Friday, September 05, 2008


When someone has a series of accidents people usually say that these things come in threes. I don't know where that saying originated, and I doubt there's any evidence to back it up. Still, when three seemingly random bad things happen, it's somehow comforting to think that our run of bad luck is over, at least for a while!

A few weeks back we started hearing a squeaking sound from the front end of the car. We didn't think it was a fan belt, and the sound continued as we drove. Then we stopped, but the squeak didn't....until Art turned off the headlights! Okay, yes, that was weird, but we checked it over and over, and the cause of the squeak was directly related to the headlights. Since headlights are pretty much stationary, we were really confused!

As you know if you've been reading the blog these past few weeks, August is vacation month for Italians, and many take the entire month off. It's really hard to know if your favorite shop or service will be closed for one week or one month. Luckily Art ran into our mechanic at the bar just a day or two after the noise started. The bad news was that yes, the shop was closed until the following Wednesday. The good news was that the mechanic knew exactly what the problem was and told Art how to fix it!

Maybe this is a common feature in newer cars, but our car has a switch on the dashboard that allows the headlights to be adjusted up or down with just the flip of a switch. The mechanic advised Art to set the switch to zero and was sure that would solve the problem. Unfortunately it didn't, so when the shop re-opened a few days ago Art took the car in. The mechanic said he'd simply cut the wires thus eliminating the problem, and for €20 the squeaking headlight was taken care of. Problem #1 solved, and solved pretty easily and cheaply.

Problem number two began one evening when I was sitting in the kitchen. I heard a loud 'clack!', and thought that Art had dropped something while taking a shower. Then I heard the noise again. And a few minutes later, again. The source of the noise was our water softener. One of the knobs that rotates around to cycle the water softener on and off was stuck. It was trying to click over to the next cycle, but somehow it was stuck.

I hit the reset luck. I unplugged the water softener for a few minutes then plugged it back in, but after a few minutes the noise return. Guess it was time to call the technico. And of course it was the worst of all possible weeks in Italy: the week of Ferragosto. Ferragosto, August 15th, is THE day of summer vacation here in Italy, and this year it fell on a Friday, meaning that it worked out perfectly to combine Ferragosto with a weeklong holiday. Meaning that finding a repair person could be difficult, or that the wait to could be lengthy.

When we called the repair shop someone took our name and number and said they'd call back in a day or two to set an appointment. As we've discovered, this is the normal way of doing business. Maybe they don't have a calendar, or maybe the person in the office has to wait to confer with the technician, who would of course be out on the road, fixing stuff. When the phone rang the next day to ask if we'd be home the following morning we said YES!

Whatever the problem was the technico said he's have to take our water softener to the shop to be repaired. Unfortunately for him I'd just fill it up with salt right before the problem started. I offered to scoop the salt out but he said no, disconnected everything and just lifted the water softener up and carried it out to his truck. He said it would be ready in about a week.

When we called the next week to check on the progress, we were told that they'd taken the softener apart and put it back together, only to have it make the same noise as before. Now they'd have to start all over again, so it would be about another week. Aarrgghh! At this point I figured I'd better buy some Calgon (called Calfort here in Italy) to add to the washer. The reason we have the water softener is because we have VERY hard water here, and I didn't want the calcium and other minerals to build up on my washing machine OR my clothes.

We called early the next week to see when our water softener might return, and we were assured it would be back in a few days. the man in the office told Art it would could about €120, or maybe a little less. Needless to say, we were prepared with €120 cash on hand the day it was brought back, and were both a little surprised when the technico told us the bill was only €100! He said that the machine should be serviced every couple of years, just cleaned out, and that the problem was nothing serious....just lack of maintenance!

Well, €100 certainly wasn't a small amount, but amortized over the past few years it didn't seem outrageous, and we were just glad to have our soft water back! Every time I washed my hands I was reaching for the hand lotion to combat the dryness!

The next prblem would occur just a few days later, on a weekend...of course, but I'll write about that later, lest you think I'm just being whiny! These things are just a part of everyone's life, really, but somehow when they happen to you it always seems like it's at the worst possible time.


At 9/05/2008 05:30:00 AM , Blogger Gil said...

Is the water softener problem a new one or the same one you wrote about a few weeks ago? I sure hope that you didn't have to pay for a service call again! Imagine if you were poor ole 'john mc' and had to deal with the maintenance of SEVEN HOUSES!!!

At 9/05/2008 03:18:00 PM , Blogger Barbara said...

Yes gil, there was just one problem and one service call. If had had an unknown number of houses I guess I'd just hire someone to check on all the applicances on a regular basis!

At 9/11/2008 07:17:00 AM , Anonymous Judith in Umbria said...

Barb, 4 months ago my tank for the salt developed a growth that stank to high heaven. I called the plumber who sold and installed the softener and he said it was just a matter of cleaning out the tank and he would come the following Tuesday. I unplugged it.

It is now 4 months, innumerable calls from me and the contractor who hired him, I even met him in public twice, and it still is broken. I am seeking another plumber, but since it was Belfiore who got the 20 grans for installing all these systems, they really don't want the little cleanup jobs for pochi soldi. Some things I hate in this place.

At 9/11/2008 09:25:00 AM , Blogger Barbara said...

I guess we've just been lucky. After the water softener was returned, it seemed to cycle once, then stopped again, so after waiting a day or two to make sure, I called again. The technico was out that smae day and found the problem. He left a testing kit with me just in case!

He told me to check the water the next morning and if it wasn't working to call again....which we had to do! Altho they didn't come back on the same day as the phone call, they did arrive first thing the next morning, and the water was soft....I guess the first technico didn't set the machine to cycle the night he was here, so the next morning there was no change.

The technico was very polite every time he was here, but I'm hoping we've seen the last of him for a while!


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