SISYPHUS ISN’T THE ONLY ONE
The day after I brought my husband home from the hospital post heart attack, our oven died. First, though, it tried to kill me. As if I didn’t have enough trauma in my life already.
When I touched the “Off” spot on the digital control, a spark flew out and knocked me across the room. Well, not totally across the room because our kitchen is wide, but I flew some distance while shouting “Holy Shit!” an involuntary response having nothing to do with a working brain. Pain and shock delivered in a single WHAM! The control panel’s dark face stared back at me and my finger and hand tingled. I’d just been tasered by my oven. I took umbrage.
Have you ever thought about how much you bake or how much you take using an oven for granted? We lived three months short two days with no oven and I am now well aware that I do not enjoy the caveman lifestyle of supper in a pot night after night. Now that I think of it, I do believe at least cavemen had a spit and they roasted their meat. Since we live on the Oregon coast and the months involved were February, March, April, and May, obviously in the downpours a campfire has not been possible. We couldn’t even get our burn pile of dried, pruned twigs to stay lit for long. So forget the rotisseried roast. Besides, red meat was off our menu anyway, given previous circumstances.
The next day, post-jolt, while I was away exercising and grumbling and complaining about post-traumatic stress, my husband called the local appliance coroner who pronounced the oven control truly zapped and revealed the price of a replacement unit--$600. That was a cruel thing to do to a man recovering from a heart attack. Then, he delivered the second punch. We were 22 days over our year-long warranty. Achhh! Or, “Shit!” without the “Holy.”
However, he redeemed himself almost immediately by revealing this brand and year of stove seemed to be plotting homicide all over the US. Many households have been attacked as ours was and the company wanted to keep the story of these nasty ranges under wraps. The oven coroner suggested that when we contacted the company to order the replacement control unit, we should mention not only that the unit tried to kill me and nearly succeeded, but that we understood from our repairperson the zappance was a common occurrence with this model range. The repairperson lay on the floor and read the model number and serial number to my husband, who wrote it on the blank space for such in our stove manual.
I must insert here an important fact that will later play a major role: my husband cannot hear well without his hearing aids and he probably wasn’t wearing them at the time he was transcribing numbers.
When I returned from my exercise and grumblefest, I was given the number to call concerning the ordering of the part. I must insert here that I also cannot hear well, especially on the phone, even when it’s on speakerphone mode. Also, I despise making calls of this sort but it was one step up from being dead on my kitchen floor and my husband needed rest, having his own sticker shock of the day from which to recover.
I called the customer service number the oven coroner had written. The person who answered was genderless. I could not determine if I was speaking to a male or female, not that it matters, but what did matter was that he or she had been gifted with an accent that I could neither decipher nor understand. I speak three languages and have taught two of them but the accent was more than I could decode. Also, even with the phone on speakerphone mode, I could barely hear hisher voice.
Back and forth went endless repetitions, first, on my part and then,on hisher part. Name, address, phone number, place of purchase. Neither of us was having much fun.
“I am so sorry to inform you that your warranty is out of date and you will have to purchase the part yourself,” I was told.
“Yes, I know we are two weeks past the warranty, but our repairperson told us that these ranges are having the same problem all over the United States. He said that your company would probably want to comp us the part. And I did get badly shocked.”
Silence, half a minute long. The unstated implication of lawsuit understood. Long enough to turn pages in the Manual of Appropriate Response.
“Very well, Ma’am, my supervisor has informed me that the control unit will be sent to you, but you will be responsible for the labor and installation.”
“Yes, I understand that. Thank you.”
“What is the model number of your range?”
I shouted the numbers and letters my husband had written in the manual to the person on the other end of the line and heher informed me that no such numbers existed. He read to me the numbers and letters that he thought should be the correct ones.
“Just a minute, please. I will go look again.”
During this exchange my husband stood in the kitchen in a stupor, stymied by not knowing what to do to improve matters.
