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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

This Too Shall Passover

By George:

With just one short week left before the joyous Jewish Festival of Passover, my wife Miriam is heading into the home stretch with her usual frenzy. The house cleaning is mostly done, the shopping for food and incidentals for the Holiday are winding down, and she is starting to relax. We can almost see the traditional Passover Seder table beckoning us just a handful of days away.

I pick at my dinner of unavoidable leftovers, which have to be disposed of before the Passover Holiday. I smile as the events of last year's panicked Pre-Passover scenario flood my mind. The whole "disaster" is still vividly seared into my memory.

Wait, let me start from the beginning. It really began some years ago, when the trusty GE wall oven we owned started showing signs of age. I wan't worried, because I am a very handy guy who can fix things. So when the igniter died, I replaced it. When the door seal wore out, I replaced it. When the control panel died, I replaced it and it kept on working. The self cleaning mechanism failed, so I fixed it with some glue and matchsticks. When later it failed again, I replaced it. But finally the time came when the heatproof wiring started disintegrating and I could no longer safely replace the igniter, I pronounced it time to replace the oven. I had to convince my wife that I could no longer fix it and it would not be worthwhile to have it repaired.

So two years ago just before Passover we went oven shopping. We found a great deal on a Frigidaire wall oven at a local discount store, purchased it, and I set to the installation eagerly.

The unit was "new", but I had some trepidations when there were some handwritten notes on the installation manual, and the gas connection had some pipe dope on it. Though it was supposedly the same size as the oven it replaced, I still found it an inch short for the cabinet cutout, so I shimmed it with some wood on the bottom. Then it was off to the Home Depot for an extension pipe and some connectors to attach the gas line, but not before I had to enlarge the hole where the gas line attached to the unit. I finally completed the installation, covered up the cosmetic misalignments, and happily went to sleep.

Miriam was happy with her new oven, though she claimed it was smaller inside than her old GE. She asked me about the Sabbath Mode that was one feature we considered before purchase, but it turned out that THIS model didn't have it. Somewhat disappointing, but hey, we got a great deal. It did come with the Self Cleaning mode, so it would be all right. As usual, when minor problems cropped up, I was able to handle it.

Then last year Passover came around and the frenzy of the preparations peaked about a week before Passover, it was great to be able to count on the oven cleaning itself. Miriam pressed the "Self Clean" button, the motor whirred, the panel light blinked, paused for a bit, started blinking an error message about calling service and began beeping incessantly. This really annoyed me because a year old oven should NOT be having these problems, but I have replaced a "self cleaning" motor on the last oven, so no problem.

I removed and disconnected the control panel, which finally stilled the nerve-racking beeping, but the motor was not there. Checked the manuals, and it seems the motor is only accessible from the back. This meant that the unit had to be uninstalled and removed, the whole back taken apart just to get to this motor. I admitted defeat, because with less than a week before Passover, I didn't want to attempt it. So what should we do? I felt that I didn't want to invest any more money in an oven that Miriam didn't like anyway, and we should get a better unit since the repair bill seemed to be more than I wanted to spend. Miriam convinced me to get it repaired. The repairman eventually showed up, and after a few tries and with some help from me, got the oven self cleaning again. The cost of the repair and parts came pretty close to the price of the oven when it was "new". But Passover was saved, and that is what counted most, although I started resenting this "expensive" oven. When later the bottom storage drawer fell out and the decorative front glass shattered, I promised Miriam I would order the part, but since it worked fine without the glass, I conveniently kept forgetting about it.

My dinner of delicious leftovers is finished, and I put the plate and fork into the dishwasher. I smile at Miriam who is not quite finished cleaning the kitchen, then on a whim ask. "Did you Self Clean the oven yet?" She replies that she is planning on doing it just before she starts the Passover cooking. I ask "Do you really want to wait for the last moment to try it?" She tells me that she is afraid to use the Self Clean and she hasn't used it for at least 6 months. I suggest that now would be a better time to try than later.

Miriam presses the "Self Clean" button, the motor whirres, the panel light blinks, pauses for a bit, then starts blinking an error message about calling service while it begins beeping incessantly. I am about to start "bleeping" myself, realizing that for the amount of money this oven cost us so far, we could have bought a deluxe model back then. But I try to look on the bright side of things, so I am grateful for my "bad memory" that saved me from ordering the decorative glass front for the bottom drawer, (which I was really planning to do for Passover). I quickly run for my tools to stop that infernal beeping. To forestall my wife from crossing over from "frantic" to "panicked", I assure her that she could get her old reliable GE oven back, all she has to do is order it.

We start surfing for ovens, she makes some calls to distributors and friends, and by next day she announces to me that she found the perfect oven for a great price from a local dealer who came recommended from her friends. Hmmm.. Deja-vu, all over again. She tells me that the salesman was a very nice guy, and that she spoke to him for a while and found out that they knew each others' families etc.. So what about the oven? She tells me that she got the GE model we are looking for and saved $250. This is fantastic. A great unit, for a great price. I call the salesman to arrange for payment and while chatting we figure out that some 30 years ago we attended the same Synagogue, and he tells me that he remembers me. I don't believe him, and ask for his information so I can send him the money. He offers that for an extra $20 the delivery people will haul away the old oven. Great, for what would I do with a perfectly good oven that just refuses to clean itself? I send him the money electronically, and get a promise of an early Wednesday delivery. He also recommends a handyman to do the installation, and finally things are back on track.

