Dishwasher's broken; swift kick won't help

The Baltimore Sun

Right now, my dishwasher is on lockdown.

The dishwasher door opens -- I can load it or unload it, so it's technically unlocked. But the controls are locked. And so the fact that its door opens is really unimportant at this point, unless I just want to open it up periodically to check on the status of the dirty dishes.

I seem to be doing a lot of that. I liken it to turning off your computer and unplugging your modem when you have an Internet connection issue; I'm hoping that repeatedly opening and closing my dishwasher door is going to cause the "controls locked" button to reset. So far, no luck. I've decided to stop wasting time on this issue and do something constructive about the situation: Write a column about it.

Until this morning, I didn't even know my dishwasher had a "controls locked" feature. A definitive sign of my aging, my first thought was: "Why would anyone need a 'controls locked' feature on a dishwasher?"

But then I experienced a flashback to my college son's formative years, when his nickname was Mr. Busy. Mr. Busy would toddle around the house, and if I left him unsupervised for a moment, say, to use the restroom, I would emerge to find him standing on a stool, flicking the light switch off and on, off and on, laughing delightedly at his power to control the universe of the kitchen.

I recall once after a business conference call, I couldn't locate Mr. Busy, whom I had left for two minutes under the care of the annoyingly ingratiating purple dinosaur on the family room television. I found him locked behind a set of bifold closet doors in the front hallway; he had unscrewed the doorknobs from the inside. Mr. Busy even figured out the childproof locks on our water cooler, so that every time I sat on the couch to feed his newborn sister, he could conveniently flood the kitchen floor with Pure Mountain Spring Water.

I am sure there are other busy toddlers out there who would find nothing quite so stimulating as running the dishwasher every few minutes. So good for you, Whirlpool, for developing the "controls locked" feature. But can you help me out here? I'm cycling through my problem-solving options, and I'm coming up dry.

I can't believe I discovered this feature of my dishwasher only this morning, about six years after I purchased it, and long after I have lost the operating instructions. I happily replaced the dishwasher installed by our builder 14 years ago -- a cheapo model with the running sound of an industrial wood chipper. I remember being a little anxious about the new model's fancy "electronic touch-pad controls," but I bought it anyway based on its stellar ratings in a consumer magazine on the quietness attribute. At that point, we in the Gilbert family did not care so much about whether our dishes were clean, so long as our kitchen didn't sound like a landing strip.

But now, I have an uneasy feeling that a problem with the electronic touch pad is going to be neither easy to diagnose nor to fix. And I'm just not ready to have a $60 house call to unlock the controls of my dishwasher. I'm thinking that if I have to resort to that, I'm going to pull loose a few brackets or hoses to make the repair call worthwhile.

So I'm going to try a few innovative procedures, such as you might see on a really tedious DIY Network reality program during the Writers' Guild of America strike. First, I plan to push various combinations of the cycle-selection buttons to see if I magically hit the code that releases the lock. Next, I think I'll try pushing all the buttons more emphatically, as with a hammer. And finally, I plan to wash the dishes.

Contact Janet at janet@janetgilbertonline. com.

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