“You didn’t write the numbers down correctly,” I hissed at him.
Once he realized that I was going to have to lie on the floor and look in the warming drawer at the numbers through whichever segment of my trifocals worked, if any, he went somewhere and retrieved a teensy, six-inch long,1/2 inch in diameter, paint-spattered flashlight and handed it to me. I know we have bigger, more efficient flashlights in the house like the one I have next to my bed with which to bop a burglar should it be necessary. This trainer-model flashlight was pathetic.
Aiming its feeble light and trying to see the number-letter series, I wrenched my neck up and down to peer through each tri-focal lens to find the one that would reveal the numbers clearly to me. Once I found the correct lens, then I had to remember the series, juggle the paper, pen, and flashlight so I could write, and record the numbers and letters. By this point, I was so peeved I almost cried.
I recited the series to himher and they matched up with what heshe had.
Then I listened to the part number for the control unit and wrote it in the manual.
“We will send this part to you and then your service provider will install it. It will take about four weeks.”
“Thank you so much.”
Ha-ha-ha-ha! That is the cruel laugh of Fate.
We patiently waited five weeks while for meals I prepared soup, stew, spaghetti, ravioli, and sautéed bits of vegetables, fish, and chicken. I used a crock pot. I used an electric frying pan which I had to dig out of a cupboard in the garage and wash. What I could not use was the oven.
At the end of week five, I called the company customer service number.
This time I could tell gender—a woman answered. I explained the problem to her.
“Now what is it you want to be replaced?” she asked.
“The digital control unit for the range.”
“We don’t have units here.”
“I can give you the number.” I read it to her.
“Oh,” she said, understanding. “That’s a part. We don’t have units, we have parts.”
I thought bad thoughts. Something along the line of IDIOT!
“When can I expect my part?” I asked.
“We don’t send the part. You have to give your number to the registered licensed service provider in your area and they order the part from us.”
“I was told it would be sent to me. That’s why we waited five weeks now.”
“Oh, no. We never send parts. I can’t imagine you being told that. Would you like me to look up the name and number of your licensed service provider?”
I live in a rural town on the coast of Oregon. There is only one provider for miles and miles.
Yep. I was given the name and number of our only licensed service provider. I thanked her, and moved on to the next step, which was like starting the process over again. Sisyphus, I feel your pain. I called the service provider.
I explained the entire proceeding up to this point to the woman on the phone.
“Who came out to look at the stove?”
“I don’t know. Someone from your shop. I wasn’t home.”
“Could your husband describe him?”
“He’s at work and he never pays attention to appearance anyway, so I doubt it.”
“Well, we have no record of anyone from this shop having been out to your house. Let me check around and I’ll get back to you.”
“Wait! Here’s the part number so you can get it ordered.” I read it to her.
The weekend came and went.
Tuesday I called. Again. A different woman. The same conversation.
“We will have to send someone to look at the stove before we can order the part.”
“I gave you the part number to order. Do you have it there?”
“Yes, but we have to have someone look at the stove before we can order the part.”
“Someone already came out here the day after it happened. We know it doesn’t work. We have the part order number.”
“We have no record of being there, so…”
“When can someone come?”
I was given a date and time a week later during which neither of us would be able to be home. I gave instructions for where to find the key. In the meantime, I asked my husband if he remembered the person who came that first time, what he looked like or his name. He remembered the name.
On the appointed day, someone came I know, because little dust blobs were all over the kitchen floor, reminders that pulling out an appliance from the wall to clean under it is not high on my list of housecleaning priorities.
Plus, now not even the top of the stove, the gas part, worked because the repairman had unplugged the stove. On top of the stove was a yellow sticky note with a message to call “Duane.” Oh. I’d thought perhaps his name might be “Godot.”
I called the number but it wasn’t Duane. It was the clerk. I told her the first repair person’s name.
