It was what we call at our house “a first world problem.” The day before my brother and his family were to visit us in our tropical home on the island of Nevis, the dishwasher broke.
It had been fading for the last year or so. First the buttons controlling the cycles froze so that the ability to change from ‘pots and pans’ to ‘light wash’ was no longer available. Then the door to the compartment where you put the detergent stuck permanently closed. That meant that the initial rinse was the only part of the cycle in which soap could be introduced. We would press the Start button and pray that the ‘sanitize’ option would clean sufficiently with hot water alone. So when the machine finally gave up and said, “No more,” I was secretly glad. It meant I could justify getting a new one.
Nevis is a small island, part of a Federation with St. Kitts. It is not known for its shopping, but you can usually get what you need. I began my quest at Court’s, the small furniture store next to Ram’s – my favorite grocery stop. I circled the appliance section on the floor, looking among the refrigerators and washer/dryers. I asked the salesman where the dishwashers were. He said they were sold out.
No matter. I went on to TDC, the biggest hardware and home furnishings store on the island. It was where I had bought most of our appliances in the first place. And they have a larger store on St. Kitts, too. Surely I would have luck there. Large freezers stood beside the refrigerators, and many choices of stovetops, oven ranges, microwaves, washers, and dryers. But no dishwashers. And no, the store in St. Kitts didn’t have any either.
On to my last chance: Horsford’s Building Center. I usually stayed out of this store as it tended to be a hangout for our former property manager, Nick, with whom we had a falling out. (Another story for another time). But my motivation was high. The prospect of having to hand wash dishes for a week’s worth of guests propelled me forward. And yes, I did bump into Nick for an awkward encounter, but no, I did not find a single dishwasher – neither there nor in their St. Kitts facility.
Our fate was sealed. We would have no choice but to do what people do when they don’t have the luxury of mechanical help: wash the dishes ourselves. But that could only be a temporary fix. Offering our home as a vacation rental as we do, having no dishwasher can be a deal-breaker. We would have to replace it if we were to have any chance of renting the house next year. So, I went online to Home Depot and ordered one. It would be delivered promptly and free of charge to a shipping concern in South Florida, then shipped to Nevis within two weeks. Not soon enough for our guests, but in plenty of time for the “high season.”
My brother’s family came and went. Everyone pitched in with the dishes. We got a confirmation from Home Depot that our dishwasher had been delivered safely to Tropical Shipping in Miami. Pulmattie, our new property manager, assured us that we should have the appliance well before we left to go home in four weeks. All seemed well. But the weeks ticked by.
Finally we got a message from Tropical Shipping that our appliance was on its way and should be there by Thursday. That was a week from our scheduled departure, but with Sam, our carpenter, on call, we could expect to see our new appliance hooked up and functioning before we left.
Thursday arrived. So did a call from Pulmattie. She was calling from the port where she had gone to pay the import taxes and take possession of the delivery.
“Nicole…” she began tentatively.
Sensing her discomfort, I felt my heart drop into my stomach. Whatever she was about to say was not good news.
“ What they have delivered to you is not a dishwasher. It is a stackable washer/dryer.”
Images of what it would take to right this wrong paused a minute before they began to flood my mind: Calling Home Depot and trying to reach a human being. Convincing them that it was their error and not mine. Shipping the wrong appliance back to Tropical Shipping so it could be returned to Home Depot. Then, ordering a new one and making delivery arrangements for that. I wondered, could I have actually made that mistake?
So I checked my emails and breathed at least one sigh of relief. I had email confirmation of my order, and Home Depot’s notice of delivery to the address in Florida verified it as well. A dishwasher had been ordered and delivered. So I asked Pulmattie to check again. Minutes later, I received a photo from her by text which showed a very tall cardboard box that was marked LAUNDRY CENTER Laveuse/Sécheuse Superposées. Clearly not a dishwasher.
But wait! That box with the French labeling? That was not a box that looked like it came from Home Depot. I pleaded with my representative on the loading dock. “Don’t sign for it yet! This is not our mistake.” I took a breath and dialed Home Depot.
Cautiously navigating the options offered by the computerized receptionist, and fearful of pressing the wrong button and becoming trapped in a rabbit warren of unhelpful digital suggestions, I held my breath and moved through the instructions. The gods were with me that day. In two or three buttons, I was connected to Natalie, a competent and compassionate human sales associate who would, over the next hour or so, stick with me until the mess was sorted out. At the end of our marathon effort, I was in possession of a photograph taken at the point of delivery by the Home Depot trucker of a dishwasher – my dishwasher – on the loading dock of Tropical Shipping. Whose job it would now be to locate my appliance and make sure it reached its proper destination. At their – not our – expense.
About a week after we returned home, we received a note from Pulmattie. Tropical Shipping had located our dishwasher. Apparently, prior to settling into its work assignment at our Nevis residence, it had decided to take a final vacation cruise. The sleuths at Tropical had found it on the island of St. Thomas, many nautical miles away, taking in the sights at the US Virgin Island’s port. We’re hoping that it enjoyed its escape and expect to soon see a new photo of it comfortably nestled in next to our sink – enjoying the view of the date palms framing Mount Nevis out our kitchen window.