They say bad things come in threes and it has been a story of thrice bitten in my household just recently.
I never used to believe in old wives' tales and always scoffed at my elder female relatives when they panicked after breaking a mirror or inadvertently walking under a ladder.
"Don't be ridiculous," I'd say scathingly as they plotted the family's doom after finding 13 beans in the garden, or discovering an open umbrella in the house.
"Bad luck happens for no real reason - it just happens."
But the nearer I get to my half- century, the more those nuggets of dodgy wisdom seem to be echoing in my mind when stuff happens - like a black cat crossing my path or a salt cellar spilling on the table during a feed of fish and chips.
So when the lawn mower upped and croaked last weekend, I knew it was an ill wind that blew no good. Let me fill you in on the background. If you are a neighbour of mine, you'll know fairly intimately that I have a problem with our current model, a classic 20-year-old Briggs and Stratton that was handed down to my husband by his late stepfather.
Now, you might call me cruel, given that the mower was lovingly bestowed on my better half just a short time before my father-in-law died. But that thing has been nothing but trouble since we got it and I'm sure it dislikes our garden intensely.
It has been regularly serviced, kept in storage when not in use, cleaned and oiled until the cows come home and treated almost like a fourth child of the family; but the blasted thing buggers up without warning at least twice a year.
The last time it blew its cool, I carefully and tenderly sat my husband down and told him if he got it fixed again I was leaving him.
By my calculations, the mower was costing us more to fix annually than the cost of a new one.
"But the lawnmower-fixing guy says it's a classic that is really well made and should always be repaired," Hubby pleaded.
Of course he'd say that, I retorted, we were probably keeping his two kids in private school on our repair bills alone.
Oddly, my dad - who usually espouses fixing things over buying new without careful consideration - was on my side. "You can get them from Mitre 10 for $299," he said eagerly, "and it's the same engine.
"Tell him to chuck the old one away."
I'm still working on that.
The next day, I was busy at work when Hubby, who has been on summer holiday for what seems like five months, rang to report an unusual event that was to become our second "bad thing". The double-drawer dishwasher, my pride and joy, was flashing F1 on both control panels and wasn't turning off.
"Does it have heaps of dirty dishes in it?" I asked, dreading the reply. "Yep," he replied. "Something bad is happening, isn't it? What does F1 mean?"
I gulped with fear.
"It means the flood switch has been activated, and you'll need to turn the tap and mains power off and immediately call your F&P dealer or authorised service centre," I droned. Yes, I've read the entire "use and care guide". Doesn't everyone?
The lady at the end of the call centre phone soothed my concern as she looked up our repair history.
"You've had quite a few things happening with this one, haven't you?" she said serenely. "It's getting a little old."
"But," I squeaked, "it's stainless steel and it looks so lovely against my blue kitchen cabinetry and granite benchtop."
Hubby drew a line across his throat with his out-stretched finger. "It's time we got a normal one," he mouthed.
"Over my dead body," I mouthed back.
Oddly, my dad - who has had his share of dishwasher problems - was on Hubby's side. "Just get a basic one with 958 months' interest-free," he suggested.
"But I like stainless steel dishdrawers," I whinged. I don't like white."
My Hubby's still working on that one.
Two days later, my Eldest Child, who has recently returned to the Big Smoke with a new job, texted me on his first day there. "Smfng fny hapend 2 car ths mrn," he messaged.
Once I'd got the message in English and realised it was probably the third "bad thing", I rang him back.
Turns out his car had stopped, emitted a plume of smoke, belched and then hissed.
"Do I need a bit of oil, do you think?" he said. I wondered for the umpteenth time how I'd bred three children with a mechanic for a grandad, who could all be so clueless when it came to cars.
A tow home and checkout from our friendly local mechanic revealed the damage. Running through the list of things wrong, (aren't mechanics great at spewing forth intricate details that you have absolutely no show of understanding) he paused, took a great breath and said, "Basically, the bill comes to $1012.35 and I'm not sure the car's worth that much in the first place."
Hubby visibly whitened. "That means he'll have to use your car for a while," he hissed. "No, yours," I hissed back.
My dad - an expert on these things - agreed with both of us that it was probably time to see off the old red Lantra to that great carwash in the sky. Eldest Child looked distraught, hiccupped twice, said "But I love that car" and went to his room to recover with his own thoughts for a while.
We're still working on that one.
She, once known as Little Weenie, gave me a cuddle later that night. "You know, Mum," she said, "bad things coming in threes is just a load of bullshite. Bad luck just happens, sometimes for no reason at all."
I smirked inside at her innocence. Give her 30 years, I thought and she'll understand that old wives are the wisest of them all.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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