Our oven comes equipped with a unique feature. When you open the door to take out a dish, it sets your face on fire. Naturally, this adds a certain thrill to dinner. When the timer goes off and you pull it open, a blast of air hot enough to ignite skin washes over you. This phenomenon is so common, at least from my experience, that I would not be surprised if the phrase “dinner’s ready” isn’t slang among paramedics for “guy with head on fire.”
Using an expensive appliance that seems designed not to work well, and by working well, I mean, does not turn you into a human sparkler, got me thinking. We have other things around our house that don’t work so well.
My three near-combustion experiences this weekend brought to mind our former health insurance. Our health care plan came with a unique feature in that it served us well so long as we did not require any health care. We had worked out with our company a special deal where we would pay them thousands of dollars a year and in return, they would accept it.
The upside for them was that they took our money without ever paying a doctor’s bill. The upside for us was that we had something to do with a significant portion of our income that otherwise would have gone to buying trinkets to clutter up our home like a new oven or, alternatively, matching fireproof suits.
Being their customers wasn’t all bad. The money we gave them entitled us, whenever we wanted, to call up and listen to their automated phone menus. After listening for forty-five minutes or so, the messages would change slightly. At the beginning of each call, a voice would urge you to hold if you were calling with a question about your benefits. After three-quarters of an hour, the perky-voiced lady on the recording would say, “If you are calling with a question about your benefits, do us both a favor and stop pretending you have any.” We always got a kick out of that.
One of our cars recently developed its own unique attribute. It stopped running. We haven’t gotten rid of it, because in lots of ways it’s still useful. For example, it works as a sort of enormous paperweight to keep the driveway from blowing away. Also, it makes a nice decoration; spices things up back there visually. Some people have pink flamingos. We have a Honda.
All these advantages pale in comparison with the chief use we’ve found for it. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say, we’ve started referring to that pile of rusting metal as “the guest room.” When friends drop by, it’s so nice to have someplace to put them.
You might think the neighbors would object to watching a family of six pile into a 2000 Honda Civic as if it were a room at the Plaza. They don’t because the neighbors have certain unique attributes of their own. Mostly, their inclination to discuss the intimate details of their marriage extensively. In the street. Very loudly. In the wee hours of the morning.
A few nights ago, I was roused from slumber by their screaming. It went on and on. If I, safely ensconced in my bed, two floors above the action, was alarmed, the folks down in the guest room must have been terrified.
The neighbors paced the street. Their shouting grew louder whenever they came close to our home. The woman was letting him have it. She insisted he was cheating on her. He denied it. I mean, who could be any less than totally satisfied with a woman like this?
Perhaps they were well matched. He returned her every accusation with a streak of abuse composed in rhetoric so enflamed I worried it would peel the paint from our house. Given his performance, the question that remains isn’t was he cheating, but why wouldn’t she want him to?
The Mrs. went to call the police. When she returned a few minutes later, she said they’d be sending a cruiser.
“Will they be bringing an ambulance as well? Maybe some paramedics?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “Why?”
“Oh,” I said. “Since I’m up, I figured I might as well go down for a snack.”
“What does that have to do with whether they are sending an ambulance?” she asked.
“Well,” I said. “If they were sending an ambulance, I could use the oven.”