Posted by: Sarah | June 1, 2009

Microwave Meltdown Mania

           Earlier this week, I could’ve sworn it was the apocalypse when a number of my major electronic devices bizarrely shut down at same time. I immediately called my mom, a born-again Christian, and was relieved when her chipper voice answered the phone. Okay, so the second-coming had not occurred. However, I am in Area 51 territory and on the edge of swine flu country with border patrol and illegal immigrants warring yards from my house. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I might suspect that the government had detonated an experimental bomb, and we were the recipients of its fallout. Because, honestly, to have a microwave, vacuum cleaner and my husband’s computer go kaput simultaneously leads one (with an imagination like mine) to wonder.

But after the Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme song faded, I got down to the business of fixing. A local repair shop said they could patch up the vacuum—something about a broken clutch. However, the microwave and computer were more complicated.

My husband’s computer happens to be a military-issued item. So again, if I were a theorist, I’d smirk and snarkily point out that the government screwed itself. Thankfully, he has IT people to reboot, re-program, re-install, and listen to his ranting. He’s frustrated—as any of us would be—that his files, data, case reports, and articles have simply poof-ed into never-never-land. I feel his pain. Being a writer, I can’t imagine losing my work. I’ve had my share of computer meltdowns and quickly learned that a jump-drive is gumstick-sized salvation. So we had “people” on the computer issue, but the microwave was thrown into my bailiwick.

Back when it first made a funny zip-zip noise and then immediately turned off, I simply stared at it. Perplexed. I pushed the unresponsive keypad. Then I said, “Come on. Wake up.” (My exact words.) When it didn’t obey, I tapped the top, trying to arouse response like it was a precocious toddler. I plugged and unplugged the power source before finally realizing it wasn’t coming back. So I sat in my kitchen, cold bowl of soy grits in hand, staring at it—willing it to work. Didn’t it understand that I couldn’t cook my afternoon snack? I needed its warm internal hum and comforting green console lights.  

To give you the full picture: My microwave is a grand-slammer. It’s a GE Spacemaker over-the-stove kind. A big momba-jomba. And I hadn’t a clue who fixes these kinds of things. My husband, while a brilliant doctor of the human body, is as knowledgeable as myself in the land of electronics. Meaning: We know that when you plug it in, it’s supposed to turn on; if it doesn’t, there’s a problem. Thus, all too soon my panic turned to frustration, which turned to anger. Not only did I now not have one of my most beloved and crucial sources of food preparation, I didn’t even know who or how to fix it!

Had I been home in Virginia, I’d have summoned my dad, an electronic genius. He’s got the gift. Give the man a box of broken parts, and he’ll tinker and rewire until it’s Rosie the Robot. So I called him.

“Check the fuses,” he said. “Unscrew the front cover, pull it off and check. Careful though—don’t force anything or you’ll break it.”

But it was already broken, right? No time to question. A good Army daughter follows orders in moments of crisis. So I got my Philips head and began unscrewing. First, the metal cover below fell off exposing the turntable motor, but no fuses. I kept unscrewing. The top vent fell off. Nothing but dust in there. I’d unscrewed every visible screw without the slightest glimpse of a fuse. (To be perfectly honest, had I found the fuse, I’m not 100 percent sure I’d have even known it was one. But that is neither here nor there.) Hungry and thoroughly annoyed with an hour of writing wasted by Project Screwing, I sat down and took stock of the mess of parts before me.

Who knew electronics were so complicated? I’d never considered how many plugs and fuses, fans and wingdings, belts and wires, coils and connectors made up our everyday appliances. It was infuriating! And humbling. I had to acknowledge I was completely incapable of fixing this problem. A hard pill for me to swallow. I like to think I can get myself out of any jam, but my microwave had me beat.  

So I gave in, opened the yellow pages, and found a local appliance repair guy, Murillo. He came over, took my microwave apart, and gave me a diagnosis using words like “transformer” and “magnetron.” Yes, these words exist outside of 80’s memorabilia. They are the hearts and lungs of the microwave—so I learned. Murillo laughed at my bewilderment and explained that I did nothing wrong. He wrote up a bill for the parts and labor, much like a doctor’s prescription, and said my microwave would be good as new in about a week.

I was still fuming from the whole ordeal and my new hefty bill when Murillo offered comfort.

“These things happen,” he said. “Sometimes life breaks down. But we’ll get it fixed.”

His words stopped me in my tracks. Instant attitude check.

“You’re right,” I said. “You’re very, very right.” And as I let him out, a weight lifted.

At present, my microwave is on the floor of my garage, awaiting its scheduled heart and lung transplant. My husband’s computer is refreshed and rebooted. My vacuum is va-rooming like a champ. We all know the adage ‘caca happens’ (this is the PG version). I realized it doesn’t signify the end of the world, a nuclear explosion or alien invasion. It’s life with all its sparkplugs and magnetrons, light bulbs and switches.

Yours truly, Sarah

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