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Monday, 1 October 2007

The Collapse of Complex Societies

Elapsed Time : 0 + 26 seconds.

Tosh and Calli recently broke the rubber drive belt on our vacuum (the discounted Electrolux Vitesse Pet Lover 1600 Watts). Or perhaps more accurately, the fleas that Tosh and Calli have recently picked up as they venture into Hull's urban jungle, have caused us to engage in emergency cleaning, vacuuming every vacuumable space in the apartment, and dispensing flea powder and pills to everything that looked like a cat. The cats' favourite toys, liberally distributed in unlikely places round our apartment, are little springs that caught in the drive belt and eventually snarled it up, causing it to snap.

"No big deal", said my favourite redhead, "We'll just drop into the store we bought it from and buy a few replacements", while the cats sniggered behind their paws, "No more stupid vacuuming" they gloated and Mission Accomplished, fell into a deep,well-earned sleep.

Actually, the preceding paragraph is a complete misrepresentation of at least one of the animals which live in our house, but once Nel had calmed down, and been persuaded to drop the axe, the working life of the Vitesse Pet Lover was, at least temporarily, extended. [Sound advice would be to never position any bodily part between a malfunctioning domestic implement and a redheaded neuroscientist, until negotiations are completed.]

Elaspsed Time : 0 + 35 minutes

At Tesco (=Walmart) the Customer Service Representative is trying to explain to an increasingly frustrated neuroscientist and a confirmed Liverpool fan why the store does not carry replacement filters and spare drive belts for the machines they stock. To the Liverpool fan, it sounds like Rafa (LFC's manager) explaining his "rotation policy" (Rafa's bizarre team selections), while, judging by the expression on her face, to the scientist it obviously sounds like The Most Stupid Idea Anyone Has Ever Had. The Customer Service Representative helpfully continues her explanation "Its t'number of 'oovers 'ey 'ave", she says " 'Ant room for parts". She gestures towards the aisle expressively. Apart from 4 brand new Vitesse Pet Lover Vacuum Cleaners, the Household Goods Aisle is entirely devoted to cellphone accessories. Obviously, there is no time for cleanliness when there are text messages to be answered.

However, the CSR has a trump up her sleeve, and when she announces it, it is clear, from the expression on the neuroscientist's face that the original Most Stupid Idea Anyone Has Ever Had has just been supplanted in Stupidness - "There's a Helpline - you ave to phone them to get a filter or new belt - t'number's on t'box". "So we can't just buy a replacement filter?" asks the prof, clearly never having dealt with a JobCentre, and clearly inexperienced in the Way Of Helplines (Ivory Towers have their own problems like lack of promised working space, but that's another story). "No, you ave to phone the 'Elpline. They wo'nt be open today" informs the CSR. Tesco's motto is "Every little helps!" and they've certainly lived up to it here by helping as little as possible. The CSR marches off, another customer enquiry successfully circumnavigated.

Elapsed Time: 0 + 24 hours.

The Liverpool fan excuses himself from calling the Helpline, on the grounds of overfamiliarity with Ulan Bator, but the good Doctor bravely takes up the chase, equipped with model name and number. To her, it probably feels as if the game is about played out. To her, all she has to do is either log on to the Electrolux website and order the required ( and essential, frequently, replaceable) new belt and filter, OR just call the Helpline and order these parts directly. She is obviously, unforgiveably, NOT a regular reader of the travails described herewithin, and thus ignorant of the life-shortening frustration she is just about to experience. First, she tries the website, but it appears that while Electrolux are eager to sell an entirely new vaccum, they are less transparent in their desire to provide new filters. Perhaps, reasons the scientist, the Helpline will be quicker.

Elapsed Time : 0 = 26.5 hours

The Helpline is eventually answered, and full details of the case are rigorously recorded, despite the fact that it must be getting cold in Mongolia now, and writing in an unprotected phone box must be difficult for the representative on the end. After detailed consultations the verdict is announced. The Vitesse Pet Lover will remain out of action for the time being, as further details are required. It appears that make, model number, wattage, place and date of purchase, colour and other known lineage do not represent sufficient detail in order to efficiently and promptly serve us, the customer. Additional information is essential including an eleven digit serial number, written in impossibly small type on the underside of the machine, before the company can possibly release to us a small rubber belt.

Elapsed Time: 0 + 30 hours.

Liverpool fan and boffin discuss the situation and seriously consider purchasing a new vacuum cleaner every time we need to change the filter. Eventually the stubborn, fragile optimism of the scientist (an optimism that is often endearingly unscientific in the face of a logic that screams "Give Up") wins out and a second attempt to secure a 4" piece of rubber is agreed on. We all have different motives - the cats know it is a fool's quest and that it will take much longer to get a new filter and belt than it would to just buy a new vacuum ( they REALLY hate vacuums), the LFC fan wants a good blog post and the scientist, I think, wants empirical evidence of a situation we discuss increasingly, namely the fact that in order to solve very simple problems, we (humans) really have devised absurdly complicated solutions. Even the task of securing a mundane four inch piece of rubber belt for an essential household item can now be measured in days and multiples of pounds or dollars.

Elapsed Time : 0+ Sometime in the future ....

It has been several days now since my companion engaged the Electrolux Helpline in search of an essential piece of rubber belt. I have kept a fire burning these past days, but so far in vain. If the morrow brings no news, I will resort to the only practical solution left to me. I will entirely eschew cleaning as a possible rescue, and will simply move apartments every time the cat hairs reach a measurable level of 3 inches deep. As for my companion in these adventures, I commend her soul to The Lord. Her last heard utterance was " I wonder if you can help me....?" and nary a trace has been seen since.

1 comment:

Grasshopper said...

It's a shame to make your friends wish ill upon you just so that they can later be amused by your difficulties!!

Just remember that when you buy a home, you can put down all wood floors and thereby get back at those sneaky cats. After all, brooms don't need rubber bands or filters!