Out Of My Element

Now Playing: South Central Rain, by R.E.M. “Did you never call? I waited for your call. These rivers of suggestion are driving me away. The trees will bend, the cities wash away, The city on the river there is a girl without a dream.”

I’ve detailed my recent adventures as a plumber – and as an employer of a local handyman service – in a previous entry. But hey, I don’t always foul up.

Saturday night we discovered the bake element – the bottom thing that gets red-hot when you cook – in our oven wasn’t getting red-hot any more. I’m not even sure it was getting red-warm. Karen noticed it while I was out buying a second can of paint at Lowe’s for Garrett’s bedroom.

She told me to call someone Monday to fix it and in the meantime we’d get by on microwave/toaster oven/crockpot.

But I said no. I’d take a shot at fixing it. (Given how I “fixed” the toilet, I think she was kinda worried, but she had the grace not to mention it.) I researched it in my handy-dandy handyman book and online, and it didn’t look like much of a repair.

So Sunday morning, once Austin got up, we pulled the oven out to the middle of the kitchen, and I took out a couple of screws in the housing attaching the element to the oven. That’s when I discovered (and to be truthful, it actually was Austin’s young eyes that discovered it) that none of the stuff I’d looked at correctly described how our element connected to our oven.

So we had to take the back of the oven off, which my research described as “The Hard Way” to replace an element. Still it was easy enough and we got the bad element out without too much trouble. Great, I thought, I’ll just take the bad one to Lowe’s and buy a replacement.

Alas, there were complications. Turns out Lowe’s doesn’t sell bake elements. Which shocked, stunned and amazed me. I get used to it having everything I need when I need it.

But the ever-helpful staff came up with three suggestions of places where I could get one. Only thing was, none were open on Sunday.

First thing, yesterday morning, I called the nearest one, which was in Monroe. Or MON-roe, as I like to call it. “Yep,” the lady who answered said, “we carry them. But I’m not sure if we have that one. You’ll have to wait for the other girl to get here, she knows more about them than me.”

So, element and model number in hand, I went to the store to see the “other girl.”

She took my element and headed to the store’s inventory, displayed on a bunch of hooks hanging on the wall. “I gotta warn you, they cost $50,” she said. I said that was fine. The first one she showed me was too small, but No. 2 was a perfect match.

Of course, I’d been this far – getting the right part – on my ill-fated toilet repair. So the real test waited. Even before I got home, I started worrying that the new one had a different type of connectors than the old one. But everything turned out fine. I installed the element, put the back back on, retightened the housing in the oven and pushed it back to the plug. Garrett and I hooked her up, and then I paused. “Garrett,” I said, “I have to tell you something before we turn this on. It says in all my instructions that there’s a chance that it will smoke the first time it’s used, so don’t panic if it does.” Garrett’s a worrier, not to mention a critic, so I knew I needed to pre-empt his concerns.

We held our breath and turned her on. Within seconds, the element turned red. A few minutes later, it preheated to 400. I didn’t have anything to cook, so I counted that as success.

Karen was proud of me when she got home. I pooh-poohed it, trying to be nonchalant. But then she said it: “You may not be an electrician, baby, but you’ve always been able to make sparks fly.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

“Electricity is really just organized lightning.” _ George Carlin

“They say that a good cook can ignite sparks by the way he kisses. The way I see, just because a guy can turn on the stove doesn’t necessarily make him a good cook.” _ Stefanie Powers


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