This was one automated phone call I received not with annoyance but a thrill. The stumbling computer-generated words relayed welcome news: tomorrow between 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. my new refrigerator would be delivered to my home in “Monrovia, Caw.” Such poetry! Not just a new refrigerator: a real refrigerator! Because of uncertainty as to my future, not knowing whether I’d stay long in this small house I’m renting, I had endured the last five months since May, when I moved in, with a 2.8-cubic-foot mini-fridge. This is like having R2-D2 as your best friend. It’s a dorm-room fridge, good for keeping the beer and liverwurst and mustard. I do a modest amount of cooking and had increasingly struggled to make do with this compact fridge. The tiny freezer compartment wouldn’t preserve leftover mac and cheese; it’s so disappointing to open up your presumed dinner and find mold. And the cooler needed to be reorganized with every new Rubbermaid storage container. I spent a lot of time squatting before the little pint-sized thing, always forgetting the door lacked a self-closing tendency and instead, being stupidly pendulous, would swing all the way open and smack into the nearby jelly cupboard.
Afterwards, hoisting myself once again to a standing position, hoping I never needed to look for something to eat while I happened to be suffering from patellar tendonitis or a pulled hamstring or sciatica, I’d tell myself this was a good way to get in my deep knee bends. Calisthenics and capers! Why, yes, indeed, I was getting along just fine chasing the head of lettuce that rolled out with every opened door, dementedly meandering across the kitchen. Finally I stopped buying Iceberg lettuce. Romaine doesn’t meander. But it’s too tall; it had to be angled beneath the middle shelf, which was the first of two wire racks that got dislodged from their tracks with the slightest bump. Boston lettuce is short enough to fit in the lower tier but doesn’t make high-volume, high-satisfaction salad. Outta lettuce? Yet another trip to the market is required. Oh, and time to buy more orange juice and milk: the shallow door pocket encouraged the pairing of rapidly depleted pints.
Have you tried living without ice cubes? Do you realize what a luxury it is to have ice on hand? Not even automatic icemaker ice, just manual ice for drinks, for the Champagne bucket, for rubbing on burned fingers, for putting in a plastic bag and applying to a sprained shoulder like when I went down on my mountain bike in August. Even the dog enjoys playing with the occasional ice cube. And how about a lighted refrigerator compartment? Five months with the mini-fridge led me to conclude that it’s a phenomenal step forward for civilization to have a real door handle instead of a grip-it-and-rip-it indentation on the side of the door. Same for having a self-defrosting freezer instead of needing to unplug and empty out every six or eight weeks in order to extricate the one thing that will in fact stay frozen in this minuscule freezer compartment amid the dense buildup of frost: a pound of peas.
Meat? I had to throw out a rib-eye steak.
A real refrigerator allows me to buy gallon-size containers, to buy two bags of frozen lima beans when they’re on sale, to throw a whole turkey behind either of the doors. A mini-keg of beer, a pitcher of lemonade, a large bottle of water, a layer cake sprouting candles, a ham, a gaggle of rhubarb, a haggle of leeks, a pride of Swiss chard, a flagon of vodka (I don’t drink vodka), oodles of noodles: everything will fit! And the sculpted commodious door pockets with soft and grabby nonskid plastic and gently curving bumpers to protect against the out-of-control caroming brisket, the enclosed butter tray with clear cover, the cheese-and-meat drawer and the crispers with adjustable ventilation—all in this basic Frigidaire that I selected at Best Buy—combined to suggest most seductively the squalid excess of which I would soon be partaking.
Romero and another dude showed up early, at twelve o’clock noon, to deliver the fridge, doing a bit of setup right there in the street before harnessing themselves to the appliance and waddling along, climbing the stairs, passing through the gate and along the sidewalk in front of my neighbor’s cottage. (There are four structures on this half-acre lot.) The first attempt to enter my own house was repelled by the screen door’s strike plate, which Romero removed with my screwdriver. And when he popped out the pins from the main door’s hinges, I got my tub of grease and coated them because they had been squeaking.
Here’s why I hate customer satisfaction surveys. When the fridge was put in position and plugged in, Romero handed me a card with an Internet address, saying, “If you can give a ten on each category, it would be great.” The new-car salesman who sold me the 2000 Honda Odyssey that I still drive said the same when he handed me a similar card. Wait, you’re asking for a perfect score? I just shitcan surveys like these. Here’s hoping my selfishness (often commented upon by friends and relatives) doesn’t keep Romero’s kids from attending the University of Nebraska of their dreams. Besides, there are a couple of scratches in my $500 box of steel’s thin coating of white paint, and in all honesty I’d have to mention them.
Soon after the delivery team left, I headed down to Target for ice cube trays and a bin, and to Home Depot for disk magnets to take advantage of the unlimited display space. The magnets allowed me to put up some leftover campaign buttons from 2008. So the Frigidaire has solved more than one storage woe.
Yesterday I set the mini-fridge out on the front porch for pickup by Vietnam Veterans of America. My last sight was of its ugly little compressor in the back. I imagine the mini-fridge’s future in a room on Skid Row, where it is stocked intermittently with malt liquor (sorry, no forty zips) and old unwrapped slices of pizza. Meanwhile, as the VVA driver loaded it onto his truck, teetering a bit during the clean and jerk, an imbalance in my life was corrected.