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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.

Since receiving an ipod classic from my parents as an anniversary present/car accessory, Mr. Apron and I have started taking it on car trips.  He enjoys music more than I do.  I tend to tune out and just hear the music as background, while he is more of an activelistener, and is often able to repeat lyrics and melodies after hearing a song only twice.  In contrast, I was steadfastly convinced that “Night Drive”, by Garnet Rogers, was an instrumental song, and I insisted this until Mr. Apron made me listen and attend for more than the guitar intro.  Now it’s one of those jokes he’s allowed to tease me about.  It’s in our marriage contract.

 Because I’m lyrically deaf and don’t get as much out of music, I like to download podcasts from NPR.  We often miss Car Talk, tuning in just as the show is ending, and I still haven’t figured out when This American Life broadcasts, yet I enjoy both shows.  When we started downloading content for our new toy, I immediately thought of podcasts.  And so we’ve been listening to them since our road trips over the winter holidays. 

 This past weekend, we ventured up to New York City for lunch (literally – train, cab, long lunch in a Kosher vegetarian Indian restaurant, cab, train, home), and were entertained by Ira Glass’s contributors’ thoughts about the upcoming year, making predictions and the like.  His lead-in story was about a woman who keeps getting “dragged” to tarot readings where they keep insisting she’ll meet fabulous success, fame, and fortune by the time she reaches the age of 50.  She’s 46 now.  I want them to call her back in a few years.  Ah, fortune-telling.

 A few weeks ago, back in the old year of 2009, back when I could type the year without a major revolt of my automated finger movements, we had Chinese take-out at work.  The occasion was a best-wishes luncheon for a co-worker who will be out for about 6 weeks having and recovering from knee surgery.  The lunch came with a bonus – a roll-up calendar for 2010 (ahhh, fingers, learn thy strides) with adorable puppy dogs on it!  My stale fortune cookie read, “You will sleep well.”  I smirked, and, with careless thought, I tossed it to a corner of my desk to gather dust along with weeks of paperwork.

 I do not sleep well.  I used to.  I used to be able to let my body fall into instant slumber, barely stirring from sleep (though I’ve been told I do move around quite a bit), and not wake until the first alarm.  I was disciplined enough even in the liminal state to only allow myself to snooze 2 more times – 18 minutes – and usually greeted the first alarm as a relief I still had a little time to sleep.  That was back when the P’Jammer alarm clock was new to middling.  At long last it became crotchety and disagreeable, and downright unreliable.  Though I was loathe to let go of the only alarm clock I’d had since I was 6, oversleeping just one time sent me scouring the aisles of Target looking for a replacement.  (Mr. Apron may well comment that I kept ol’ P’Jammer around in retirement on the floor by our bed until we moved from that apartment to our home last February.  I’ll save him the effort.)

I haven’t slept well in many years, unfortunately.  These days the alarm clock, though reliable and bland, provokes anxiety that I’ve overslept, pushed snooze one too many times, or set the alarm for the wrong time.  I don’t trust it, I don’t trust myself, and I don’t trust Mr. Apron to have it on his side(ah, how the truth will out in a blog).  I often wake up a few minutes before my last alarm, freaking out that it hasn’t gone off yet. 

And that’s not all.  The dog decides he has to climb up at 2am.  He’s always been a stealer of covers.  Recently he’s been taking more attempts to climb all the way up, waking me up with his skitter-skitter-skitter-whump! and it’s just all too unpleasant, and not conducive to uninterrupted sleep, even if he is warm. 

And then there’s the bed itself.  My grandmother gave me the antique four-poster bed-frame when I was about 15, and it’s been nothing but trouble.  The bed rails never quite meshed with the mattress, leaving the box spring sinking unceremoniously towards the floor with a great crashing sound more often than is strictly acceptable.  Yet I’ve (and now we’ve) kept it.  My grandmother died about 2 months after our wedding, and I see the bed as her blessing over our marriage.  I even wrote an essay (which became a blogpost) about it, which became her eulogy.  We have kept the fool thing, and Mr. Apron has respected my irrational attachment to it. 

Until one night in December, when it fell, again.  Trying to pull the box spring back up through the frame, he strained his wrist.  I scraped my knuckles, but he was really hurt for several days.  That was the last straw for me.  I could stand my own suffering for the sake of the bed — that was my onus — but when it started hurting my buddy, that was it.  I was moved to action.

Well, I was moved to ask for help, which is almost the same thing.  Admitting defeat is one thing, admitting complete impotence is another.  Asking for help is difficult, but I did it anyway.  I reached out to a family friend, the father of a girl Mr. Apron went to school with.  We’ve gotten to know him in other settings recently, but we are convinced the man can do anything.  He runs sound equipment, builds sets, makes computers work, and understands the stock market.  He owns a beautiful and impressive home, yet his wardrobe consists of threadbare denim chambray workshirts and matching jeans.  He is a no-frills guy.  I e-mailed his wife, who passed on the request, saying to me, “Well, I believe he can do anything.  If anyone can fix the bed, he can.”  Which was exactly how I felt.  My last ditch effort for the hopeful miracle worker. 

He came over and spent all Sunday with us after the New Year, breaking only at noon to join his family for lunch.  He took us to Lowe’s in some awful neighborhood of Philly to buy lumber and hardware, and he fixed our bed.  Noting how chewed up the wood supporting the siderails was from 100 years of stress, he replaced the boards entirely.  Seeing how hodge-podge the mismatched hardware was, he chucked it all in favor of — gasp! — a standard-size screw.  He not only fixed, he analyzed.  He understood that this type of bed was meant to have slats, not just be suspended on side rails, which I never knew.  So he cut some slats.  He reinforced the corner joints, and obsessed over why they weren’t perfectly square.  This is how MIT graduates are, I suppose.  We kept telling him “good enough” about the non-matching wood — that the bedskirt would cover it — “good enough” about the corner measuring 89 degrees, “good enough” about the miniscule wobble that persisted after he’d reinforced the endposts and reduced the play by 85%.  And, finally, as the sun was setting, it was finally “good enough” for him. 

I prsesed a plate of home-baked goodies into his hands as he left out our front door. If I’ve learned anything from Car Talk, it’s that home-baked brownies are appreciated by men doing work for you.   He had refused to accept payment, as we suspected he would.  He said simply, “I enjoyed the challenge,” as if we’d given him the latest Car Talk puzzler as a present, instead of keeping him from his family all day dealing with our bed problems. 

I still have a little PTSD upon climbing into our bed at night.  I wait for the telltale creak, the fwump! the crash.  Yet it hasn’t come.  I sleep in half a dozen positions, the dog jumps up, I climb in on Mr. Apron’s side, and still the bed stands high.  The slats have had an unexpected effect of making our mattress firmer, too.  No longer do we roll towards the center pit in the bed.  I had assumed it was just the aging mattress; really it was the unsupported bedframe. 

Though I still do daily battle with the alarm clock, I am, indeed, sleeping.  I spied that fortune on my desk this afternoon as I was hastily cleaning up last week’s mess, and it suddenly made sense, in a way it couldn’t have back in December.  I count myself more fortunate than that woman on This American Life.  Maybe she’ll have success, fame, and fortune by the time she reaches 50.  Probably not.  But I’ll get a good night’s rest, and I get it right now. 

Good night!

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