If This Fridge Could Talk

Old open fridge on roadside by farmers field.
Old open fridge on roadside by farmers field.

My refrigerator died recently. It was sudden, but not surprising. Although I was never sure of her exact age, she had to be over 10, and thus based on the life expectancy of mid-range appliances, quite elderly. Until she passed, she never gave me a moment's worry. Always perfectly accommodating, even if I didn't understand everything about her, like the crisper. Is that what they're called -- crispers? Krispers? I don't even know. But she never made me feel bad about it, even as those bins gathered nothing but slightly sticky coffee grains.

Her death came in the middle of an insane cold snap, which those of you who took 9th grade English will recognize as ironic. Although I feel innately that refrigerators are earnest appliances (cold does in fact mean cold), I did share this poetic observation with the delivery guy who brought her replacement. I pride myself on always knowing my audience, and this went over BIG.

But that's getting ahead of the story. Her death happened like this: I came home one evening, noticed she seemed warm but assumed it was just my cold hand throwing me off. (Moms of the world, is this why you kiss the forehead instead of palm it?) Then I woke up in the middle of the night WITH A BAD FEELING (I wish I were kidding), stuck my hand in, and just knew. And then, finally, in the clear light of day, with sleep in my eyes and a desire for a very cold baby carrot (again, I wish I were kidding) I confirmed my diagnosis. She was gone.

Because her death lacked electrical finality (the light was still on and there was a slow trickle of warm wet air), I experienced one of the gruesome aspects of this kind of expiration, which is that you definitely learn that low temperatures, in addition to keeping things cold, also keep them from being really completely disgusting. You know how they tell you if the power goes out, DON'T OPEN THE FRIDGE because you want to preserve your food? Well, I had a hard time honoring that idea. In my grief, I had to confirm over and over again that the machine was dead. As a result: Warm hummus. Damp Chobani. Unfrozen sausages. Revolting. I have no self-control, people. I learn this over and over again in my life, but this was really a whopper.

Eventually, I shook off my shocked haze and decided my feelings had to take a back seat. I rescued what food I could. I sublet the corner of a friend's fridge. I went to PC Richard, the store that will always need an S, and I bought a new appliance so quickly, I wondered if it was actually callous of me. The body wasn't even cold, but then again that was the reason I was at PC Richard in the first place. And not to speak ill of the dead, but I can't even tell you how bad my deceased fridge looked! How was it so dirty when I had cleaned it all the time? The rogue parmesan! The tiny deformed onion in the way back! The side splatter that looked like a crime scene.

By the evening, I expected to feel better. Everything was sorted, and I would only have to wait overnight for my new model. But I didn't feel better; I felt weird. The truth was, I really missed my fridge. Her presence. She was calming, with her quiet, intermittent hum. I tried to imagine how many times I had stood in front of her, especially once I started working from home. How often I had wrestled with important decisions with her door open. She knew it all! More than my closet. More than my remote! She knew about the early morning baby carrots. About the desserts I put in the freezer so I wouldn't eat them but then I just ate them frozen. About the foods I was never sure needed to be in there at all, like soy sauce. And the freezer was like an emotional calendar: Chicken breasts (Winter. Cooking! Not that often. Seamless web.) Veggie burgers (Spring. I love spring! Also I can't close my jeans.) Ice pops (Summer. Blue tongue. Bad hair.) Moderately good homemade soup (Fall.) 1000 different stories, all essentially coming down to the same question: how old is too old to eat?

The next morning, a new, white, spanking clean fridge was installed in my apartment and they took her away. 2.0 looks pretty much the same as my old fridge, but newer -- a metaphor/Hollywood standard that is not lost on me. I'm attracted to her, as much as it feels like a betrayal. She's really pretty and nothing's fallen into the crispers yet. I respect her silence, her energy efficiency. But we feel like strangers. I've still got my company manners going, like things are all in neat ziplocks and no half-eaten secret scone is developing ice tips in the freezer. And yet, while worrying about Donald Trump last night, I did hold her door open, staring at a box of organic spinach for a good minute. Progress, right? These things take time.