Friday, September 7, 2018
A death in the family
I've had freezers go kaput three times in my life. The first time was 40 years ago and that load of bad meat represented not only a big waste disposal problem but a huge hit in the pocketbook. I remember sitting on a stool in front of the open box, loading rotten steaks into a garbage can, trying not to puke from the smell, with tears running down my face every time I caught sight of a price sticker.
The second time was two and a half years ago; a different house, and this time the freezer lived in the garage. We started noticing a bad odor in the house -- was it a dead animal? It took us a couple of days before we realized that it wasn't a dead animal but a dead freezer. The chore of cleaning out the rotten food was just as unpleasant, but at least this time I didn't cry over the hundreds of dollars down the drain. The intervening years had given us not only a bigger bank balance but a more mature perspective on life: on the disaster scale, a freezer full of rotten food wasn't anywhere near the top.
The third time occurred last weekend. We had had premonitions for a week or so beforehand, a gallon of ice cream that wasn't rock hard, but the temperature still seemed cold enough and we forgot about it. Then on Saturday a gallon of ice cream was not only soft to the touch but sloshed around when I lifted it. The bacon was soft and pliable. The big ham yielded a bit to finger pressure. Oops. Of course this happens on a long holiday weekend when the repair people are off duty.
We bought two huge bags of ice and put them in the freezer, and monitored the temperature twice a day. We invited people over for dinner and cooked up the big ham. I sent a box full of food home with my daughter-in-law. We moved some food into the little freezer in the kitchen fridge. We cooked up a pot roast that was thawing and had bacon for breakfast.
Days passed. The Maytag repair shop reopened -- but couldn't send a guy out until Thursday. We watched the thermometer in the freezer go up. Finally on Wednesday it hit 40 degrees, maximum fridge temperature. Time for the final solution.
I gave five pounds of ground beef to my house cleaner. I gave ten pounds of chicken breasts to my friend Debby, who proceeded to poach it all, eat some for dinner and package up the rest for future use. We moved various containers of leftover soup and spaghetti sauce into the fridge, told the previously frozen bread and nuts they would just have to get by at room temperature, and pitched a stack of TV dinners (good riddance).
No tears, no rotten meat; five stars on the dead-freezer-experience evaluation form. My only big regret was that the two-year limited warranty had expired -- wait for it -- on Sunday of Labor Day weekend! That is, the day after we realized we had a big problem. I kicked myself for not acting sooner when the first gallon of ice cream seemed soft.
By the time the repairman got here yesterday the freezer was empty. He diagnosed a leak in the plumbing, allowing the Freon to escape. To fix it, he would have to inject dye into the innards and come back in a couple of days (at $89 per visit) to see exactly where the leak was. Then, he thought, it would cost about $350 to fix it. The whole freezer had cost $550, so the decision was a no-brainer -- DNR.
There was one bright spot: the two-year limited warranty wouldn't have covered Freon leaks anyway. The repairman cynically pointed to the sticker on the door that in large type announced a ten-year warranty on the compressor. He told us that compressors never go bad so why not be generous! But leaky plumbing is only covered for one year. Makes you think twice about buying a new freezer. I guess we'll do that we did the last time around -- try to get by without a big freezer for a while and see what life is like.