In Minneapolis, where I now live, I found a great grocery store that sells very fresh French baguettes. I’m a bread addict, so this was a fantastic discovery. These baguettes stay fresh only for the day that you buy them. If you want the bread the next day, you need to toast it.
Which brings us to my KitchenAid gas range.
When I bought my condo in mid-2008, it came with brand new appliances. Since I only visited the condo two or three times a month until I moved to Minneapolis full time a couple of months ago, I rarely used the range.
Fast forward to last November. It was the day after I bought one of those great baguettes. I decided to toast some of the bread using the KitchenAid broiler. After turning on the broiler, but before placing the stale baguette in the range, I did a household chore. I could not have been away from the kitchen for more than ten minutes. As it turns out, it was ten minutes too long.
When I came out of my bedroom, I immediately smelled what I thought were burning electrical wires. A god-awful smell. “Holy cow,” I thought, “the broiler got so hot it melted the wiring to the range.” I immediately opened every window to vent the smell. I also turned the range off at the breaker box, fearing that some kind of fire would ensue if power was left on.
I spent the rest of the weekend trying to rid the condo of the horrible burned-wire smell without success. I called KitchenAid but because the warranty for the range had expired, I had to do some fast talking to get a freebie service visit. A couple weeks after the incident, the service guy got there. He walked into my smelly condo and took a quick look at the broiler. He then put his tools away and gave me a look like I was an idiot.
“Ellen,” he said, as if we were good friends, “what you have here is the break-in smell for the broiler. The broiler had to cook off the oils used for manufacturing. Look here.” He pulled out the operator’s manual and thumbed to page 14. Sure enough, the manual states, “odors and smoke are normal when the oven is used the first few times…”
“Wow,” I thought. There you go Ellen, overreacting. Again. Damn hormones.
But then I read a little further. There was another warning, this one partly in bold print: “Important: the health of some birds is extremely sensitive to the fumes given off. Exposure to the fumes may result in death to certain birds. Always move birds to another closed and well-ventilated room.”
I paused after reading this. Are you kidding me? Death to small birds? Hadn’t KitchenAid heard about the canary in the coal mine thing? These fumes can kill small birds but not humans? What about short people? Or Chihuahuas?
Boy, was he wrong.
For the next five months, I had that burned electrical smell in my condo. I would visit on the weekends, in the dead of the winter, and open every window to air the place out. Other than some temporary periods, the place literally stank. Eventually, I bought a top-of-the-line air cleaner hoping that it would do the trick. I left it on for a week while I returned to Iowa. No luck.
I figured the smell had gotten into my duct work, so I arranged for the ducts and furnace to be vacuumed out. It was no help.
And then one day, after I moved to the condo full time, I made a discovery. I realized that when the afternoon sun landed on my dining room rug, the condo started to stink even more. I bent down to smell the rug and I was overwhelmed by the smell.
I talked to KitchenAid, They let me know that the state of California had made them include a warning, located on page 2 of the owner’s manual, that the range contains a chemical that is known to cause cancer and birth defects. Good thing that I’m beyond the age for giving birth. As if a transgender male to female could.
I had all of the rugs and furniture cleaned. The dining room rug would not come clean—the smell had thoroughly permeated the fabric. I told the rug company to take it away and never bring it back.
The lawyer in me will take care of the situation with KitchenAid.
But stepping back, and thinking on a larger scale, I can identify with the people in the Gulf and their beef with BP over the oil spill. Don’t get me wrong: the people in the Gulf are going through a real disaster and there is no human comparison between their suffering and my experience with a gas broiler gone crazy. Still, I appreciate what it means to be minding your own life, only to have some company’s business decision create a personal disaster that affects you day after day. Certainly, a kitchen filled with volatile organic compounds is not the same as a Gulf and bayous filled with thick oil, but still, it’s someone else’s chemicals mucking up our lives. Someone’s stupid ass decisions causing great grief to innocent others. And you can’t do a damn thing as events beyond your control take over.
All that the people in the Gulf want is normalcy. The ability to lead their lives as they were BEFORE. I appreciate that before thing now a whole lot more than I did. And I feel for my fellow Americans living and working in the Gulf. It is impossible not to.
Wind power, anyone?
The service guy assured me the smell would go away soon and all would be well.