I’ve lived in a few different apartments in Manhattan, all of them small, and for some reason, each of them come equipped with the same apartment-sized (I won’t name the brand, nor will I curse it out) refrigerator. And it always breaks within the first year of living in the apartment. For those of you who want to know what it’s like to cook out of a typical tiny New York City kitchen, I highly recommend reading my A Peek Into My Kitchen page. While all of those hilarious and frustrating design flaws still remain, this week they were heightened by the cough, wheeze and sputter of a refrigerator with emphysema and its last anti-climactic sigh before its expiration.
Midnight on a Wendesday evening:
“What’s that noise? Is the air conditioner on? Is that the sink?”
“I don’t know. It sounds like dripping. High-powered dripping.”
“Do you smell that?
“Smell what? What was that loud bang?”
“You really don’t smell it? Do we have a fire extinguisher in this place, by the way?”
I get up, check the sink. Nothing. I check the air conditioner. Nothing. On a lark, I open the freezer door and a pool of water falls to my feet. I open the refrigerator door and more of the same, only smellier. “Um. I think we’ve got an issue.”
A few emails to the landlord (who doesn’t work on Thursdays?) and a discussion about which one of us could be there for the delivery of a new fridge (me – hello remote access at work, please don’t tell my firm) later we were in business. But not before I had to empty the fridge. Melted fish stock and chicken stock, thawed herbs, sangria pops and much more lined the freezer and dripped to the back of the fridge. There goes the milk, the eggs, the yogurt. In trying to be ecologically friendly, I didn’t have any paper towels on hand. Do I ruin a towel? No I can’t. This called for some exceptions. I ran across the street, bought some cleaning items and conducted a major cleaning job. I then remoted into work while waiting, chained to my chair for an unprecedented 5-hour delivery window.
I actually don’t keep a ton of refrigerated items in the fridge. It’s so small that it actually forces me to the grocery store or the markets at least three times a week. But, since there are no pantries or shelving units in the kitchen and no room for installation, I keep a lot of dry goods in the refrigerator. I don’t want to tempt the bugs who wait in the pipes of our old building, plotting and planning in anticipation for a false move like leaving the wrong thing out.
“Not this time, bugs. I’m onto you.”
The landlord promptly addressed the issue after I sent him some measurements, a few websites with refrigerators that looked like the one that just died and insured that the hinge would be on the left side of the refrigerator otherwise it would open up to a wall. The next day the newer and SMALLER model of this same refrigerator was delivered. I spent the weekend restocking the fridge with pantry staples before any bugs were alerted to the opportunity and tempted out of their hibernation. I reserved some room for actual refrigerator necessities, while enjoying take-out from a few different local establishments.
Keeping it in perspective, I called my grandma that night. She had warned me that she thought the refrigerator was going to break based on some of the sounds I was describing. “You better call someone. Trust me, I know from refrigerators.”
Grandma grew up in the time of ice boxes before mechanical refrigerators. She told me how the finer models of ice boxes had spigots for draining ice water from a catch pan or a holding tank. In her model though, Grandpa would place a drip pan under the box and Grandma had to empty it at least daily. The ice man would come by to replenish the melted ice with a new block on a regular basis and the people in the apartment buildings would pay for the ice. She described how the children would go on the ice wagon and take chips of fallen ice as treats during the summer. What I wouldn’t give to see that ice box that was such a big part of their lives. Grandma said it was “quite a handsome piece of furniture,” but she prefers the refrigerator.
I too now know from refrigerators. And sometimes bugs. These little inconveniences that happen from time to time are all part of the ride and here’s the thing: Sometimes, just sometimes, if you look at it all from the right angle, they help you realize just what an amazing ride it is..