Scott Free

Scott Peterson

It was quite the feast at the Peterson home this Easter: grilled cheese sandwiches and canned chili.

Our hopes for a mouthwatering Easter ham feast died the day before, so we were forced to improvise, to live off the land.

Translation: We ate at Culver’s on Easter eve and had burgers off the grill for Easter lunch. By dinner, we were running low on ideas, until we found the Hormel can in the back of the pantry and fired up the George Foreman grill. Things were looking rather bleak.

And there was no one to blame but me: Mr. Jinx.

It was just a couple days before when my wife had shushed me for tempting fate. We had just used the self-cleaning feature on the stove (Does any real person ever call it a “range”?) overnight and I remarked at how happy we had been with this stove.

And then, while I was coming back from the store with our Easter ham, I got an urgent call from my wife. The eggs she was hard boiling were not only not boiling, but the entire stove had shut down, clock and all.

“Thanks a lot, Mr. Jinx,” I said to myself after I hung up and raced home.

I held out hope that I could work my magic on the stove and fire it up. I could not even get the breaker to reset. It was stuck and not moving. Are you happy now, Mr. J?

Luckily my brother-in-law came to my rescue. He asked me what the amperage was on the breaker, and warned me that due to supply-chain shortages some breaker sizes were in short supply, like lumber, toilet paper and everything else during the pandemic. Fortunately, he scavenged the last 50-amp breaker from his nearest Menard’s store and headed to my house to repair it.

In a short period, thankfully, he had the new one in, good as new. The bad news: The stove still didn’t work. After a brief moment of silence (read: scarcely audible cussing), we hastily dashed off to the store to find a replacement.

Tomorrow was going to be Easter, after all, and the pandemic was wreaking havoc everywhere. There have been stories of almost fully built cars parked idly at factories for want of only computer chips during this pandemic-induced shortage of circuit boards. Who knew how hard it would be to get a new stove?

We did some frantic research in the car on the way over. My wife looked online and found out 13 years was a good life for a stove. This one died at age 19, to the day.

We had an hour before the store was closing and we got the crash course from the sales guy, only to be warned that our fears were indeed true. The pandemic had disrupted appliance manufacturing, too. With the clock ticking down before the holiday was going to start and the stores would be closed, my wife and I made our choices. (OK, to be honest, I was only there for consultation purposes. She was the one who was going to use this stove day in and day out. I was only going to enjoy the fruits of her labor with it.)

And then it happened. She fell in love with a stove and a decision was made. Nope! Backordered for 90 days. Ugh! Choice No. 2: 60-90 days wait. Choice No. 3: The helpful sales clerk cautioned us: “Well, the computer says at least 30 days, but I can tell you I would be surprised if you see it before 60 and most likely 90.”

By now sheer terror was flashing across my mind. I can live with canned chili for a day or two, but the idea of eating out of a can for three months had elevated this search to nearly a crisis. And I worried it could even be worse.

At Christmastime, we ordered a new couch and they told use 14-16 weeks. That has now become mid-June. With that recent memory projecting in my brain, I tried to imagine eating canned chili for 180 days; I hid my hands behind my back as I tried not to show my wife that I was trembling in fear.

And then my wife suggested we explore a white stove rather than stainless steel. The white color would match our other appliances in the kitchen, she said. The clerk sighed deeply and checked the inventory again. Suddenly our search narrowed to almost no options. Mercifully, she must have had the same chili thought I had and relented, though not without reluctance.

Finally, we asked the clerk to do a computer sort by delivery time. What had started with dozens of options was suddenly down to two if we wanted it within a week. I was not only concerned about the clock ticking down before the store closes, but worried both of these models might be gone by the time we placed our order. I imagined I would be cooking squirrel or robin on a spit over an open fire in the backyard every night until July 4.

But, fear not, we placed our order. We’re told it’s coming this week, but I am stocking up on firewood in the backyard as a precaution.

My biggest fear is that I hope they don’t call back my order when they see I signed the credit-card device not with my name, but “Mr. Jinx.” It’s not a lie. It is not my given name, but it is what everyone is calling me.

And, for the record, my wife has prohibited me from making comments about [redacted], [redacted] or even [redacted] for fear I will cause another appliance to fail.

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