My mini refrigerator died. It had survived thirteen years, which in refrigerator years is, like, fifty, but after this last heat wave, or my five-millionth defrosting job, it went to the happy junk yard in the sky.
I always time my defrosting duties for when my landlady is out of town, so I can store all my perishables in her full-bodied refrigerator. She was in Reno until Saturday. My mini fridge died on Friday. I had to get a new mini fridge pronto before my landlady came home with a Costco-sized load of groceries. That left me twenty-four hours to get my food out of her refrigerator. So on a day I normally work my second job because my first job doesn’t pay all the bills, I went hunting for a new refrigerator that wasn’t in the budget.
I scoured the internet for brands, and read reviews. Armed with a list of possible candidates, I got in my car.
First, I headed to Costco. I walked the entire store and found zero mini fridges. I also found zero food demonstrators, so I had zero sustenance for my epic journey through Costco.
Next up: Walmart. I loathe Walmart only slightly less than I loathe IKEA, mainly because the people who work in Walmart seem profoundly unhappy, and none of them speak my native language, the Queen’s English. I traipsed hither and yon looking for mini refrigerators, and finally spied the empty shelves where once they stood.
I looked around for a helper.
“Excuse me,” I said to a young man wearing a blue Walmart smock. “Do you have any mini refrigerators in stock?”
“Si. Here.” He directed me to the empty shelves and we stood side by side gazing at them.
“Are there any in back-stock?” I wondered aloud.
I drove across the street to Target.
I spotted a young woman wearing the Target colors: a red top and khaki pants, and asked where I might find the mini fridges.
“The kitchen section, if we’ve got any,” she said.
I walked five miles looking for refrigerators that didn’t exist. First, to the kitchen section, where I found shelf labels, but no actual mini fridges. I hunted for a helper. There are no helpers in Target. There are shoppers wearing red tops and khaki pants who have no idea what’s in back-stock, but no Target employees walking purposefully, or even sauntering, down the aisles. I know this, because I walked up and down every aisle until I was at the front of the store again, asking one of the cashiers for help in the kitchen section. She pointed me to a guy with a walkie-talkie who promised to help, and then promptly disappeared. I asked another cashier who pointed me to guest services, where walkie-talkie-guy was chit-chatting with an employee. “I’m on it,” he said when he noticed me, and promptly disappeared. I asked another…I’ll cut to the chase. Somebody finally found a mini refrigerator, I paid for it, and a beefy fellow wrestled it into the back seat of my Corolla.
I drove home.
Dare I tell you what happened next?
Remember, I was under deadline. My landlady was packing to come home. She would undoubtedly stock up on food before arriving. I had less than 24 hours to get my new fridge into my cottage, out of the box, allow four hours for it to stand upright before plugging it in because that’s what the directions say, clean it, turn it on, and get it to the proper safe food temperature which takes, oh, twelve hours.
I decided to get that refrigerator out of my car by myself.
Granted, this was a mini version, and half my height, but it was twice my weight, or what felt like twice my weight after pushing and pulling and shoving and angling and using forceps to get the dang thing out without breaking my car door. This, I imagined, is what it feels like to give birth. Without the mess.
I dragged it over uneven pavement to my back door, heaved it the doorstep, and rocked it down the hall. I clipped the packing straps in two, and started cutting the sides of the box with an Exacto knife before realizing I could lift the box off its base, wrangle the fridge off the styrofoam, and push it into position.
I hunkered down and opened the small door.
The photo on the outside of the box showed a variety of food filling the shelves, one item being a jar of Mayonnaise. I should have realized…the jar was Barbie-doll size. Upon closer inspection of said photo, the Mayonnaise jar was no bigger than the Yoplait yogurt crammed next to it.
This refrigerator had midget shelves.
The freezer? Huge!
Obviously, this mini fridge was designed for someone who lived in a man-cave subsisting on frozen dinners and a single stalk of celery.
I’m a vegan.
I need a crisper that’s bigger than a wallet.
I needed to get that refrigerator back in its box, down the hallway, over the uneven pavement, into my car, and returned to Target in exchange for another refrigerator at some other store which, hopefully, had something in stock.
The clock was ticking.
I got to work.