Friday, October 8, 2010


apparently when we moved into our house it had an electric stove.  i don't really remember it though.  we got natural gas hooked up just in time for them to increase the rates by 48% or something like that.  and if you have a natural gas furnace, why not get a stove and a clothes dryer too?  which is what we did.

being poor by financial standards- we are rich in so  many other ways- and conservative in the consumer realm- meaning about 90% of things that we buy are used- i was thrilled to find a small hand written note at the co-op for a gas stove for sale for $25.

we drove eastward to pick it up.  the couple were in their fifties maybe and now that their kids were gone off and having their own children the folks got around to remodeling their kitchen.  the irony being that they probably wouldn't be cooking quite so much, but in any case- they had a beautiful new red stove and an old tappan white and black one to pass on.  we were stoked.  not only that- they had a free couch in the hall which we took too.  so really the stove only ending up costing $12.50 if you do the math like that.

the other thing they had were beautiful sheep out grazing in a rolling pasture in a way that makes you think owning sheep would be nice.  it was the first time seren, about 2, had ever seen a black sheep.  they told him the sheep was called "jackie brown" and for years after that everytime he saw a black sheep- and there are lots of them in our valley- he'd yell "there's jackie brown!"  he actually has a stuffed black sheep too, yup- named jackie brown. 

in any case- the stove worked great.  except for the front right burner which was always low.  i shimmered on it often though.  i did notice that the oven started to act strange.  for example, when i turned it on nothing would happen for a while and then there'd be this loud "WHHHOOOOMPP!" sound as the large gas ball finally lit.  Then in July the oven just wouldn't get hot enough to bake a....gosh, there' got to be some kind of cute metaphor somewhere in my head.  can't quite find it yet though.  well, the oven just wouldn't get hot.  but it was july so who cares?  seren didn't want a birthday cake anyway.

months passed and the squash started to look so good.  i love baked squash.  i love warm muffins in the morning.  i enjoy one dish meals that also warm up the house.  so we had to figure out the stove fix.  trouble is when your 22 year old stove that only cost $12.50 acts up you gotta wonder if it's worth it to fix it.  i checked out other used stove options too, but then you don't really know what you are buying.  i did have a few new stove fantasies, i admit.  those built in vents and little beeps that let you know when your oven is preheated and ready to bake- a feature that could be applied to so many parts of my life. 

what it boiled down to is that moving out the old stove and installing a new stove would be a pain in the ass.  which would have not been my task- however, after my initial little snit about that reasoning- i came to agree.  the think about reducing (as in reduce, reuse, recycle) means to reduce your consumption as step 1.  if the stove could be fixed it would save lots of resources and that's no greenwash.

so i called bill.  bill is a fix-it guy from the phone booth.  i called him because he looked old in his picture.  i like old repair people better than younger ones.  i know this is prejudice, but i've found they tend to be more self-reliant and less likely to try to sell me something i don't need.  maybe because they've lived through more tough times or maybe cuz they don't need to make as much money off of me.  i'm not sure- but they also tend to say more interesting things.

the last repair guy was like that.  he even let cyrus- who was about 15 months at the time- "help" him fix the washing machine.  cy layed on the floor and stared into the dark motor with a flash light.  the guy would ask cy a question now and then and cy would answer in indecipherable baby babble and the man would reply "well, that's what i was thinking too."

but that wasn't bill although he was friendly and chatty.  bill showed up with a flippity-do hair style like what he probably did in the 50s when his hair was black and full.  i can trust anyone who holds onto a hair style that long.  he had glasses, work jeans and a tucked in short-sleeve blue work shirt.  his elbows showed his age to be in his late 60s.

in less than 20 minutes he had the oven fixed.  a bad igniter that just wouldn't get hot enough to spark the gas. this might be my trouble too.  all told it cost about $124 to have him fix it.  as he was cleaning up i mentioned the low flame on our one element.  he carefully checked it out and compared it to the 3 others.  he looked up at me and asked if i had a sewing needle.  he peered into the burner and poked the needle down into the center.  the flame came on full tilt.

as i watched him fix that it i was thinking about how i had tolerated that inconvenience for over six years and never once investigated what was causing the blockage.  i just expected that a $12.50 stove would have some kind of malfunction.  i wondered about being an optimist with low expectations- because that's what i am.  i see the glass is half-full and i'm ok with that even if the water is kinda funky tasting.  it's a good way to be for me- except every now and then i realize maybe with more spark i could really get things cooking much better.  like with a simple sewing needle fix.  see?  that's what i mean about the old fix-it folks, women included.

now i have 4 fully functional burners and an oven that gets to temp in under 8 minutes.  it is like having a new stove.  except that its my old stove still that works good as new fjust by giving her some attention.  and there's a lesson there for everyone.  i've decided to call her jackie brown too.

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