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Underestimating what it takes to be cool these days

By JIM BUSEK • Mar 12, 2019 at 10:00 AM

A lot of people — no, scratch that — nobody asked why they did not see me around last Tuesday afternoon. But if they had, I was ready with my answer.

I was in my refrigerator.

Well, in and out. I was doing a top-to-bottom, throw-stuff-out, wash-all-the shelves-and-bins, make-that-baby-sparkle cleaning.

Let me preface by saying we are pretty tidy people. And Char has always kept up with the regular maintenance and spot cleaning that most people do in a refrigerator.

But for some reason I decided to do a full-blown detailing this time.

I see now it was a rash decision. I’ll know better in the future.

For starters, I had allowed about an hour to do the job. It took more like three. Or maybe closer to four.

The cooling unit in question is a fairly new Amana. One of those big, two-door stainless steel jobs with a freezer on the bottom. It cost about the same as a Datsun two door sedan I bought new in 1972. And, as I have previously implied, it takes even longer to clean.

My error in estimating cleaning time occurred because we actually have two refrigerators: the above-mentioned big, gleaming one in the kitchen and an older General Electric fridge in the garage.

“Older” is what you might call a gigantic understatement.

Actually, our garage refrigerator was new shortly after someone determined that you could use electricity to keep food cold. It came with a house I bought 47 years ago. And it was old then. Once when I was moving the old refrigerator, I found a Rin-Tin-Tin comic book that had slipped down behind it. It was dated 1958.

When I am watching old black-and-white movies from the 1950s, my favorite parts are the kitchen scenes. That’s because there is a good chance I will see our fridge and get to shout, “There it is!”

In other words, if the refrigerator in our garage was a person, it would be old enough to collect Social Security.

And, of course, a refrigerator that old does not defrost itself. Thus, for the past 47 years I have been doing that job a couple times each year.

And that’s how I ended up misjudging how long it would take to properly clean my 21st century fridge.

Here’s how cleaning and defrosting my old refrigerator works:

1. I shut it off.

2. I take everything out and put the contents into a couple of coolers.

3. I prop the door open and go away for a couple of hours while the accumulated ice melts and runs out on the garage floor.

4. I return, wipe the interior surfaces dry, put everything back inside, turn it on and pat myself on the back for a job well done, half an hour on-site, tops.

The refrigerator in the kitchen is another story altogether. It didn’t have to be defrosted, of course.

But everything else was so much more complicated.

For starters, it holds so much more stuff that things kind of get lost inside. Thus, there was a lot of decision-making about what to keep and what to throw out. Along with all the surplus fast-food salad dressing and honey and salsa packets that had accumulated, there were various bottles and jars of expired products that required my culinary judgment.

As I removed and washed every glass shelf and storage bin from what I came to appreciate as a really large refrigerator, my kitchen countertop began to look like the cold aisle in the supermarket. But eventually everything got wiped off and replaced in the gleaming, cool interior.

The freezer was easier. But then we don’t use our freezer like most people.

Yes, we have some frozen shrimp and tilapia and leftover soups and the like.

But, unlike a lot of homes, there is no partial side of beef or packaged wild game that I brought home from a hunting trip.

What we have are ice packs. Not AN ice pack. Or even two or three ice packs. No, we have an assortment of cold compresses that a trauma center would be proud of. Soft ones. Solid ones. Flexible ones. Large ones. Small ones.

It’s not like we have lots of injuries that require icing. But when we do, by gosh, we have just the thing to put on them.

All in all, I got quite an education cleaning out a modern refrigerator.

And now I can hardly wait to get to work on the one in the garage. It’s the one with the beer in it.


Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.

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