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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Breaking News. By John von Daler

                       Ping, Ping, Ping! The little, insistent, synthetic sound from the dishwasher bleats out its warning signal.

                Ping, Ping, Ping! I go in to look at the little commando area with its digital red lights and white symbols. Error A32! Error A32! it blinks again and again. I rush to find the manual. Happily, I used to be a bookseller, so the three big notebooks are filled with manuals and guarantees in alphabetical order. I check under D for dishwasher. It is there! And in thirteen different languages, three of which I actually can read, with another two that I can spell my way through.
                "Drain stopped. Empty drain. When emergency Error #Symbol disappears, restart machine."
                I am a student of #literature and a sometime writer. You do not just bandy words like "Error Symbol" in front of me.
                "Error Symbol"? You mean like the blood Lady Macbeth could not wash off? The killing of the king was a mistake, so now you have the symbol of the error indelibly painted on your hands? Or like the white whale in Moby Dick, wickedness incarnate? That kind of error symbol?
                No, this is more prosaic. The book of instructions means for me to empty the drain with a spoon. This takes a half an hour. When I look to see if the error symbol has disappeared, it is still there, blinking like my metronome during the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro. Fast.
                I go back to the manual. Further instructions: Call the service hotline in your country. My finger runs through Albania, Belgium, Canada, Croatia...ah, yes, Denmark. I call the number, and after hearing some very distorted pop music for about ten minutes, I get a nice lady.
                "Ah, but you see, it's not empty yet," she says. I sit waiting for which symbol she will use to describe my error, but it turns out that she is more positive than I. "You just have to pull it out, turn it over on its left side after you have put down some cloths or rags and wait for the water to run out." I thank her profusely. She and I have saved me a visit from the service technician that would have cost me about 100$.
                So I pull out the machine. Ah, but it is big, heavy, and lurchy, like a drunken matron who asks you to dance a quick polka with her at a country bazaar. As I pull her forward, everything looks fine in the front where two sturdy feet are holding up the bulk. But behind, somewhere hidden and unmentionable, something has snapped and I am left holding the whole heap up - that is, until I let go and that bulk falls down on one side and starts to gurgle.
                I examine it discreetly at the other end. On the backside there is only one foot, in the middle, fragile, now broken and dangling. The machine is just going to have to lie there in the middle of the kitchen floor until I can get a new foot from the factory by mail and screw it on. My wife is not going to like this. The crime may even be greater than if I actually had danced with the drunken matron. At least she could have been put in a car and driven home. This machine is going to have to stand here for some time.
                As I am thinking of the best way to explain this white whale in the middle of the kitchen, I see the red Error Symbol blinking again. This time it says Error A47! Error A47! Error A47!

                I go back to the manual and look up Error A47.  It reads: "Unbalanced. Adjust balance until symbol disappears." Strangely enough, this calms me down, because it is just the advice I need for the next little story I am writing: "Unbalanced. Adjust until symbol disappears." What a good idea! I forget the awkward machine and rush back to the computer and start to re-write.
Perhaps this sample of my writing has interested you. 
Have a look at my book at

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