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “He doesn’t work here. His wife works where you purchased the range and he’s an out-of-work contractor who’s picking up odd jobs with them.”
One mystery solved. He was not a registered licensed service provider at all.
“Duane found the part that needs ordering is different from the one you were told,” she said. “We’ll get that ordered for you. It will be about a week.”
“And now not even the top part of the stove works,” I told her.
“We have to unplug them for safety issues. We don’t want something to go wrong and blow up. You can plug it back in if you’d like, but we have to leave them unplugged after we inspect them.”
Oh. Great. Our gas stove top with the electric-generated spark could have blown up the stove, our house and us. Why did the first person not tell us to unplug the stove?
A week later, after using a propane lighter to turn on the burners, I called the shop.
“Is the part in?”
“Let me go check,” she said. Returning, she said that nothing was in yet but that she was expecting a shipment that afternoon.
I waited another week. Meanwhile, each time I lit the propane gas burner with a propane lighter, I kept wondering what if the latter ignited the gas in the former? The only thing different in our situation from camp cooking was that there was a roof over our heads. And I was not a happy camper.
I called the licensed service provider once again.
“Just wondering if our part was in yet.” Same song, third verse. Could get better but it always gets worse.
“We’re expecting a shipment today, so we’ll call and let you know.”
That night my husband decided he would go to the actual licensed service provider shop in person the next day. He stands 6’4” and people tend to take notice when he walks up to them. Things happen when he needs them to. He went. Things happened. The part had arrived. Everyone concerned made arrangements. We had to leave for a weekend event, so the key would be left under the mat.
All weekend away we dreamed of what we would do when we walked in the door and saw a working stove top and oven once again.
When we opened the front door, we raced for the kitchen. Nothing.
My husband called the licensed service provider the next morning. Normally even-keeled, he was now not a happy camper either.
“Heh-heh,” the clerk said. “Duane ordered the wrong part part but he thinks he has the right one in stock. We’ll call you back.”
No, the right part was not in stock and would need to be ordered. Why would we think otherwise? This whole oven incident reminded me more and more of that old movie where a couple buys a house only to find everything that could go wrong with a new house does go wrong.
A week later, my husband called to inquire whether the proper part had arrived. It had and arrangements were made. My husband told them distinctly where the key would be, since once again, we would be gone.
All weekend away, we dreamed of what we would do when we walked in the door and saw a working stove top and oven once again.
When we opened the front door, we raced for the kitchen. Nothing.
Yes, I have written those two same paragraphs before.
Immediately, my husband called the licensed service provider.
“Duane looked everywhere for the key and couldn’t find it,” she said.
“Hmmm, that’s strange,” my husband said, “because I told him it would be under the mat and I’m standing here looking at it right now.”
Once again, arrangements were made. I would be gone but my husband took the afternoon off work to receive Duane just in case that pesky key vanished again.
When he arrived home at noon and walked in the kitchen, awaiting him was a lighted digital oven control, burners that lighted with the electric spark, and an oven that worked. Like a Ninja on a stealth mission, Duane had found the elusive key where it had lain under the mat five days in a row and done his work while we were both away.
We did a happy dance all around the kitchen. We celebrated with baked pork chops and brownies that night. All was well with the world, finally. Sisyphus rolled his rock all the way to the top of the hill and it stayed there.
I don’t actually touch the control pad with bare fingers, though. I use the end of a plastic spoon. I’m not going to tempt fate and go through this torture again.
I won’t tell you the name of the appliance company from which you should never buy this model of gas cooktop/electric oven range, but my husband calls it “Friggin’ Dare.” It’s a subsidiary of Electrolux.
And I won’t tell you the name of the licensed service provider shop either because it’s the only one in town and with all the “Friggin’ Dare” appliances we have purchased in the last three years, we need a good working relationship. In fact, Duane has been here so often we actually consider him one of our family. He’s seen our dust bunnies and he knows where the key is. Most of the time.