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Now with Freezer: The Grand Victory of a Tiny Triumph

Posted in Uncategorized by cesco7 on April 22, 2011

Back in college I was so painfully shy I was unable to order pizza over the phone, not only denying myself almost 95% of my collegiate nutrients but also leaving me to depend on the help of friends or the likelihood a large with pepperoni would be delivered to my room by mistake.

This, however, was a step up from high school, when I both averted my gaze any time my name was called in class (resulting in several minutes of “Francesco?…Francesco?…I can see you, Francesco…Francesco!…Scott?”) and managed to avoid using the bathroom six hours a day for three straight years for fear of bullies or social contact.

And somehow even this was a grand leap from elementary school, when I was so scared to ask for permission to go to the bathroom that one time I simply thought it easier to pee at my own desk. (The fact that I still wound up on the “Honors” track instead of the “Food Industry” or “Monitored by Scientists” track confounds me to this day.)

To put it lightly, speaking up has never been a strong suit of mine. This fear has followed me well into adulthood, causing no end of delays in professional advancements, personal achievements or even tasting a Starbucks Holiday Latte (which ultimately proved a remarkable letdown to say the least). It has also led me to continue living for years with an inoperative oven, two dead burners, a closet door that does not close and, worst of all, an ancient, malfunctioning refrigerator…

…complete with an equally defective icebox.

While living with what increasingly feels like a prop from The Honeymooners–and having to defrost every 36 hours–certainly has had its quaint charms, I began to long for an appliance that allowed me to keep dairy products over the course of a full afternoon or did not require eight pounds of salt and the torch from Fahrenheit 451 every time I wanted access to a Fla-Vor-Ice.

Thus, when it came time to renew my lease–an act I do year after year despite my ramshackle existence solely because it allows me to utter the phrase “private backyard” (which in New York City is the equivalent of saying, “Would you care to see my gryphon?”)–a wholly unique thought popped in my head. “What if,” I wildly pondered, “I asked for a new fridge…or at least a fridge from this decade…or at least a fridge with working door hinges…or at least a fridge with shelving that does not consist of cardboard featuring cereal mascots…or at least a fridge that does require it’s own coal shoveler…or…” It was at this point I cut off my train of thought, for fear I would call up my landlord requesting they replace my refrigerator with a burlap sack resting atop an ice floe.

So after several days of pumping myself with courage–and then having to rest an additional two days after discovering my body can only handle mild pluck, not outright valor or even middling grit–I called my landlord and announced with my boldest squeak, “I would like a new fridge.” To which they immediately responded, “No. You already got a new fridge in 2008.”

Admittedly, I was not prepared for this response, if only because the very same fridge was in my apartment when I assumed the lease back in 2007. When I mentioned this over the phone–much to my own great surprise–I was informed that I was wrong, that my refrigerator is practically brand new and that it was still under warranty with its seller, P.C. Richards. When I asked if they could send someone over from P.C. Richards to check my supposedly newish fridge, my landlord said with not a little annoyance that since it was under warranty it was my responsibility, not theirs, to have it repaired. Then they hung up.

For someone who considers talking on the phone a Herculean effort–and requesting anything a Satanic exercise–this was perhaps the worst outcome I could have imagined. It was as if I had finally worked up the courage to ask a woman out only for her to say, “I’m sorry, I only date men.” Ashamed, ashen-face and almost certain I would never be able to keep cheese, I then did what I thought was my only viable course of action–do what a stranger had told me to do and call P.C. Richards for repairs.

Working under the theory that due to the warranty calling P.C. Richards was not so much bothering them with a favor as fulfilling a contractual obligation they themselves had put into motion, I dialed the number my landlord had barked at me and told the store my situation. The store asked for the refrigerator’s identification number. The store then said they had no such refrigerator on record. The store then asked me to locate the refrigerator’s manufacturing date. The store then asked me to read said manufacturing date aloud.

“March 1997.”

And so I was embarrassed for the second time in under 15 minutes. Embarrassed that I had bothered an appliance store (though I’m quite certain my chagrin could easily lend itself to any number of retail outfits). Embarrassed that I had not thought to look up the manufacturing date myself. And embarrassed that I had let myself be so easily convinved I was in the wrong from the very beginning.

But something else had happened. In addition to being embarrassed I was also quite enraged. And it was because of this newfound anger that I was able to skip completely over my “Six Stages of Grief over Having to Call a Stranger” (Stage 1: Fear; Stage 2: Panic; Stage 3: Horror; Stage 4: Outright dread; Stage 5: Put off call for eight months; Stage 6: Aneurysm) and immediately call back my landlord.

“Hel…Hello, this…this is Francesco. We spoke earlier…No, no, I know…I know….I know…I’m sorry…I’m sorry, but…but…I called P.C. Richards and they have no record of my refrigerator. In fact, I found out…I know…I’m sorry….I found out that my fridge was manufactured in 1997, and so could never have been delivered in 2008.”

Then there was silence, followed by a hushed but hot-tempered exchange in Hindi on the other end of the line and then eventually the following response.

“You must have read the manufacturing date wrong.”

Now, I admit that I have never had a facility for foreign languages, but I am quite confident that I have a firm, white-knuckled grip on Arabic numerals. Had the refrigerator been built in Japan and the manufacturing date been written in Kanji, then yes, I would have readily admitted that I could not say with any certainty whether I was reading a year or perhaps the name of a Kanto prefecture. But this was patently ridiculous. And it was at this very ludicrous moment that I realized my landlord and I had accomplished something previously thought physically impossible or only the commodity of feverish science fiction–we were actually communicating across two alternate realities.

