One of the first things you notice when you walk into my kitchen is a note pad hanging on the wall next to the sink.  The following words are written on it: rice, spaghetti, grits, celery, chili, popcorn, potatoes, slaw, and socks.  If I asked you to identify these items, chances are you would say they were entries on the grocery list.  And that would be a good guess in most homes, socks notwithstanding.  In my house, however, it is the ever-expanding catalog of substances that will not go down the garbage disposal without stopping up the drain.  Every one of the foodstuffs was a lesson learned the hard way, and I am so gun shy with the disposal now that about all I will run through it is water, and not much of that.  As for the socks, I don’t even want to talk about them.

033056735701smI live in the Kingdom of Imperfect Machines.  My house is where healthy contraptions go to get sick and where ailing mechanical devices linger indefinitely at a point just shy of breaking down completely.  If you think I am kidding, consider the following examples.  I have three toilets, which means I have three handles to jiggle.  There are also three showers and four sinks in the house, and if I ever get all of those leaks stopped, Atlanta’s occasional water woes will be gone for good.

I have a television remote that has to be tapped sharply on the windowsill before being aimed at the TV or it will not change a channel, and I have a DVD machine that takes so long to eject the discs that the movies become overdue at the video store before I can get them out of the tray.  I have a doorbell that rings exactly fifty percent of the time.  I can show you the documentation on this if you are interested.  So if you come to the door and push the little button and it seems as if I am ignoring you, don’t take it personally.  Just try again.

I have a dishwasher that will clean glasses but not plates.  I have a weather radio that will not pick up the local forecast.  I have a pool filter that I have to smack with a hammer while backwashing the pool.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I had to do that with the old filter.  The new one may backwash just fine without being beaten upon, but to be honest, about the only fun I ever have out there by the pool is when I bang on the pool equipment, and life is short.

My freezer has an opening in the door that is supposed to produce ice cubes whenever you put your cup under it, and if you can get any ice out of the thing, then you are a better consumer than I am.  Oh, there is plenty of ice in the hopper, and if you don’t mind sticking your hand in the freezer, you can grab all you want.  But it will not come down the chute.  We first noticed this phenomenon the day after we bought the freezer, and we had the repairman out so many times trying to fix this problem that we finally just moved him into one of the kids’ old rooms upstairs.  He is out in the kitchen right now, with his hand stuck in the freezer, getting some ice cubes.

Two years ago I purchased and installed a brand-new, digitally-controlled, top-of-the-line convection double oven.  It was a bit expensive, but it had an unconditional one year warranty, so I didn’t see how I could get hurt on the deal.  366 days later, it quit working, and the message F7 came up on the keypad.  When I looked up this code in the instruction manual, I was informed that F7 meant that something was wrong with the oven.

I swear on the heads of my children, that’s what it said.

So I called the manufacturer, and after a lengthy hold on a non-toll-free line during which I had the opportunity to listen to The Girl From Ipanema seventeen times, my Customer Service Technician joined me.

Me:  I have an F7 code on my 366-day-old, digitally-controlled, top-of-the-line convection double oven.

CST:  That means something is wrong with it.

Me:  Thanks.  Can you narrow that down?

CST:  Well, I could send out a repairman.

Me:  I’ve got one of those.  I’ve also got ice cubes with fingerprints on them.  What I need is an oven.

CST:  (Sigh).

Me:  (Ditto).

CST:  Do you see that blank space on the keypad to the left of the clock on your oven’s control panel?

Me:  Yes.

CST:  Hit that spot hard with the ball of your fist.

Me:  Beg pardon?

CST:  Do you want supper tonight or not?

I wanted supper, so I hit the designated area with my fist, and the F7 warning went away.  The evening meal was salvaged, I did not have to pay a repairman, and just like with the pool filter, it was a strangely satisfying experience to beat on the oven.  F7 has not been back since that day, and I am not quite sure what is going on with that.  Either the oven is fixed, or the occasional love tap I now give it just to be on the safe side is preventing further mishap.

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. His humorous column —"South of the Etowah" — appears in The Rome News-Tribune. His industrial maintenance column — "The Fundamentals" — appears in Maintenance Technology Magazine. His humorous column — "And So It Goes" — appears in Memphis Downtowner Magazine. His first novel, "The Front Porch Prophet," was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008 to critical acclaim and earned the 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, "Sorrow Wood," was released in June 2009 by Medallion Press and has been nominated for the 2010 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. His third novel, "Camp Redemption," will be released in August, 2011.