When it rains it pours. And if there’s a massive hole in the roof, that’s not really a good thing.

For the past five years I have worked in a very old building in Concord owned by a man who does not much seem interested in maintaining it. Ever since I came here, we have had a leak in the kitchen ceiling. He has been called about this numerous times, and has always hired the lowest bidder to address the problem. This usually involves spackling compound. Then it rains again, and all the spackling comes off in chunks, landing on the kitchen floor (or on the tables). Nice job guys.

Monday, he hired yet another crack team of low bidders. They sawed a large hole in the ceiling, right through the roof. To no one’s surprise (landlord perhaps excepted), the ceiling beams were in an advanced state of decay. So the crack team swung into action:

How do you fix a hole in the roof? Cover it with an extension ladder!

How do you fix a hole in the roof? Cover it with an extension ladder!

Yup. The best way to patch a roof these days is apparently to cover it with an extension ladder and then throw a piece of sheet metal over that. I can well imagine half a dozen bricks on the topside holding it down. Being deeply suspicious that this approach might prove to be somewhat inadequate, and thinking that it might indeed have potential as a source of humor and/or amusement, I surreptitiously snapped this photo.

More on that later.

Last night, I loaded up the dishwasher and then curled up with my laptop for a while. I usually go to bed after starting the dishwasher, but I had an upset stomach (the jelly sandwich at 11:30pm was not a great idea), so I decided to sit up a bit and let it settle. The dishwasher made a funny noise. Kind of a “Kchgggggnk!” sound with no vowels at all. Hmmm. Since I don’t usually sit up and listen to the dishwasher, I rationalized that maybe it did that every night and was semi-normal. A bit later I strolled towards the bathroom when I caught a whiff of a smell very familiar to me (not related to the bathroom at all!) – hot electronics. My senses are attuned to this odor, as I work with expensive, unproven electronic designs every day. Sometimes things go wrong. Anyhow, I followed my nose straight to the “Kchgggggnk!” sound making device. It was quiet. The “run” light was blinking. Not knowing what that meant, I pressed the start button. The light went out. No way it should be done washing the dishes that quickly – it had only been 15 or 20 minutes. I pressed it again. Thick black smoke began pouring out of a vent just below the start button. I quickly opened the dishwasher door. Then I went down to the basement and threw the breaker labeled “dishwasher.” Oddly enough, that breaker feeds the dishwasher.

Did I mention that my washing machine is not working at the moment either? Yes, I did. At least all it does is threaten to flood the basement. No tendency there to burn my house down. Maybe I should just ignore these two problems and hope they cancel. The dishwasher will try to burn the house down, but the washing machine will put it out for me. While that may sound good on paper, I seriously doubt that I would come out with clean clothes or clean dishes in the end.

Frankly, the loss of the dishwasher is much less a problem than the loss of the washing machine. I can do the dishes by hand. I thought about stopping at an antique store near my office today and picking up a washboard for my lovely bride. But then I thought, “Nah! She can scrub the clothes out on a rock in the catchment pond.” Yeah. Right.

She was already asleep when the dishwasher attempted arson, so I didn’t disturb her. I lay awake all night trying not to think about it. When the alarm clock went off, I let her know though. She was about as thrilled as I am.

I shuffled off to work and noticed Joan (our office manager/bookkeeper/HR department) puttering around in the kitchen. “Good morning, Joan!” I called. “Grrrmmph” she returned. Hmmm. Why does she have a mop? Could it have anything to do with the rain we had last night (no snow here) and the ladder/sheet metal roof patch we were endowed with yesterday? Maybe it could!

She said we had two inches of water on the floor when she got in. I offered to help, but she told me it was unneccessary. So I went to my own (dry) office and got to work on my more usual duties instead.

Shortly after that, the roofing crew returned. They were feverishly shoveling water off the roof, but I don’t know why they bothered. Their previous efforts were doing a pretty good job of draining it onto the kitchen floor, and Joan was still in there with the mop. I went back to my office and noticed that someone who had been wearing heavy work boots had tracked roofing tar all over the carpet. I wonder who that could have been? Joan will be so happy! Yes, it was an exciting day at the office.

When I got home, I opened up the dishwasher for a look-see. Va had the brilliant idea of checking to see if there had been a recall. While she looked into that, I got the cover off the control panel. Here’s what I found:

Charred connector

Charred connector

Notice the black markings around that connector? Yeah, so did I. I began pulling off other connectors so I could remove the control board and found that the one in the photo there was not the main culprit. Instead, there was a much larger cable whose terminal had melted off. Guess it was a good thing I turned it off when I did.

Meanwhile Va had the dirt on the recall idea. At first it looked promising. That model did have a recall on it, but it was for a motor which had a tendency to overheat. Also, they indicated that not every serial number in the series was affected and gave a phone number to call to find out. It seemed plausible to me that a motor could draw excessive current in the controller board, so I called. Nope. No recall. I informed them that it had caught fire last night. Thought they might like to know. They gave me the phone number for the Consumer Product Safety Commission and then patched me through to Sears Repair. I fiddled with their idiotic voice menu and then gave up. No thanks Sears! If this thing was going to be repaired, I’d be doing that work myself.

The burned connector is quite deformed as well, and that’s part of the wiring harness. Frankly, I’m not too keen on replacing the wiring harness and the control board. The control board is probably going to run $150 or so, and the wiring harness another $40 (these are my guesses). Plus I can’t see the other end of the wiring harness, meaning that getting it out and putting a new one in is probably a multi-hour project. And when I’m done, I still have a five year old dishwasher with two new parts that together cost roughly a third of what a new dishwasher would cost. Also, the controller board has no moving parts, so there’s nothing in there to go “Kchgggggnk!” My guess is that there’s a jammed mechanical part in there that caused the motor to draw more current than the connector on the controller board could supply. Replacing the wiring harness and the controller will not fix that. In short, I don’t think this dishwasher still has any working parts.

I briefly entertained the idea of “going green” by hand-washing the dishes every single night for the rest of my miserable life. But hand-washing one load of dishes was more than sufficient to disabuse me of that notion.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring!