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So, while I was at home, sick, dashing for a plastic bag or the toilet bowl yesterday, I secretly cheered the auspicious nature of the sick day, because it allowed me to prepare for the return of the oven repair man, previously known as Mr. Amblyopia.  I’m developing a theory of our oven — that it hates cupcakes, and that it can’t stand to be watched.  Sure enough, I put in a batch of oatsies (but without pecans, ugh), hoping they’d be burning to high heavens by the time 4:30 rolled around.  I was really vested in this experiment.  I pulled myself off the couch, where I’d lain for the past 8 hours, and managed to stay upright long enough to mix up the batter and preheat the oven.  I couldn’t stay up long enough to wait for the right time to put them in the oven and babysit them, so Mr. Apron did that when he got home. 

He popped the pan in the oven, and we watched the clock’s minutes tick by, reminding ourselves that the VCR clock is now 3 minutes fast (it creeps up, no matter what we do.  At least the alarm clock is atomically synchronized.  Not that it helps my morning waking anxiety…).  Finally, he pulled in.  Mr. Amblyopia put his thermometer in the oven, and we waited.  The timer buzzed, and out came perfectly bubbling oatsies.  Mr. Apron dumped chocolate morsels on top and carefully spread them.  Still, we waited.  Mr. Amblyopia questioned me about the nail-polish painted temperatures on the dials.  I showed him the cupcake.  Still, we waited.  Mr. Apron left to go teach his student.  Finally, we checked the thermometer.  Dead on balls accurate.  Of course. 

So I dialed in some sympathy, hopefully, expressing how I understood it was his job to report back to the home warranty folks, and how he was supposed to witness first-hand what we talked about.  How I understood just anybody could make a claim, and it didn’t make sense for the warranty people to go around giving away new ovens.  Blah, blah, blah.  Then I turned it on.  An intermittent problem, when it comes to an oven, is really quite significant.  You never know if it’s going to ruin your baked goods.  And I do a lot of baking, I demonstrated.  You can’t just keep opening the oven to check when you have a souffle or a cheesecake in there; it’ll get ruined!  (NB: I have never made a cheese cake or a souffle in my life, but they’re great examples).  So, really, I concluded, an intermittently broken oven is just as bad as a broken oven.  If you can’t rely on it to work all the time, you can’t rely on it to work at all. 

I think I sold him on it.  He refused to take the burnt cupcake (as evidence) or a warm chocolatey oatsie (as a bribe), but he left saying he’d try to convince the warranty company to let him install a new thermostat.  I was hoping for a new oven.  Too bad these things aren’t so complex as all that, and you can just replace a part in a 30 year old oven and have it be, sigh, as good as new.  But isn’t that what we wanted all along?  I mean, assuming we weren’t trying to schlong the home warranty company?

Our lovely little home came with many “bonuses”, some advertised, like the powder room on the first floor, and some not, like the paper towel cubby built into the kitchen wall.  One of the advertised bonuses was a one-year home warranty.  When the renewal certificate came, I perused it, noticing how much money they wanted, and what coverage we could opt into.  Noticing that it covered ranges, I jumped to tell Mr. Apron, because our stove has been on the fritz.  I just never realized we could use the home warranty to get a new one!

He called the insurance company, who sent out an amblyopic local technician.  He stayed for about 20 minutes, didn’t find the problem we had been having, charged us $60, and left.  When I got home later that day, I was fuming.  Mr. Apron told me what had happened (or, rather, what hadn’t happened), and I became very upset.

“Well, did he check the temperature?”  I demanded.  Yes, he’d just a thermometer, twice.

“Well, how long did he stay?  Twenty minutes!  Well, of course he didn’t see the problem.  It hadn’t had enough time to warm up yet!”

Here’s the issue.  When we arrived, the numbers on the 30 year-old double oven’s temperature dial had completely worn away.   I spent a half-hour meticulously applying gold nail polish with a toothpick till we could read the numbers.  We also installed a back-up thermometer, because I never trusted that oven.  And never should have, either.  It sporadically has a spike in heating, where the pilot does not go out, and the fire stays on until three things happen.  1) The thermometer maxes out at 550 degrees, 2) I smell smoldering cupcakes, and 3) the smoke detector goes off.  I had to pitch an entire batch of homemade chocolate cupcakes because they resembled charcoal.

So we stopped using the bottom oven, in fear of more ruined food.  We switched to the top oven, which worked, for a time, but barely.  It’s about the size of a large microwave, and doesn’t accommodate our larger baking dishes.  So we adapted, kind of.  Till it started spiking in temperature, too. 

After I found out about the home warranty, my patience with the two malfunctioning ovens wore thin.  But of course, this being an intermittent problem, the technician didn’t find it, and left with our money.  Oh, but if it happens again within 60 days, he assured us, he’d come out without additional charge.

Feeling as though the technician had cured our oven by declaring it functional, we started using the bottom oven again.  Thus, I was able to put in a full batch of 24 cupcakes for  fundraiser today.  And this is how they turned out.

It happened again..  I think the oven just hates cupcakes.  I was upstairs addressing Valentine’s Day cards when the smoke detector started frantically beeping.  With hurried resignation, I grabbed all my materials and rushed downstairs, where the oven had surged past 550 degrees.  There was the smell of burnt sugar and waxed paper.  I wrenched the battery out of the smoke alarm, turned on the exhaust fan, and spent the next 8 minutes babysitting the oven.  I opened the door till the temperature went back down to 350, then, in a compulsive paranoid fashion, kept opening the oven door every 2 minutes when the pilot kicked back on to check on the temperature.  Alas, all was in vain.  The cakes on the right were from that first batch.  The cake on the left was from the second batch.  Where, of course, the oven behaved itself because I was sitting 2 feet away, daring it to budge from the assigned temperature. 

Mr. Apron called the home warranty people again, asked for the technician again, and then asked if there was any way to make our claim if Mr. Amblyopia didn’t witness the issue firsthand.  Nope.  Of course not.  Not even with photographic proof.  And herein lies the difficulty of the intermittent problem.  It’s the problem no one can diagnose. 

I know it’s the insurance company’s job not to approve our claims.  I know they’re not in the business of giving out free ovens because whack-jobs like us claim to have a mysterious yet unwitnessed problem.  But there must be a way to hold them to their entire purpose. 

I remember an episode of Car Talk a few years ago where a woman who had a crush on her mechanic called in.  She wanted to do a little light sabotage on her car, so she’d have an excuse to bring the car in, and “accidentally” leave her driver’s license in plain view.  See, she thought that he thought she was older than she was, and she wanted a way to let him know her true age.  Tom and Ray gave her some trick about the coil of something so she would have an excuse.  I think she could have just dyed out her grays and worn a short skirt, but we’re getting off topic. 

I wonder what light sabotage we could do to make the stove not work when the technician is here.  I guess a pickaxe sticking out of the oven door might be a little obvious, huh?  Well, I took the picture anyway, and I’m hoping to be home when Mr. Amblyopia comes.  Maybe he’ll be sympathetic and manage to “witness” the temperature surge.  Maybe we’ll just have to buck it up and buy a new stove ourselves.  It just steams me up, because we’re going to have to get a new stove anyway, and I’d rather that the company who has warranteed it pay for it.  Just makes sense, doesn’t it?  Just want them to do their job, so I can make a freakin’ batch of cupcakes without their ending up like rocks. Intermittently.  Of course.

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