Monday, January 28, 2013


It's difficult to think of a kitchen appliance as mundanely necessary as a microwave oven. It wasn't always that way. One of the first trickle-down gifts of the space age, I remember mother breathlessly reciting to her coffee klatch the highlights of the Amana Radarange commercial. "The food cooks, but the inside of the oven stays cool. Cool to the touch!"

Gasp! I mean, Yawn.

It would still be a few more years before mother finally got her own microwave oven. She would delight in putting a cold hotdog into a stale bun, rolling it in a paper towel and voila, dinner was served.  The real technological miracle of the 70's was knocking hotdogs from kids' #1 favorite food down to #179, between beets and black licorice.

That was also when we had to stop buying the cheapest generic paper towels and step up to Bounty or Brawny or one of those quality brands that didn't hide metal filings within their plies. Sure, they were good enough to scour our grubby faces clean, but incinerate a couple of hotdogs and the bargain dissipates.

Fast-forward to the present when, with sentimental remorse, I had to say goodbye to our 1996 Kenmore over-the-range microwave oven. It wasn't my childhood memories which attached me to this particular appliance. I'd inherited it from my ex, Joe, when he upgraded his kitchen to stainless-steel in 2002. (Joe is always upgrading something, and I'm never too proud to be the beneficiary of his hand-me-downs. I got my Eddie Bauer bedroom suite when lodge-style rustic became passé.)

Now in 2013, the old Kenmore was showing its age. It still worked, but it's plastic white facade was tinged yellow and the loose door handle finally broke off completely. The inside was scorched, with melted plastic brackets where an oven rack used to be.

I remembered when the Kenmore was brand new. It was 1996 and Joe had just closed on the swanky new condo he's still so proud of. After a long day helping him move his furniture in (that Eddie Bauer shit is heavy!) I picked up some beer and frozen pizza. We opened two beers and toasted to Joe's first night in his new place. That's when we smelled the smoke.

I guess I neglected to check inside the oven before turning it on to pre-heat. The brand new oven still had its owner's manual in a plastic bag which was now in flames visible through the tinted glass door. After putting out the fire and opening all the windows until the smoke alarm stopped screeching, Joe snapped. "GET OUT!!!"

"Uh, my car's at my house." Joe drove me home and dropped me off without a word. It was two weeks before he'd speak to me again. But it would be two more years before Joe disclosed how the rest of that evening went down.

It seems that on the way back to his brand new condo, Joe -- very upset and still hungry -- made a stop at Wendy's drive-thru. By the time he got his burger home it was only lukewarm, so he popped it into his brand new Kenmore microwave oven and turned his attention to filling his brand new Jacuzzi bath tub with hot water. That's when he heard the smoke alarm... again. He ran to his brand new kitchen to see his foil-wrapped burger in flames though the microwave window.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it was pretty sturdy, despite being melted inside. I've been through three microwaves during that time period.