Saved by technology's bells and whistles
By LISA SMITH MOLINARI | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: September 14, 2018
It was an ordinary morning. Or so we thought. The dog was napping in the kitchen corner, my son was making a sandwich, and I was folding laundry. But this day would live in infamy.
My son’s plate clunked onto the glass turntable of our microwave. He slammed the door, and began punching the buttons necessary to melt cheese on his roast beef sandwich. A series of beeps sounded, and then he pressed “Start.”
“Hayden! What was that?!” I bellowed, instinctively lurching to his rescue despite nearly losing bladder control. The noise had come from the microwave that came with our house. It had not given us any problems since we bought the property, but something was most definitely wrong. After the alarming boom, the appliance emitted an ominous grumble and refused to operate. We tried every troubleshooting recommendation in the manual, and called a repairman for advice, but nothing worked.
We were forced to face facts: Our microwave had blown her magnetron, and she was terminal.
My son and I looked at each other with panic as if contemplating the end of the universe. “What does one do without a functioning microwave?” I wondered with fear. “Sure, we have a range and an oven, but they’re mainly for Thanksgiving. We’ll starve by the time November rolls around! In the meantime, how am I supposed to reheat my coffee when it goes cold? We’ll never survive!”
Unable to cope with the thought of life without instant gratification, we ran to the store. My husband had received a $500 Lowe’s gift card as a work bonus, so we upgraded to an impressive model known as the “Whirlpool Smart Microwave and Convection Oven with Scan-to-cook Technology.”
“We have arrived!” I thought, remembering the years of living in military base housing and cheap rentals, making due with substandard microwaves. Never mind that I didn’t know exactly what made this newfangled appliance “smart” and had no idea how to cook by convection. I was ecstatic that we could finally afford “fingerprint-resistant stainless steel.”
After a painful month of using our son’s pizza sauce-splattered college microwave that had been stored in a spidery corner of our basement, our new microwave arrived. I felt a little guilty watching the Lowe’s installers do their work, because I had been the kind of military spouse who installed faucets, hung ceiling fans and replaced dryer heating elements when my husband was deployed. But when I saw that it took two men and a huge set of drill bits to hang the microwave and wall bracket, I realized that the pro-install saved us from a crooked appliance.
I thanked the installers and gave them a modest tip. I found my cold coffee for the test run. Placing the cup onto the sparkling clean turntable and closing the fingerprint-resistant stainless steel door, I noticed that the display panel lit up like the cockpit of a Growler.
I punched in 1-0-0 on the keypad, but was stymied about what to do next. A message appeared, “Press start or cancel.” On the display, I saw “Connect,” “Steam/Simmer,” “Convect,” “Defrost,” “ Warm Hold,” “Accupop,” “Potato,” “Vegetable,” “Reheat,” “AutoCook,” “Remote Enable,” and “Kids Menu,” but no “Start.” I was afraid to punch any buttons for fear that I might inadvertently initiate an electronic warfare attack on my neighbors, so I grabbed the manual.
An hour later, I found the start button — it was the square icon with an arrow in the middle, duh! — but I was more confused than ever. According to the manual, if I had the wherewithal to figure out the instructions, my smartphone could control the microwave remotely, I could program it to cook in Kosher Consumer-Friendly Mode, and I could set it to automatically know the difference between tomato soup and Hot Pockets.
I knew I would never use 90 percent of the microwave’s fancy features. Had we spent $500 just so we could melt cheese? I might have been outsmarted by an appliance, but sipping steaming hot coffee was worth it at any cost.