Sunday, March 26, 2017

Appliance 911: True Stories of Household Labor-Saving Device Repair

"Appliance 911. What's your emergency?"

"The light in my range hood has stopped working!!!" I screamed into the phone.

"Ma'am. I need you to stay calm. Have you tried changing the fluorescent lamp?"

"Yes!" (DUH) "And I even put in a new thingey — you know, it's the thing that lights up before the lamp comes on. It's just to the left of the switch."

"That's the starter, ma'am. I'm going to need you to go over to the range and tell me if there is any sign of life. Do you hear any humming?"

"No!! What now?"

"Ma'am! Stay with me, now! Try turning on the vent fan. Does the fan work?"

"Oh! Yes, it works!"

"OK. That means we haven't tripped a breaker."

"Oh. That's good. But I need my light!"

"Ma'am. I'll send someone out. Our electrician will be there within the hour."

"Hurry. Please!"

The electrician was there promptly within an hour of my call. I met him at the door. He started to put blue plastic booties over his shoes.

"Thank goodness you're here! Oh, please. Hurry! Don't worry about the blue plastic booties!"

"It's okay, ma'am. Everything is going to be okay. Tell me what the problem is," he said as he hopped on one foot removing his blue plastic bootie.

I showed him into the kitchen and flipped the switch for my range hood light.

"See! It's not coming on!!"

"Yes, Yes, I see. Have you changed the fluorescent lamp."

"Yes. For the love of Pete. I have!"

"I'm going to have to take it apart to see what's going on, ma'am. You might want to step into the other room for this."

I did. I couldn't bear to watch. I paced up and down in the front hall, wringing my hands. It seemed an eternity before he called me back to the kitchen. He was holding the exposed guts of the light bar assembly — laid bare and raw before my eyes. I shuddered and had to look away. But I was brave.

"Well, I can't tell what's going on here, Ma'am. And frankly, I don't have any parts on my truck for this kind of emergency. You're going to have to bring it to the shop."

"Oh, my!" I steadied myself against the kitchen counter. 

"Or maybe you can find the parts online. My diagnosis is that the ballast has gone kaputzk. The good news is that it can be fixed and it should make a full recovery. Now, you make sure you call me if you need me to reinstall. That will be $49.50 today for the service call."

"Thank you. You've been most kind." I wrote a check. I made a strong cup of tea after he had gone.

The model number is printed in the teensiest, most microscopic, mouse-type imaginable, on a minuscule sticker tucked away into the dark recesses of the hood. I needed a flashlight, a magnifying glass, and a step stool to get up there, wedge myself under the vent, and perform an acrobatic maneuver as yet unknown to man in order to read it. I made an appointment with my chiropractor after I got down.

The range hood manufacturer's web site listed an astonishing, bewildering array of range hood parts. I called the shop.

"This is Helpful Appliances. We're here to help you!"

"My range hood light is broken." 

"What seems to be the problem?" I explained. "Do you have the model number?" I did.

"Well, ma'am, I'd like to send out a technician to measure to make sure that the model number matches the model numbers we have in stock. Will you be home some day this week?"

"I suppose. How's Friday?"

"We could have someone there on Friday between 8 and 1, or between noon and 5. Which would be best for you?"

"It would be best if you could narrow the time window down to, say, I dunno, 2 hours?"

"I'm sorry, Ma'am, that's the best we can do. Our repair team is very busy."

"I'm not, apparently. So, okay. Between 12 and 5."

At 4:55 on Friday, the repairman showed up with his blue booties and his tape measure. He measured the hood, inside and out. He showed me a manufacturer's diagram on my range hood and declared, "Yup! It matches! That will be $79.50 for the service call."

"The last guy only charged $49.50."

"He's not a repair technician. I'm a repair technician."

"But you haven't repaired anything."

"$79.50." I wrote a check. He was gone by 5:01.

I heard from Helpful Appliances on Monday. 

"Ma'am? We can replace your range hood for $436.00, plus $156.00 for installation. Would you like to go ahead?"

"No, I would not! Why do I need to replace the entire hood? It's the ballast in the light bar that I need. Why can't I just get a ballast?"

"Let me get the repair supervisor to talk to you."

"This is Mike. Repair Supervisor. We're here to help you!"

I described the problem. Again. 

"Why don't you bring the light bar in and we'll take a look-see. Ask for Mike."


I arrived at Helpful Appliances on Tuesday, light bar in hand. I asked for Mike. Repair Supervisor.

Mike said, "Huh. Not sure our repair guy can fix this. How's he going to plug it in to see if it works if it it isn't anywhere near your range hood plug in thingey?"

"Gosh, Mike. I don't know. Can't he just tell?"

"Well, let me take it to him. We'll call you."

Mike, Repair Supervisor from Helpful Appliances called on Wednesday. 

"Ma'am? Yeah. Okay. Uh. Our repair guy says it's the ballast. He can fix it."

"Great! How much?"


"Okay. Let's go ahead."

Ten days later, Mike called to say it was ready. I went to pick it up. Mike, Repair Supervisor, wasn't in. It took the rest of the Helpful staff 20 minutes to find it. 

