Thursday, September 24, 2009

It’s Always Something

We’ve blown up two brand new electric ranges in less than a week.


It’s that time of (life?) (the moon?) (the alignment of the planets?) when stuff goes wrong.  I mentioned our kitchen issues here.  There’s more.  And then there’s more. 

We decided to pursue our original idea of buying a compact range, as opposed to ripping out and replacing perfectly good cabinets and a nice countertop, and making a new big hole in our brick house, etc. to the tune of might-as-well-be-a-million-bucks, just so we could open the oven door like we think normal people do.  We wanted a 24-inch stainless steel self-cleaning oven.  They’re scarce.  And for reasons that are counter-intuitive, they are twice as much as standard-sized ranges.  The most “reasonable” was a GE.  It duly arrived, accompanied by a GE tech and a helper, and our plain old but not very old white range was delivered out of its tight space, barely avoiding a C-section.  The guys hauled it out to the truck.  The new, cute, smaller range was put into place and plugged in.  Burners were turned on.  Good to go so far. 

Oven was turned on.  Ten or 15 seconds passed.  There was a spark and a big bang.  We all shouted.  The new range was dead, and our circuit breaker was tripped.  The technician also had a burned thumb from thinking he’d been shot and laying his hand down on the still-hot smooth cooktop.

Our old range was hauled back in from the truck, plugged in and worked fine, just like always.  We all figured the blowing up thing  must have been a fluke.  They said we’d get another range in less than a week, and we did.

The same crew came back, only this time they didn’t take the old white range all the way out to the truck.  We all joked about it, because we knew the second range wouldn’t blow up.  But it did.  Everyone shouted again but the technician remembered not to put his hand down on the hot cooktop. 

The old white range went into her space with not a little crankiness.  She might have been a little swollen from all the tugging she’d endured.  The technician said he probably wouldn’t order a third range, but just in case, we should have an electrician out to check our circuitry.  Maybe it was a little higher than it should be, throwing off the newer range, he theorized. 

We had an electrician out for just under a hundred dollars.  Our circuitry is fine.  What we had was two defective brand new ranges in a row.  The electrician moved the  old white range forward a little bit (she was really pissed off this time and tried to refuse) so we could open the oven door.  She’s not flush with the cabinetry, but the door opens and she doesn’t look bad.  We’re going to leave it alone now.  Figure we saved at least $700.00. 

Then the air conditioning system went out in the car.  No fan.  The Honda guy said over the phone it was probably a relay switch.  I’m guessing it  probably costs $32.95 and labor is $329.95.   It’s due for a 60,000 mile check anyway.  That’s another $400.00.   We’re taking the car in tomorrow because it’s close to 90 degrees here.

There goes the money we “saved” on the range.  I told Sheila that God had sent us two defective GE ranges because He knew about the air conditioning system.  She said He’s pretty smart.

Then last night we had just gone to bed and all The Pets were tucked in for the night as well.  There was a huge crashing/rumbling noise and the whole house shook.  At first I thought it was Sheila falling into her closet, as last week she fell into the hall closet (she just takes a notion to stagger sometimes and never drinks more than one glass of wine).  We had to have a nice strong neighbor come over and get the sliding closet door back on track.  But it wasn’t Sheila this time, so we chalked it up to an oak tree limb falling on the roof.  They’re “self-pruning” as neighbor Linda says.  It was too dark to investigate.

This morning it was dark when I got up.  Miss T wanted out on the back porch but refused to go outside as usual and seemed to be glaring suspiciously at something out there in the dark.  When daylight came, turned out she had been glaring at an enormous self-pruning oak tree limb which was lying across the yard.  It had ripped the power line completely away from the house and the wires were draped across the grass and walkway.  There was also a piece of vinyl siding lying on the grass.  We had all the siding painted earlier this year.

The power company man came out and fixed the line.  He cheerfully reported that the wood under the place where the siding had come off is rotten.  Just so we know.

It was nice that the electrician mentioned back in the part about checking the circuitry had not yet come back to install the back yard floodlight we talked to him about.  Because it would have come down with the power line.  So that’s a cost savings as well.

Meanwhile, as Gilda Radner once said, “It’s always something.”  And it’s never what you worry about.  So don’t worry.  Be happy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another Day At The Pool


Honk if you believe in civility.  (I heard a radio DJ pronounce it “civil-ty” today, but at least she believed in it.)  Last night we had a Representative from South Carolina yelling “You lie!” to a sitting President of the United States, who was addressing a joint session of Congress.  The Congressman apologized today for his lack of civility.  The young radio DJ didn’t even know how to pronounce the word.  It’s not used much these days.

This morning I went to “Poolates,” a Pilates-class-in-92-degree-water for mostly old broads, including some really old broads.  There are usually about 15 of us, including almost always a certain woman named Shirley.  We’ve all had a Shirley in a class of some sort, and when you’re as old as I am, you’ve had a Shirley in one class too many.  My friend Mary Gretchen and I keep fantasizing about ways to drown Shirley in the pool.  Shirley would be a manic depressive if she had a depressive stage, but she seems to be stuck in permanent mania.  She must talk louder than anyone else.  She must comment on each and every word out of the instructor’s mouth.  She must constantly require “help.”  She once held the entire class hostage while she told a long, very boring  joke. 