In my reality I had an almost decade-and-a-half fridge that made such a horrible grinding noise it sounded as if I was milling granite in my kitchen. In my landlord’s reality I had a brand new fridge featuring such technological advances as an icebox that could store a single ice tray or King Cone and a vegetable crisper sans drawer, resulting in more of a tomato cubbyhole.

Now, there comes a time when a small child is arguing with his or her parent that the kid will say something so unbelievably stupid in their own defense that even they will be startled by the boldness of their doltishness (ex: “Bunnies WOULD make good pilots!”). This is known as “the point of no return” in a verbal quarrel, the moment at which a person is so desperate for a victory that they are no longer concerned about being right but simply about not having to admit that they are wrong. It was this very point that my landlord had reached. So desperate was he to not be made a fool–as well not to have to cough up $600–he fearlessly tried to undermine the very linear nature of time itself. And it was at this very point that I miraculously found my voice, my confidence and my very right to express my needs.

And so I said–not muttered–in a calm yet courageous tone, “Get me a new fridge today.”

It’s been a while since that series of increasingly insipid conversations, a period of time punctuated with Fla-Vor-Ices retrieved from my brand new refrigerator with actual freezer. And while the preceding story may seem a small series of inconsequential events to you, dear reader, please know that to me it means if not a grand victory in personal development then at least a tiny triumph in being able to store and eat leftover pizza I order all by myself.

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21 Responses

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  1. Gil said, on April 22, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Congratulations on your new refrigerator. You have a gryphon as well? I am really impressed. I thought I was the only one that suffered from the six stages of grief over calling a stranger… this actually extends sometimes to complimenting people on their blogs. Thanks for putting the “like” button on your page. OK, off to to have the aneurysm now.

  2. Caffeinated Joe (Wings) said, on April 22, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Major kudos to you. I know all to well what you feel when you talk about stranger/phone/talking anxiety. High school – and a big chunk of life- were made difficult due to this problem.

    That fridge is a trophy man.

  3. Gen said, on April 22, 2011 at 9:48 am

    ZOMG, I had that fridge. It was terrible. I moved before asking for a new one, though…

  4. Tracey said, on April 22, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Great story. I love your tales as much as your take on kitties. I’m glad you got a new fridge.

  5. geezerlynch said, on April 22, 2011 at 10:25 am

    HUZZAH, FRANCESCO!! BRAVO!! BRAVO!!

  6. Duncman23 said, on April 22, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Congrats on overcoming what I know to be quite a paralyzing experience. I hope you use your newly found confidence and proceed to cover your new fridge in tacky magnets and kindergarten quality art work.

  7. Fraser said, on April 22, 2011 at 11:04 am

    My heater has been broken for five years. If I wasn’t about to move out (yay!), I would totally use your story as inspiration to call my landlord and, well, I would probably apologise for living, but it’s a start.

  8. mollificent said, on April 22, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Bravo! Bravo! BRAVISSIMO!! As someone who struggles mightily with the very same problem (with me it’s an abject fear of confrontation…I literally CANNOT send a meal back in a restaurant for any defect short of a disemboweled mouse floating in my soup), I applaud you, and your story will serve as a shining example. Well done you.

  9. Tea said, on April 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    I am not painfully shy by any definition of the word, but I am utterly mortified of having to ask people for things, ESPECIALLY over the phone! The disembodied voices scare the bejeezus out of me.

    In my last apartment, the wall collapsed in my shower! That I had to call the landlord about. It was awesome. I have never had appliance issues quite this serious, though.

  10. William Lee Sims said, on April 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Awesome and amazing! My heart skipped a beat when I read “Get me a new fridge today.” Your boldness was a shock.

  11. Jamie said, on April 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Heroic. Inspirational.

  12. Jimmy Joe said, on April 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Congratulations are in order. Please don’t let this victory inspire you to become a major pain in the ass. Wait, no, go for it!

  13. kit said, on April 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    sounds like my wife when I first met her. She managed to overcome her social anxieties as well and I’m extremely proud of her for doing it. Kudos to you for standing up for yourself (and thus getting Ice pops).

  14. Landlord said, on April 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Arrogant cartoonist! I throw you out on the street!

  15. Stephen said, on April 23, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Goddamnit you’re so fucking funny.

    I’m green with envy, but also really happy I am not you (and vice versa), because were I you/me (whatever), I wouldn’t be able to laugh so much at what you’ve/I’d written.

    Or something like that.

  16. surtr said, on April 23, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I effing love this blog.

  17. robinite said, on April 24, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    congratulations. i tend toward the shy, and can relate to the huge embarrassment (or even feeling of rejection–is it weird to say that?) of those first conversations. i’m glad you came out on top and now have an actual fridge though!

  18. apricoco said, on April 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    You need to hire yourself a phone call stand-in. My husband fears confrontation almost on par with you, but I do not. I call, we get shit done. It’s amazing how that works.

  19. jzgplj said, on April 25, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Now it’s time for a new stove, Ces! Go get em’!

  20. Tegan said, on April 25, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Words cannot express how much I have no ability to relate to this article. The inability to resolve common obstacles in a consumer society is like being allergic to documents. The landlord would have been up in my apartment with a fridge strapped the the back of his 10-year-old son within 20 minutes of my first conversation with him. Glad you pushed through and got your ice pops all happenin’.

  21. MrsJetson said, on April 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    You’re not alone! I recently moved out of my apartment (into a new house YAY!), and for the last few months, the overhead fluorescent light in our kitchen wouldn’t come on (even after replacing the bulbs – it just stopped working). Instead of calling maintenance, we felt it was in our best interest to just cook in the dark.

    With our newfound homeownership, I don’t have to consult ANYONE when my lights need fixin’!


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