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My name is Liz. I need direction. I overuse commas. My house is a mess, my hair needs a trim and I have no marketable skills: It’s fun here, you’ll see!

Got a question, comment, proposal of marriage? Great! Email me at liz@theproductivecough.com

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Got a question, comment, proposal of marriage? Great! Email me at liz@theproductivecough.com

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November 30th, 2010

Freebird

My Thanksgiving started out like every other Thanksgiving: The Saturday before.

As crazy as my living room may have looked in the past, I actually have highly developed organizational skills. I have a system for my finances. I stick to time tables. Mostly, I make lists for every occasion. And Thanksgiving is the listiest of all days. There are menus, daily schedules and hourly schedules, and shopping lists for foods both perishable and un.

This is my fourth year doing a full Thanksgiving meal for five people, and I’ve got it down to a science. And nothing stands in the way of science.

Except, I learned, for faulty appliances.

Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, my dishwasher broke. Now, I’ve never had the luxury of owning a dishwasher while preparing a Thanksgiving dinner, and dammit was I looking forward to this. Do you have any idea how much FASTER I could execute my feast with this new machine in my arsenal?

A lot faster.

Unfortunately, that night I opened the dishwasher to find three inches of water sitting in the bottom. Our landlady sent a repair guy out that evening, which was really nice and efficient of her. Sadly, the only guy working at that hour was an air conditioning specialist.

Okay, a minor annoyance. I’d made do without a dishwasher for years. I could handle this. But Thursday morning, things got even worse.

Thursday morning is where my obsessive-compulsive hourly schedule comes into play. I set my alarm for a precise time, and I’m in the kitchen by 9:30 am, baking pies. The pies have to be in the oven by 11:00, which is when I take the turkey out of the fridge to let it come to room temperature. I have to be finished with the pies by 12:30 pm so that I can heat the oven to the right temperature and get the the turkey in by 1:00.

The turkey itself represents enormous amounts of stress. It’s giant and unwieldy, and my sink is tiny, making rinsing that stupid thing off a slippery adventure. Plus, I believe that all raw poultry is a bacterial time bomb, capable of turning my kitchen into a massive bio-hazard area. Any errant bird juices must be neutralized immediately and thricely. The entire process can broken down as follows: 18 minutes to stare at the bird and prepare myself. 10 minutes to rinse, dry, and place the turkey into the roasting pan. 45 minutes to clean the sink and counters and floor afterward. (This is all reflected in the hourly schedule, in case you were wondering.)

It is usually at this point that I can begin to relax. I’ll vacuum a little, run some crap upstairs, set the table, watch a little football with Paul. I only have to wait for the bird to roast. Then (from 4:30 to 5:45) I can heat my sides and serve!

But this year, after jabbing the thermometer into the thigh area and shoving the thing in the oven, I, in the interest of preventing heat leakage, slid the lock on the oven to the right. The oven turned itself off. The lock, it turns out, is only for the self cleaning feature, and the oven will not cook food while it is in that mode. “How stupid of me!” I said, looking at the fancy, self-cleaning oven, thinking about how thankful I was to have access to such a high-end appliance. I punched the “OFF” button and went to unlock the oven. It wouldn’t budge.

What. The. Hell.

I tried it again.

Nothing.

[Insert full blown meltdown sequence (which Paul has been ordered to never speak of again) here. ]

Shaking with rage and disappointment and betrayal and shame, I called my parents to tell them about the situation. “Hello, Family. Our turkey, today’s featured food item, is locked in the oven and is still raw. I hope you like potatoes.” (That was the gist of it anyway; there were a lot more swear words.) (Also I was crying.)

My mom suggested I set the timer for ten seconds to try to trick the oven into thinking it was unlocking after a self-cleaning cycle. And it worked! But, given the age of the mechanism, the lock handle just detached from the actual latch, leaving the door firmly stuck in place, without any possible method of release.

[More freaking out, not to be discussed, here.]

The theory was that maybe it would automatically unlock after it cooled down a little. “I’m giving this piece of shit oven until 4:30 and then I’m drilling it,” said Louis. Then he added, “GOD! What a piece of shit.” He ultimately didn’t take any power tools to it (since it’s not mine to break), but as soon as I heard my brother say that, I started feeling much better about the holiday. Thanksgiving isn’t about showing everyone what I can do with a dead bird and some yams. It’s about getting together with the people you like the best and sharing a common experience. For many families this year, that shared experience was a home-roasted turkey. For us, it was a deviant oven and some emergency poultry purchased from Whole Foods and then microwaved.

Isn’t that nice? I could probably end there and we’d all leave my website feeling warm and fuzzy and craving turkey. But I can’t stop there.

Despite the rotting turkey indefinitely stuck in our oven, we managed to maintain a positive outlook. “We’ll just call someone tomorrow, have them free the turkey,” I said, becoming sleepy. “Great idea,” replied Paul. “GREHHHHHHHHHHH,” added the fridge.

“Um, what?” Paul and I both said.”GREHHHHHHHHHHHHHNnnn,” the fridge insisted. We jumped up to see what was wrong with our only remaining functional appliance.

It was making horrible noises, trying to convince us it was hard at work. But when we opened the freezer we found that all of our Otter Pops were melted. The fridge was WARM. Then, after several minutes, the motor stopped all together.

I called a 24 hour appliance repair place, left a message (because “midnight” isn’t one of the 24 hours, I guess) and went to bed. The next morning at 8:00am, the appliance guy called back to inform me that, despite what it said on their website, they didn’t service the Pasadena area. As I was finishing the conversation, I noticed my cruel bastard of a fridge was humming away merrily, as though nothing had ever happened.

The happy ending came a couple of hours later, when I was able to reach a nice man who came out and in one quick swipe, freed the turkey. Paul rushed the thing out to the trash like it was about to explode, and I suppressed the urge to throw away the roasting pan. And also the urge to hug the repairman. Instead, I had a giant piece of fridge-chilled chocolate pie.

None of my carefully crafted lists could have prepared me for this. But you can be sure that next year’s lists will allow ample time for disasters.

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