My losing battle against the Machine Age

My “Oh, no” had a lot more feeling in it than usual when the lights in the house suddenly flickered and flashed out, leaving me in darkness the other night at a quarter to 6.

I had just completed making a casserole that required a half hour in the oven and, if I had had any warning the winds would be blowing up so strongly, I would have baked it earlier.

I hate those smarmy weather forecasters who the next day say, “Gee, wasn’t that a surprise.”

Actually, I wasn’t in such bad shape. There is a two-burner Coleman stove under the kitchen cupboard and three Coleman lanterns hanging in the laundry room. The problem was that I don’t know how to operate them.

I know I should, and my husband has shown me how, but I am one of those people who are just not mechanical. About the best I can do is change a typewriter ribbon.

I never clean the refrigerator unless he’s home because if I can get the shelves out to wash them, I can’t get them back in again.

He can do almost anything — carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, car repair — you name it. When I hit the wrong button on the TV remote or the wrong key on the computer board, and strange things appear that I can’t get rid of, he does the fixing.

But he has to be there to do it, and he currently is in a convalescent home under treatment for pneumonia and diabetes-related ailments.

If he had been home and able, we also have a new generator we bought at the turn of the centuries. We’ve only run it a few times but I don’t know how to do that, either.

Further, I hate to confess this, I don’t know how to run the dishwasher. I could run the old Whirlpool we had for 30 years, but I don’t understand the new one.

He always ran it.

Remember, he’s been retired for years. I’m still working. As is my usual wont, I wrote down the instructions for running the thing and taped them to the side of the dishwasher but the paper fell off one day and I hadn’t tried them out anyway.

My husband had only been gone a week when the stapler needed filling. I file a lot of newspaper clippings. After numerous tries, I finally sacked it up with a box of staples and went to the convalescent home and got him to put them in for me.

While I’m confessing, we buy Purina ONE dry cat food in a dark green plastic container that has a saucer-sized lid on top marked “To help ensure the safety of your pet, DO NOT REMOVE THE LID.”

When my husband was home, he managed to get the thing open somehow, but I have not been able to do it.

The lid slides back and forth and refuses to give up the secret of how to get the cat food out. Finally, in desperation, urged on by the most annoying meows you ever heard from Raisa the senior cat (going on 19), I plunged a butcher knife into the side of the damn thing and cut a hole in it. Now, I just pour the food out the hole in the side.

The hell with the lid.

I have been known to whack the neck off a medicine bottle with a child proof cap on it, but I’m not ashamed. I mean, Nixon did it.

But to get back to my power outage, the best I could do was get a couple of candle sconces I have with glass tops and wooden bases so you can walk around with them without blowing out the flame.

I also buy only smokeless beeswax candles so I don’t get smoke in the drapes.

I ate a dish of tomatoes and a piece of Swedish ryebread and saved the casserole to cook the next night. Then I sat and listened to my battery radio for a couple of hours and hit the sack at 8 with nothing else to do.

The candles didn’t give off enough light to read.

I do have a battery-powered television set I got for Christmas one year, but I don’t how to run that, either. I also am not sure where it is.

That’s another thing about my husband. He knows where everything is or is supposed to be.

But enough of that. I have to get over to the convalescent home and ask him what it means when the bedroom telephone chirps during the night.

What am I supposed to do? I mean, what in the world am I supposed to do?

Adele Ferguson can be reached at

P.O. Box 69, Hansville, 98340.

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