Anyway, Shirley was there.  So was a large woman I hadn’t seen before.  When the instructor threw a beach ball into the water and called out “Toss this around, y’all,” just before the class got going, the strange woman glowered.  “I thought this was a Pilates class,” she barked over the hubbub.  “It is,” replied our genteel little  instructor, “it’s just a fun way to get it started.”  “This is not the kind of atmosphere I would expect to have in a Pilates class,” growled Strange Woman.  Then, as the class started the first exercises, she heaved herself out of the pool.  Now, people come and go from the pool all the time.  But as Strange Woman disappeared around a corner, Shirley bellowed to all of us, “Never mind, y’all.  It’s just bad karma or she got out on the wrong side of the bed this morning.”  Typical Shirley.

The next thing we knew, Strange Woman reappeared from around the corner where we all thought she’d gone for good, holding a pair of goggles in her hand.  “Maybe you could say that a little louder,” she yelled across the pool to Shirley.  “I couldn’t hear you very well.”  For once, Shirley’s mouth was hanging open with no words coming out.  “And then,” continued Strange Woman in a menacing tone, “you could shut your mouth.” 

“Shit, man!” I thought to myself.  “This could be an old lady SmackDown!”  But to my relief or disappointment, nothing further happened.  Strange Woman starting doing laps by herself, with her goggles on, and Shirley recovered sufficiently to huff “Well!  I apologize to everyone!  I seem to have misinterpreted.”  Then she was about 3% quieter for the rest of the class.  In what I have concluded was typical Southern lady fashion, my classmates and the genteel little instructor did not betray by word or eyelash that they had heard or seen a thing, and I followed suit.

Seems to be happening a lot lately.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I Hate Cooking Anyway


Sheila and I have bought three houses together, including one in Mexico.  Here’s what happened last time, building on a theme established with the first two houses:

Sheila walks in the front door and proceeds two or three feet.  “I love this house,” she announces to me and the strange realtor who will now refuse to negotiate the price more than ten or fifteen dollars.  Something ineffable has called to her, and she is  happy.   I like her to be happy, so I try to look around with her eyes.  That way, I don’t  really see the 1950’s painted metal cabinets (no, not well preserved) in the miniscule kitchen or the faded,scratched, gouged, outerspace-theme countertop in same kitchen across from the gasping refrigerator. 

It’s six years later.  We have replaced every appliance in the kitchen and laundry room except for the water heater, which was born in 1983 and is no doubt planning a hideous end for us and The Pets.  We have replaced the countertops twice and the cabinets once.  We have spent thousands of dollars on a kitchen that still looks like crap.

A significant number of thousand dollar bills were siphoned off  last summer by a contractor named Alan who spent lots of  time making friends with us and reappearing on numerous occasions to re-measure.  Why was it not obvious to us what is going on when a man measures the same space 15 or 16 times?  The man is trying to make the answer come out differently, you bozo!  There’s a problem here!

But Ms. and Ms. Bozo did not notice.  My father was busy dying last summer and I was still working a million hours a day.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, She had a problem with her heart that was not allowing  for proper blood flow to her brain.  I am not trying to be funny.   To skip all the painful details and cut to what you saw coming, Alan did not measure correctly.  Well, everything fit in snugly without the molding around the doors, which was the way Alan left it so that we could “touch up” the paint later.  When we finally got around to “touching up” (the entire kitchen needed two coats) the paint and putting the door molding back, months later after my father’s death and She’s open heart surgery, we couldn’t open the oven door.  Alan was off by about an inch, and had left us no wiggle room.

This could be a 600 page book with the next chapter titled “Various People Offer Advice” and taking up 500 pages of the book.  What I am trying to say is, don’t butt in here with a brilliant suggestion.  1) Anything that involves Alan is either not possible or involves the discharge of a firearm. 2) We’ve already heard it and it won’t work.  3) It costs anywhere from 10 thousand to a gazillion dollars, and involves ripping out lots of things that are fairly new and we like and we already paid a lot of money for and it still won’t look all that great, even though the oven door will open.

Here’s what happens most of the time when people offer advice on anything in your house, whether they are friendly amateurs or professionals:

1) They ask you who put this in. 

2) They tell you that something isn’t centered, and in everyone else’s kitchen in the entire world, even in mud huts, it is.

3) They hint that although everything appears to be up to code, your house will probably still burn down.  After it explodes.  A variation on this is “It could happen tomorrow or not for 20 years.”

4) They warn you sternly that the simple solution that you yourself have come up with, albeit in your opinion still costly, will keep your house from selling 15 years from now when one of you is dead and the other one is headed off to the nursing home and doesn’t give a shit.

5) They tell you that the part  that you like and think looks good is the low-grade, low-class, ugly, cheap version and the clear implication is that everyone else, even people who live in mud huts, knows this.

6) They tell you that if you pay $10,000 in cash instead of credit, they will give you a $90 discount and let you have something that already belongs to you “for free.” 

Thanks for listening.  I know what we’re going to do now.