Do you ever have one of those weeks where everything falls apart when you touch it? Or, at the very least, doesn't really fix like you intend it to?
Now, I am an intelligent person. I got an 'A' in Calculus, I was selected to be the senior recognized in math, English, and Spanish at my high school, I had a good ACT score, I was accepted to a private liberal arts college and graduated cum laude with a double major and a concentration, I have studied three languages and can get by in both Spanish and Japanese. But let me tell you! All of these credentials are just paper credentials...if you want to know my true intelligence level, just watch me try to solve any problem that your average high school dropout could solve without breaking a sweat.
My Japanese washing machine has a lint filter that is a small net bag hanging off the side of the washer. For a long time, I have been disappointed with its performance. It leaves little flecks of lint on many of my shirts. The other day when I was looking for new laundry detergent, I stumbled across a replacement net bag. Wonderful! The picture on the back showed how it went through the center of the plastic square that held the net and then tucked around the front, held in place with an elastic band.
All seemed well. Until I took the old net out of my washing machine and examined the part. I had hoped the old net would just come off and I could put the new one in. On further inspection, and with at least one very quiet warning alarm going off in my brain, I noticed that the old net was, in fact, glued to the plastic part. There was no way to test out the new net without removing the old net. So, pushing caution and the very quiet warning alarm out of my thoughts, I cut out the old net and put on the new one.
In some defense of my intelligence, I had figured out that there was maybe a problem even before I tried to put the net back in the washing machine. But trying to slide the part in revealed without any shade of doubt that the new net, which had to wrap around the outside to work, now covered up the parts that were supposed to slide into the machine. So, in effect, I broke my washing machine.
When I told this to my Christianity Today class that night, they said, "Ah, yes. Americans are always trying to fix things themselves." I protested, "It was just a net!" They laughed all the harder when I told them I still thought I could fix it if I glued the new net in and then cut away the extra material covering the plastic. Apparently Japanese would have called the washing machine company.
That was last Friday.
Yesterday I began a staining project I have wanted to do for a long time. Just a board that I bought for a makeshift table / shelf and then discovered once I removed the plastic that it was an unfinished board. The stain was actually in my apartment when I moved in, so I was happy for a chance to use it. Like everything else in this country, however, it came in a bottle with all Japanese instructions. The lesson from this project was that a red plastic plate is not a suitable place to pour out the stain. It's mostly fine, but a few "mysterious" streaks of red now decorate my board.
This morning is my cleaning day, and another ongoing problem in my apartment has been my shower drain. The period of time in which it is not clogged seems to become shorter every time I fix it. While looking in the hardware store for a new laundry machine net, I found a product that is supposed to work with any kind of drain with two holes. My bathtub drain and shower drain are connected at least partially. (The bath room in Japan is almost always a bathtub with a shower on the outside of it, so my bath room has one drain inside the tub and another just on the other side of the tub wall. Everything in this room can get wet, and the toilet is always in a separate room.)
Before you say, "Pamela! Stop buying and attempting to use mysterious Japanese products when you can't actually read Japanese so well!", know that this product was actually quite helpful. It was like a little pump that you put over one drain and then pushed on it to send water and cleaning solution through the system. But the best thing it did was somehow help me to realize, as the water was being forced through to the other side, that the shower drain problem was not what I thought...in fact, there was a whole part of my shower drain that was unexpectedly removable. I really thought it was enough to take off the drain itself. And with this discovery I entered into the dark depths of all that is evil...or at least all that gets trapped inside shower drains. But, with the help of a toothbrush, plastic bag, rubber glove, my handy Japanese shower drain pump thingy and a supply of incense burning about at nose level, I believed that good had prevailed.
It did not take long after the drain had been reassembled, however, to learn that it still was not draining properly. Better than before, but still not perfect. I'm not entirely sure what more to do, but dread is growing inside me that it might involved my parents' recommended use of a coat hanger to go as far down the pipe itself as possible.