The Dishwasher Must Die!
Ever notice how fiction’s bad guys these days are always the Russian mob, or the Ukranians? It’s like we recycled old Cold War characters, dressing them up in capitalism and leather jackets. I’m guilty of it myself, in my 4th novel--and before you start yelling “xenophobe!” let me say that I’m half Slovak, which is just down the block from Ukraine. But now these people--my people--have shown up in my real life. Here’s how it happened.
3 years ago I moved into a “new” house, 25 years old (the house, not me) that came with elderly appliances, plus a home warranty policy that repairs or replaces appliances as they die off. When the policy expired I signed on for another year at $975, and got lucky when my hot water heater burst.
Since the water heater, no appliances have died, but many have gone on the fritz (apologies to any reader named Fritz) including—8 times—my dishwasher.
Here’s the drill. The dishwasher breaks. I call up Crabby Home Warranty (not its real name) and a computer answers, saying, “Please state the nature of your problem. For instance, if your air conditioner is not cooling the air, you could say, ‘my air conditioner is not cooling the air.’ Or—”
I say, “My dishwasher isn’t washing my dishes.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Please state the nature of your problem. For instance, if—”
“My dishwasher won’t wash dishes.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Please state the—”
“MY STUPID CHEAP DISHWASHER IS BAKING SCUM ONTO MY PLATES AND I NEED A BLOWTORCH TO GET IT OFF.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. I’ll connect you with a human being so sullen you’ll wish you were talking to me.”
The human assigns me a case number and turns my file over to Kremlin Appliance Repair (not its real name).
Kremlin Appliance Repair sends over Yuri or Yaroslaw or Mikhail. Never the same guy twice. I pay him the $60 service fee. Yuri examines the Paytag, orders a part, and leaves. A week later Yaroslaw shows up with the part, does the repair, and lectures me about liquid detergent and over-rinsing my dishes, explaining that detergent needs food particles to stick to. I switch detergents and leave food on plates. 2 months later the Paytag stops working, only now Mikhail shows up, orders parts, tells me sternly, “you must scour plates before you load. Anyone knows this.” Six weeks later, it’s Boris, who wags a finger at me, saying dishwashers are only as good as their rinse agent, but even so, a dishwasher cannot be expected to truly clean dishes.
Because there’s a 30-day warranty on service calls, the Paytag always waits 5 weeks between breakdowns, ensuring that I will go broke, $60 at a time. I was explaining this to Cindy, my Jenny Craig counselor, by way of justifying my need to self-medicate with cookies, when Cindy looked around furtively, then whispered, “Harley—you’re not using Kremlin Appliance Repair, are you?” the way people do when discussing Satanic cults or mafiosi. And that’s when it hit me. In our troubled economy, people trained in one trade--schoolteachers, carpenters, assassins--find themselves flipping burgers and repairing appliances. Yet therein lies my solution.
The Paytag must die. Bronislav or Leonid or Dmitri must pronounce it dead, so that Crabby Home Warranty will buy me a new one (perhaps a Bosch!) I know this won’t come cheap. I know Kremlin is getting kickbacks from the appliance parts company. I don’t care. The Paytag has had eight service calls in fifteen months. I’m losing the will to live.
My question is, what's the going rate for an appliance hit? And what’s the etiquette? I’ve never negotiated with the mob before. Do I just blurt it out? And is it immoral? Illegal? Am I a racketeer?
Is there an inanimate object you’d send to sleep with the fishes? And how would you do it?