Thursday, December 30, 2010


This morning I introduced myself to the new coffee maker on the counter. “Hello,” I said coolly. “You look familiar. If it weren’t for that swanky little clock near your base, I’d say you were identical to the last two coffee pots that sat in your place.”
“And who are you?” she asked hotly, burbling out the last few drops. I suppose she had a right to be a bit huffy, given my tactless reference to her predecessors. What she doesn’t know is that there have been at least a dozen others I didn’t mention.
“I’m Microwave,” I answered loftily from my perch on the shelf beside the fridge. And then a little sorry for my rudeness, I added in what I hoped was a friendlier tone, “If you need to know anything, just ask. I’ve been with the family since 1978.”
“1978!” she gasped. “Thirty-two years ago? Well, I guess that explains why you don’t look much like a microwave.”
That set me back a bit. I guess I’d been expecting a reaction that was a bit more respectful. I’m a bit sensitive about my appearance.
I’ve been meeting a lot of new appliances lately. Yesterday I introduced myself to the latest vacuum while it waited for David to clear a corner so it could be stowed in the broom closet. It’s one of those sleek models on wheels with a retractable cord and a host of convenient on-board tools and accessories. “I’ve heard you have an extra motor attachment for stairs,” I said, in a more or less sincere attempt at flattery. “I hope you’ll like the broom closet. I’ve never been in there. I don’t expect the view’s too great. That’s one advantage we microwaves have. They usually offer us a view. I followed this family into three kitchens and the view got better each time. In this house I face a window lined with orchids.”
“Three houses,” said the vacuum. “You must be really old then. That probably explains why you don’t look much like a microwave. Where’s your Popcorn setting anyway? And how did you get so big? Are you on steroids?” That’s the last I heard before David shut the door. Not soon enough, I’d say.
You’ll understand if I’m a bit testy these days. December’s been a bad month for appliances. Coffee Pot was the latest casualty—gave up with most of the water still in the reservoir and one cup dripped through—worst cup of coffee ever, according to the unfortunate Mark who came bleary-eyed to the kitchen hoping for a rich dark roast. The vacuum went up in smoke the previous day. Before that it was the dishwasher—gave up changing cycles 45 minutes into a load, its bottom half full of water that smelled a little worse every day for the two weeks it sat there waiting for a nice young man named Elijah to conclude that even a promise of $600.00 for parts and labour would likely not drain the swamp and get it going again. That was only the beginning of the drama. I watched sympathetically while Wendy ladelled the water out with a teacup. I thanked my lucky stars for my shelf during the flood of scalding water that surged across the kitchen and into the basement during the installation of the replacement. Oh, I could write a book about the goings-on I’ve seen in my day.
I’m hoping you’ll understand if I worry a bit about my own future. I am, after all, a lot bigger than the average microwave. I was born in the day when you bought a microwave that could hold a 20-pound turkey, just in case you’d ever cook a 20-pound turkey in a microwave. Has anybody ever done that? I was born at a time when popcorn was popped in electric frying pans or popcorn poppers. I was born in the day when a microwave oven could proudly sport a stylish coat of push buttons, right down the front.
It’s the buttons that keep me here, I’ve heard them say. They say it whenever they mention that I’m really too big for my current shelf. They say it when people ask if a microwave my age can possibly be safe. They explain that Wendy loves to push my buttons. Those flat-fronted models with their fancy digital read-outs for a million different purposes are useless for blind people.
I’ve heard them say they’ll likely stick with me until the end. And that’s encouraging, given that I’m the oldest appliance I’ve ever met. So far the signs are all good. Last night they popped corn in the popper on the stove. Last week they cooked a 13-pound turkey in the oven. For my part, I did what I could to make their Christmas merry. I cooked the peas and warmed the leftovers. I melted the butter for baking. I heated their coffee to scalding after they added the eggnog. And I greeted all the new appliances as kindly as I could—honestly I did.

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