Bryan was as excited as a small child on Christmas morning. Although the gift he was so excited about wasn’t even for him. It was for me.
“Honey, come and look." He says lifting a shiny black rectangular object from a cardboard box. This is going to make your life so much easier. It’s the new Kenmore microwave. It can roast, defrost, simmer, sauté and reheat.”
“And blow up.” I say under my breath.
“Oh, Bryan you shouldn’t have. Thank you. Wasn’t it expensive? Can we afford it? The stove and oven work perfectly fine.” I say trying to sound excited.
But what I really want to say is take it away I don’t want it. I heard that one can get cancer by just walking by a working microwave. The food is “nuked”. How can that be healthy or safe? My father says the government uses microwaves to spy on ordinary citizens. He is convinced microwaves are equipped with microphones and cameras. He could be right.
Bryan will think I am being foolish if I tell him what I am thinking. He would say an appliance couldn’t be sold that was unsafe let alone cause cancer. And I should know better than to believe any of my father’s conspiracy stories.
He continues to point out the features of the Kenmore microwave like one of Bob Barker’s showcase girls on the Price is Right daily game show.
“It has three power levels-300,400 and 625 watts. Look here at the walnut grain vinyl exterior. It matches the kitchen cabinets and the vinyl will make wiping it clean a breeze. There is a timer and an inside light so you can check on food with out opening the door. A recipe booklet was included.
I reach for the recipe booklet and slowly turn the pages not focusing at all on the print but thinking. Poor Bryan is so excited. How am I going to tell him I will never use it? That I don’t even want it in my kitchen.”
Bryan sets the microwave on the kitchen counter and plugs it into the outlet. He reaches in the cabinet for a mug and fills it with water. “Iris, watch this. You will be amazed how fast it can heat this mug of water.” He puts the mug in and pushes the minute button on the control panel.
I keep my distance as I watch the glass plate spin the mug round and round. The microwave makes a humming sound. I can almost see all those airwaves seeping out from the sides and the microwaves passing through mug of water. No way I will drink that.
Beep, beep, beep signals the minute is up. “ You’ve got to admit that was quicker than putting a kettle on the stove to boil. Am I right?”
Bryan drops a spoonful of instant coffee into the mug and gives it a quick stir. He lifts the mug to his lips. I want to knock the steamy mug right out of his hands. But I restrain myself. I half expect to see Bryan’s skin glow from radiation after drinking coffee laced with microwaves. But it doesn’t. Maybe it takes longer to pass through the body. I speculate.
“Want to cook dinner in it tonight, Iris?” Bryan asks me.
“Maybe tomorrow night. I need time to read over the instructions. And I already started tonight’s dinner.” I reply, hoping not to disappoint him too much.
“Okay, honey. Call me when dinner is ready.” Bryan tells me as he walks into the living room and switches on the tv.
While he is out of the kitchen I grab the yellow can of Lysol and give the kitchen a good steady spray. I don’t know it it can free the air of microwaves but it can’t hurt.
The next morning, I avoid making eye contact with the new countertop appliance. But I have the strangest feeling I am being watched. I toss a tea towel over the top of Bryan’s gift. Then I fill the kettle with water and set it on the stove to boil.
All of a sudden, I hear the humming of the microwave. I turn and see the interior light flashing on and off on and off through the kitchen towel.
“Good morning.” Bryan calls as he walks into the kitchen and gives me a kiss.
The humming and flashing light abruptly stops.
Maybe I just imagined it. I tell myself.
“Why didn’t you use the microwave to cook breakfast?” Bryan asks.
“I will use it later. I will.” I say not meaning it.
After Bryan leaves for work I put on my oven mitts and turn the microwave around to face the wall being careful not to let any part of it touch my clothes. I carefully take off the mitts using a plastic grocery bag. I tie the bag up tightly and toss it into the metal garbage can outside.
When I return to the kitchen the microwave is turned back around facing forward into the kitchen. As I cautiously walk towards the microwave with a pot lid to shield me; the light inside begins flashing, the glass plate starts spinning, and the humming gets louder and louder. Then the beeping sounds. Beep, beep, beep, beep. I hear a faint voice saying. “Testing, 1,2,3. Is this thing on? Can you adjust the color on camera four?”
I scream. The next thing I hear is Bryan’s voice.
“Iris, walk up. You were having a bad dream.” Bryan whispers softly as he pulls me into his strong arms.
I read someway once that dogs can sense fear in humans. That dogs can notice body movements and postures that help them sense when a person is nervous, anxious, or afraid. That is why someone with a fear of dogs is told to stand still and remain calm and not to show their fear.
Can the same be said of kitchen appliances? I believe it could be so.
I’ll tell Bryan someone broke into the house and stole it while I was out shopping. He might believe me I tell myself as I pull forward into the county dump.
* Author's note-Although it seems laughable that the microwave was once a kitchen innovation that some consumers were skeptical of it was true. In 1975 only a 4% of home kitchens had a microwave. In the year 2000 that number climbed to 90%. Today most household's consider it their most used kitchen appliance.*