Back at home, I could see no obvious indications of how to freakin' reinstall my repaired light bar. The entire range hood appeared devoid of screw holes or the little plug that I was sure I saw dangling during the emergency call. Apparently, the Appliance 911 EMT had reassembled the entire hood, but hid the hook-up in the process. I called Helpful Appliances to ask about a technician coming out to install the repaired light bar.

"That will be $79.50 for the service call and I can't quote on the labor cost because we don't know how long it will take."

I declined. It dawned on me at 4 am that night that the light bar installation points might be hiding under the vent filter. Aha! I was right! There it was! I broke the frame of the vent filter as I was taking it out. 

Next day, the Mr set to reinstalling the light bar. I held it upright for him to plug it in and screw it back into place. We both had our arms above our heads, our bodies bent at unnatural angles for the entire operation, which included the Mr going down to the basement to find a replacement screw for the one that obviously had been used to replace the light bar in some previous repair prior to us moving into this house and was clearly the wrong size. We both made appointments with the chiropractor for the next day. $54.00 each.

We tried the fan. A-OK! We turned on the light! Eureka! It works! But, wait. What the heck is that? It sounds like a 747!! Turn it off! Turn it off! 

We turned it off. And back on again. TOO loud! "Why is it SO LOUD?" I wailed! 

"Probably the new ballast," said the Mr.

"I can't use this! That noise will drive me insane! Now what?"

"Appliance 911. What's your emergency?"

Saturday, March 11, 2017

How do you Hygge?

Some people do yoga. Some practice mindfulness. I've taken up hygge. 

Have you heard of hygge? It's all the rage. Oxford dictionary even made it word of the year for 2016. Hygge first caught my attention early on this winter. And you know when you hear a new word then it seems to pop up everywhere? That's how it was with me and hygge. Suddenly it was on social media, on TV, in the newspaper. Trending. I took that as a sign. And before you could say cheese Danish, I was hooked on hygge.

Roughly translated, "hygge" (pronounced "hoo-ga" or even "heurg-gah" with a touch of glottal clearing) means "coziness." If you are Danish, or Norwegian, you have probably been hyggeing all your life. To the hygge newbie, the word conjures hand-knitted socks with reindeer patterns. Or steaming mugs of hot chocolate. Or candles around the bath tub. All correct hygge. But there's more.

Back in November, I thought hygge might provide a pleasant diversion to while away the winter hours. When you've grown up with Canadian Prairie winters, the memory of those long, cold months when the nights draw in, imprints an indelible dread. But in the back of my mind I had always thought that there must be folks out there somewhere who saw the northern climate in a positive light. Maybe they were Druids. Or Laplanders. Turns out it was Scandinavians all along. I decided that hygge was going to be my game changer. An antidote to Seasonal Affected Disorder. A solstice slammer. At the very least, a distraction, like watching the curling on CBC. Something to get me through to daylight savings time in March. 

I commenced my personal hygge by relishing the opportunity to be indoors, wearing sweaters and fleecy slippers, enjoying the hiss and ping symphony of our ancient radiators. Next, I moved on to the social aspect, lighting candles at dinner time, pouring a glass of cabernet, and making comfort food casseroles with noodles in them to inspire cozy conversations. Hygge is of course exalted at Christmas time if you adopt the "let's be simple, let's be together" format. So that was easy.

In advanced practice, I began to understand that hygge could be taken outside the home: to coffee at Saxby's with my exercise class, to evenings in the theatre, and to blustery winter walks with the dog. Dinner with friends is hygge. Your personal play list is hygge. Even whisking yourself with tree branches in the sauna and then catching your death of cold as you hurl yourself into a snow bank, if that's what makes you happy, is hygge. Think about this: the English derivation of "hug" could well have come from hygge. Giving yourself a hug is hygge.

The secret to hygge is finding joy in everyday living. Celebrating the simple moments. Slowing down to absorb small pleasures. Best of all, there is no need to buy any special equipment to achieve hyggeness. A bag of Ikea tea lights will do the trick. And there is no special outfit for it either. You can rock your favorite sweatpants and Lands End fleece quite comfortably to enjoy hygge.

But, Lesley, I hear you saying, why are you telling us about hygge now that spring is right around the corner? And I say, you've still got time to get in some good hygge if you start now. The vernal equinox isn't until the 20th. And if you don't achieve true Hyggevana by then you can always file it for reference for next November. 

I'm pleased to say that this year hygge got me safely through to Daylight Saving time which as we know starts tomorrow. I plan to celebrate by putting on my fat pants, buttering a scone, pouring a cup of tea, and watching a Downton Abbey rerun. 

But really, couldn't hygge last all year long? I saw one definition that goes, "Hygge is taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things." Being mindful. Being calm. Giving ourselves hugs. Go ahead. You know you want to.

p.s. The word "hygge" appears in this blog 31 times. I have had to override autocorrect, which has wanted to change "hygge" to "higgle," every single time. "Higgle" is apparently the archaic spelling of "haggle." Who knew. Maybe it's worthy of a blog.