My refrigerator made a fool of me today. This morning, when I came downstairs to the kitchen, it was croaking -- loudly. It sounded like an elderly frog was inside it, sitting in a creaky rocking chair that got louder each time he rocked back. I could hear it across the room.
So I did what most of us do when a complex piece of machinery starts to make a weird noise we don't understand: I smacked it. But it went right on croaking at regular intervals, completely undeterred.
Having exhausted all my repair expertise with that unsuccessful smack on the side of the fridge, I called our appliance repair guy, Steve. I told him about the loud croaking noise and asked if he could swing by to check it out.
A few hours later, Steve showed up at the door holding his appliance doctor bag, ready to inspect the refrigerator that sounded like it was croaking, both literally and figuratively. He followed me into the kitchen and we both sidled up to the refrigerator and listened -- to nothing.
It had gone completely silent. All we could hear was the occasional clink of an ice cube falling into the freezer tray below.
"Just give it a minute. It was definitely croaking this morning, and it was loud. Tom heard it, too," I said, hoping that an ear witness would make me seem less crazy.
So we waited. And waited, enveloped by the sound of silence. Embarrassed that I'd made a big deal out of what was turning into nothing, I did the only thing that can make this kind of situation even more awkward -- I did my best impression of the croaking sound and asked what might make that kind of noise.
Steve did some official-looking diagnostic things, hoping to prove I wasn't as nuts as I sounded. He laid down on the kitchen floor with his flashlight and peered underneath the fridge. Then he took a long screwdriver and scraped something out from under it which turned out to be the largest gray dust bunny I've ever seen. It was more like a dust bear. I think I saw it move once.
With no croaking and no answers in sight, Steve pulled the refrigerator out from the wall so he could get a look behind it. That's when I learned something I'm guessing is universally true, no matter how clean you think your kitchen is. Behind the refrigerator, we're all slobs. All of us. It's a nightmare back there. I've seen things I can't ever un-see.
"Steve, is it this bad behind most people's refrigerators?" I asked, ashamed of the dead dust bear at his feet and the wasteland of dust balls, crumbs, bread twist ties and unidentifiable food fragments under the fridge.
"Oh, sure," he said in the most nonjudgmental way. (And that's how you know you've got a good repair guy -- he will reassure you that you're not disgusting even when it's obvious that you are.)
Steve let me clean a few things behind the fridge before pushing it back toward the wall, where it will likely gather another nine years' worth of God-knows-what. He packed up his bag and said the loud croaking could possibly be the refrigerator's fan on the fritz. It's hard to know for sure because the fridge played a game of "quiet mouse" as soon as Steve showed up, so we'll have to wait it out.
When it starts croaking again -- and you know it will -- I'm going to record it so I'll have proof. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I'm getting a new fridge.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. This column originally published in 2014. Email her at [email protected] Her book is available on Amazon.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at [email protected] Her book is available on Amazon.