Losing our religion

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Across the living room, in the kitchen, I hear the refrigerator again. It's making this noise like a Japanese motorcycle accelerating against the horizon, over and over. This does not bode well.

A month or so ago, this 6-year-old refrigerator stopped working. The meat went bad first, with an acrid slime spreading over the gray tentacles of ground beef. The cheese went next, with an unpleasant green mold. We emptied the fridge and drank warm beer, trying to figure out when we could find the time to buy a new one. I knew it would involve research and negotiations with someone in a bad tie who smells like Arby's. I took some measurements and for a few days we ate sparingly, buying milk by the quart.

Then, suddenly, the fridge started working again.

To give the fridge a sign of my confidence, I bought more cheese.

This is how things operate at our house. When something breaks, we wait to see if it will somehow fix itself, as though baseboard moldings or large appliances have the regenerative powers of a comic book superhero or a video game protagonist. It is as though through our desire not to pay a handyman we can simply will damaged goods into refurbishment, like synapses reconnecting in the mind of a stroke victim. We are the Christian Scientists of home repair.

A year or so ago our car was making this frightening churning sound under the gear shift when we accelerated in a low gear, and we lived with it for a couple months until one day when it stopped and the car started to run fine. We figured that the offending part fell off on the highway one day and proved itself non-integral, the automotive equivalent of an appendix or maybe just a pestilent chunk of spleen or pancreas.

But at some point during the past few weeks, the car started making a new sound while accelerating from a low gear. Actually, the car wasn't really accelerating very well at all. This proved problematic, because we only have one vehicle. And now, the fridge has started reasserting its discontent.

"This is no way to live," my wife said to me.

"Just say a prayer before you turn the ignition," I told her. "And before you open the cheese drawer."

But she took the car in for repairs. $300 later it runs as good as new, the first repair we've had on this 8-year-old Volkswagen. Now she's looking at the appliance ads in the Sunday circulars. "How can you lose your faith?" I ask her. "You've experienced MIRACLES."

"True," she says. "But I've never experienced 24.9-cubic feet of refrigeration behind panoramic French doors with an external filtered water and ice dispenser."