MPs famously bought goods from the John Lewis list for the same reason the rest of the Waitrose-classes do; they are supposed to make the whole business of buying homewares very simple. You - or we- pay them, they deliver and set up.
Hoping to experience what life is like in the Nomenklatura, I purchased a washing machine and paid the fees accordingly. Could I have got the machine cheaper by going through the warehouses? Yes, and saved at least £84, but the point about John Lewis is they are supposed to make life like their adverts.
The store offered me a delivery 'slot' of 7 hours, somewhere between 7am and 2pm. Fortunately, I don't have anything else to do but wait for deliveries - it's not like I've got a life or anything - and, anyway, the weather is a reasonable excuse for delay.
At just before 12pm - note, five hours in to the delivery 'slot' - they called and so when they arrived the door was open, the old machine had been drained (as far as possible) and disconnected, ready to go. The space was clear and clean, all the little valves were turned off.
The new machine was brought in, unpacked, the hot-fill pipe capped off with a brass screw-cap (it's all cold fill now) and the cold-fill hose offered up to the opening in the side of the sink unit. Due to an anti-flood device on the hose, the hole was approximately 3mm too small and need to be relieved .
"We can't do that, we aren't qualified" said the man. Things went very bad from there on.
It inspires utter contempt when a grown man says he can't file the edge of a hole in chipboard. It's not cabinet making. It's not even woodwork. It doesn't matter that strictly speaking, it's not their job. I could not hold myself out as a man, allegedly the possessor of a gentleman's plumbing, if I were unable to slightly enlarge a hole in a material which is only one-up from cardboard.
I would not expect to seduce women if I could not do even that. Heck, I would not expect to seduce men if I could not do even that. I would expect even the dogs and sheep to run away laughing, spurning my sexual advances when they found out I could not ease a hole in chipboard in a non-visible part of a kitchen.
We aren't talking about 3ml all the way round or making a hole from scratch; we are talking about nibbling at a couple of points on an existing hole so the anti-flood device - roughly the size of large matchbox on the end of the cold-fill hose - goes through.
"We can't do that" repeated the mis-named installer, sticking rigidly to the John Lewis liability line.
Thoroughly bad-tempered words were had with the customer service moppet at John Lewis, who asked if I didn't have somebody who could help me make holes in chipboard? I told her that as I had been waiting for five hours, if they had said they needed a 7.5mm hole, I'd have nibbled it out ready with a junior hacksaw.
We were talking, I repeat, about removing a couple of millimetres of chipboard on the edge of an existing hole. You could probably do it with determination and steak-knife. A century of feminism and 130 years of public education for all, and somehow it strikes an otherwise capable young woman as inconceivable that a mere female could slightly enlarge a hole in chipboard for herself if given due warning of the necessity of access. No, she must perforce throw herself on the mercy of her saw-bearing male relatives.
Miss Customer Service has probably passed all the customer communication courses but still failed to predict that "Haven't you got anyone who can help you?" is a) beside the point and b) tantamount to calling the customer an ugly old bag who can't get a man. This is unlikely to elicit a warm response, especially if true. We aren't here to argue about how well-connected I am to a tribe of obliging hole-enlargers; that is irrelevant. JLP charged a premium for the machine plus an installation fee then, faced with a few millimetres of awkward chipboard with photocopies of wood on top, gave up and ran off for an early lunch, looking for an excuse to not do their job but still get paid.
I then proposed to enlarge the hole myself and wanted to know when they were sending the installers back.
"They've gone to the next job now" said the woman.
"No they haven't. They are having a shufty fag as they've got some spare time now and I can see them over the road".
The young woman then made an offer she obviously thought was supposed to have me grovelling "Well, provided you can do it Right Now, we'll send them back".
I got the saw from the tool box and set about the nibbling. Thirty seconds later the installer appeared at the front door and asked when I'd be finished. I said - and I accept this was inflammatory - "Between 12 and 2" and told him to wait in the van until I called him. For some reason, JLP does not seem to like waiting for the customer, although of course, it's alright if you wait five hours for them. He very well knew it was about a ten minute job. He was scheduled to run a test wash - to make sure nothing was leaking - so all that stuff about having to go immediately was utter bollocks. He was skiving and was narked about being caught out.
"Well, if that's your attitude, I won't try to help you"
At this point I just stared and said "Help?"
Did this man think was doing me a favour, that he had not in fact been paid the agreed price to install a machine but was here as a voluntary washing machine installer. How he was helping? Helping would have been to whip out a Stanley knife such as they use on the van to slit the packaging (not that he thought to bring in a pair of scissors to cut the polythene) and set to relieving the hole that few millimeters, possibly whilst saying 'This is not really my job, but if you don't tell anyone, I won't'.
Or, if feeling very worried about the company line and possible liabilities, then he could have said 'Look, can you cut out that bit quickly? Only I'm not insured. I'll have a sandwich as it is snap time, then do the installation'. A brave man would have done the former, even a lawyer would offered to do the second.
This was waiting for the customer to sort it out and then trying to act like the big man for finally, finally condescending to do one's job, but only under perfect conditions. This is the Can't Do Culture.
I've known fey gay hairdressers to have more guts. 'Pass me the Big Rasp, Julian, the one we normally use for your toenails, I just have to adjust this access port'.
You wouldn't get a Pole talking cobblers about it not being his job; he'd punch a hole with his bare fist and then shrug: 'You want hole bigger, I make hole bigger. In Poland we have hardwood kitchen, not chipboard, not since Soviets.'
You wouldn't get an Afghan tribesman taking nonsense from a kitchen fitment. Admittedly their standard answer is to shoot the hole bigger with a Kalashnikov and then wonder why the cold water is spraying everywhere, but they would hold their manhood cheap if intimidated and defeated by 3mm of compressed sawdust.
Since I refused to give his ego a blow-job and be abjectly grateful for being allowed a few minutes of his valuable time, the installer flounced off. I'm not really sorry; I didn't trust him to do the job at all.
This is the job being done. I nibbed out the unwanted material, cutting it in little triangles. Following the installation instructions I completed the job (the transportation bolts had already been removed but I found I could have managed it as they give you a special spanner) then called a grown-up plumber who stopped by to check I'd done it correctly. It is three connections, four if you count screwing the cap on to the redundant hot water valve. Anyone can plug in the electricity. Screwing in the cold valve is fiddly, but no worse than a bottle-top. Connecting the waste hose is just pushing a hose on to a tapered pipe so that it fits snuggly. A spirit level helps tell if the feet need to be adjusted. You can tell when it is working properly; the clothes get washed and the floor does not flood.
The most difficult part turns out to be the sheer handling of the weight and tomorrow I will get glides to help move the machine in to its housing.