A Turkey of a Tale

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We’re all familiar with Murphy’s Law, and this year, it seemed that Murphy seriously didn’t want us to cook a Thanksgiving dinner. We had been having trouble with our oven for some time, but I applied the same philosophy as expressed in the lyrics of “The Arkansas Traveler”: “My cabin doesn’t leak when it doesn’t rain”… only ours was a case of “Our oven doesn’t fail to heat up when we don’t cook.” Living in the mountains as we do, it’s a major nuisance getting repair people to come to our house or lugging a large appliance into town, so we procrastinated on seeking a repair for our malfunctioning oven until Thanksgiving was right around the corner.

Two weeks before the big holiday, I called a local appliance guy and described our problem to him. He took down the information, called back awhile later and cheerfully told me that the required part had been discontinued, and we should start shopping for a new oven. Not wanting to accept defeat so easily, Henry called a repair shop in Fresno. The manager assured him that if we would bring our oven in, he would be able to fix it. Tools in hand, Henry removed the slide-in oven from the wall, leaving a large gaping hole under our kitchen counter. We transported our sick oven to the repair shop, where we were assured that we would have it back in plenty of time for Thanksgiving.

A week passed. The shop’s excuse for not having our oven ready when promised was that they had received “the wrong part”, but we were assured that it would be ready “either Friday, or Monday for sure”. This was cutting it a little close, but we could still have our oven in place before Turkey Day.

Friday came and went, and then Monday, with no phone call from the repair shop. Finally, I called on Monday afternoon and was told that the needed part had just come in, and the oven would be ready on Tuesday. When I called back on Tuesday, I was told that the technician was busy and wouldn’t be able to complete the repair until the following day. At this point, I went uncharacteristically ballistic. I was put on hold briefly, and was then told that the repairs could, in fact, be completed that day.

Several hours later, Henry informed me that he had just received a call from the repair shop with “bad news”: The long-awaited part had finally been installed, but the oven still didn’t work. With thirty-three hours to go before Thanksgiving, we drove 45 miles to Fresno and commenced shopping for a new slide-in oven. It proved to be a daunting task, as in-wall ovens are special-order items, so our choices were limited to a few demo models on hand. Finally, we settled on an oven from Home Depot that had been bought previously and returned, still in the carton. It was considerably more expensive than a repair would’ve been but deeply discounted from its original price. We were prepared to pay for the oven immediately and head home, but were told that we needed to kill two hours, as merchandise from an unloading truck was blocking access to the shelf where our oven was being stored. So Henry and I went to dinner and returned to Home Depot two hours later. We paid for the oven sight unseen, loaded up the heavy carton, and drove the hour back to our house.

Tools at the ready, Henry opened the carton in preparation for installing our new appliance. When he removed the lid, he was greeted by the sight of perhaps a million pieces of glass from the oven’s shattered door.

I began to feel like one of the Griswolds in a Chevy Chase movie. Any other year, I probably would’ve thrown in the towel (or oven mitt) at this point and opted to go to a restaurant for our Thanksgiving meal. But this year, my son Jesse was coming with his fiancée and her parents, who were visiting the United States for the first time from their native Serbia. Jesse was anxious for his future in-laws to experience a typical American Thanksgiving dinner. The pressure was on.

The next day, we loaded up our “new” oven, which hadn’t left the carton, and made the hour-long drive back to Fresno to return it. It was already dark outside by the time we located another slide-in oven at Best Buy that was the appropriate size to fill the hole under our counter. Unfortunately, this one, although also “on sale”, was considerably more than the one we had bought the previous day, and about three times as expensive as the repair to our old oven would’ve been…had a repair been possible. (Of course, if we had heeded the advice from our local appliance repairman, we would have had time to shop for a better deal.) I sadly handed my credit card to the sales clerk, with about fifteen hours to go until the turkey needed to be the oven.

The new oven functioned beautifully, our turkey dinner was delicious, and our guests were delighted and duly impressed. Thanksgiving had been saved. (Bluegrass content: There were sufficient leftovers to take to our potluck jam on Saturday.) All’s well that ends well…at least until my credit card statement arrives next month.


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