Wednesday morning I leave for work, and my wife is now awaiting her new oven. Throughout the day I get hourly reports on the non-arrival of the oven. When I return home from work, I have to take a taxi home from the train station because my wife can't leave the house since the delivery might come any minute. Since I had forgotten to uninstall the old unit last night, I grab my tools and spend 30 minutes uninstalling it. I finish just in time as the delivery van pulls up in front of the house. I ask Miriam to make the call to the handyman to come install it.

The 2 delivery guys are not the most efficient, and it takes them about 15 minutes to figure out how to unload the box and how to get it into the house. Finally the smaller guy straps the box to his back and casually strolls into the house with it. He deposits it in the middle of the kitchen, pulls out the paperwork for me to sign. I suggest they uncrate it first and remove the box, as well as removing the old oven that I already paid for to have removed.. I sign the papers and they leave.

I am standing there admiring the new oven, but something is gnawing at me. Past ovens I have installed, came with an electric plug to connect to the electricity, but this unit only has wires but no plug. All right, I'll have to put a plug on it. I step back to take a good look at the oven, and notice it has no bottom drawer. As a matter of fact, why does this oven only reach to my waist, when it should be up to my chest? Then it hits me that this is NOT the gas oven we ordered, but an electric oven. I tell Miriam to see if the delivery guys are still outside, and get them back here. Luckily they are still outside trying to figure out what to do with the old oven. They come back in, we have them call the store for instructions. The dealer promises to take care of it. The 2 guys remove the new oven and we are left standing there staring at this gaping hole in the kitchen cabinet. I remind Miriam to call off the installation guy, then we drive over to the store to get this resolved.

We get to the store before they close, and although the salesman who sold us the unit is gone, another guy is willing to help us. He checks the computer and tells us that we had ordered the Electric oven, but he can upgrade us to the Gas oven for a mere $130. (Reminder to myself - don't EVER let Miriam order appliances without my verification) The deal is struck and he promises delivery by tomorrow. Miriam insists on a morning delivery, and he says "Yeah, sure". We go home a little happier, and Miriam calls the installer and informs him that she will call him as soon as delivery is made.

In the morning I go to work, looking forward to coming home to a kitchen with a new oven loaded with steaming hot Passover food cooking. Miriam has managed to get the delivery guys' cell phone number, so she keeps calling to find out when they are coming. They no longer answer her calls. Throughout the day Miriam calls me at work with the hourly oven report, "They are still not here". After work I skip going to the gym and head for home to find a frantic wife who is envisioning a Passover without an oven, and a gaping hole in the kitchen cabinet. Frankly, I am not sure which of the two thoughts distressed her more, no oven, or the hole?

Calls to the delivery guys is still unanswered, but finally the truck pulls up in front of the house at about 8pm. This time it takes both guys to bring the box into the house. Unit is uncrated, I examine it and give my approval, ask the two guys to lift the unit into the cabinet cutout, sign the delivery receipt and they leave. I breathe a sigh of relief as Miriam calls the installer. He doesn't answer. Odds are that he isn't coming tonight and the oven HAS to be operating by tomorrow morning, so I shuffle off to get my toolbox. I have done this before, I can do it again. Just one quick trip to Home Depot to get the right coupler, then it's just a matter of coaxing my body into contortions that it can no longer remember. By 12:15am I am done, the oven tested to my satisfaction, I put my tools away and drag my aching body off to bed.

In the morning Miriam is ecstatic and is ready to start cooking. I head off to work with a satisfied smile, while she is anticipating the cooking marathon.

Now for the "ironic" conclusion.

I return from work late Friday afternoon and I barely have enough time left to shower, shave and get ready for the Sabbath. Miriam is still on a high with her new oven, and she tells me about a little "oops". It seems that she had wanted to give the oven a chance to work in, so before anything else, she put some apples with cinnamon in it to bake to get the house smelling good. The name "Baked Apple" should have given her a clue, but instead of baking them, she decided to Broil them. As Miriam relates to me, "The apples exploded", leaving the inside of the new oven coated with burned apples. She shows me the remnants and I comment, "At least now you have a good Self Cleaner, so you can get it cleaned up." She gives me an incredulous look and snaps, "Are you crazy? No way I am going to use the Self Clean NOW before Pesach (Passover), just in case..."

But Passover is once again saved, and that is what counts most.

A Lesson to be Learned.

As I was writing this vignette, it occurred to me that there is a deep spiritual message contained in the above narrative. God has created us all with our own spiritual "Self Clean" mode. It is impossible to live a life of perfect spiritual purity and it's more than likely that we will stumble and sin from time to time. But God has given us a "Self Cleaning" function that we call "Repentance". The caveat is that you should NOT be afraid to use this amazing function, but endeavor to use "Self Cleaning" as often as possible.

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