If there is any writer who can make commonplace items seem threatening, it’s Stephen King. Just one example is Christine, his 1983 novel about “a strange car with an evil mind,” as the 1958 Plymouth Fury has been described. Here in Daglan, my wife and I have been living with our own commonplace but scary household item — our oven.
Because it is an Ariston (a fairly well known brand of appliance), let’s call it Ari.
Ari is not at all ancient, having been installed in the fall of 2004, but a few weeks ago it started behaving strangely. Like so many devices with electronic controls these days, the range sports lots of knobs and buttons, with a control panel that lights up and even makes dinging noises. There are so many settings we can barely keep them straight, and I’m sure we haven’t used all of them yet. And when electronics go wrong, they really go wrong.
The first sign of the problem came when we turned the oven off one day, saw the OFF sign light up, heard the reassuring “ding” sound — and then found that a few seconds later the oven had turned itself back on. At first we thought it was just a one-time fluke. Then it started happening more and more. Finally it reached the point where the oven would turn itself on to 200 degrees Celsius at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., which would wake us up because it made the “ding” sound and the oven’s internal fan started whirring. Then Ari might turn itself off. Or else I would get up, go into the kitchen, fiddle with the control knob until it said OFF, and then leave the oven door open — hoping to trick the oven into staying off.
Now to make the proper introductions: Here’s Ari’s front, showing the control panel:
I know what you’re thinking: Why not just call a repairman? Well, the reality is that we live in rural France, and Ariston repairmen aren’t hanging around every corner. Eventually we did drive into Gourdon to discuss the problem with the repairman at the appliance store we frequent (he once drove to Daglan to fix our refrigerator door). But he had just left the store, and we were told he would call us soon. But it might take another week, because he’s busy.
So what have we done? We turned off all power to the oven at the breaker box, and we’re cooking all our meals on the stove top (which means we have to light the gas for the burners using a match). Meanwhile, we’re waiting for our repairman.
Two final notes: First, we are continuing to develop our well-springs of patience, a much-needed character trait in the country. Second, if any reader of Radio Free Daglan knows Stephen King personally, have him drop me a note. I think I’ve got a story idea he could develop.