have a solution. It was ingenious in its simplicity.

I should buy a new machine. This one sounded like a stampede of bulls through the streets of Pamplona anyway.

No, they wouldn’t have one in stock because nobody’s got anything in stock around here at the moment. But I could order one from Miami and it would be here in three or four weeks. And he would even be so kind as to come and install it, for a small fee, of course.

It arrived. His “guys” carried it up the steps and then left. He came round. He and I heaved and pushed and pulled and slid it to the back of the apartment. We heaved and pushed and pulled the old one out onto the landing, where it remained for three days before the “guys” came to take it away.

He plugged the new one in. It worked. I paid him. He left.

So now we know. If it’s broke, don’t even try to fix it. Spend hundreds of hard-earned dollars on a new one instead.

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