Amana from Heaven

My refrigerator was making a weird smell. The smell persisted, despite several cleanings and throwing out what old food there was. Even baking soda was powerless against it. I called an old priest and a young priest, and they exorcised the refrigerator; however, it stole their souls and the Catholic church refused to send any more priests over after that.

The mystery deepened when I discovered the refrigerator was producing its own smell — that is, nothing in it was causing the odor, but instead it was coming from within the depths of the appliance itself, like when a man’s bad breath is caused not by something he ate, but by his being evil. I discovered this after the last time I cleaned it (the refrigerator, not the evil man). The unit was unplugged and the doors were left open long enough for all the bad smell to dissipate, like when you air out your car after picking up a hitchhiking Frenchman. When I plugged it back in (the refrigerator, not the Frenchman), I put my nose right up to where the cold air comes in, and I realized the cold air was bringing the smell with it. Wherever the cold air comes from — and honestly, I couldn’t begin to tell you where that is; the North Pole, I assume — that’s where the smell was coming from.

So you’re thinking, “Dead rat down in the guts of the fridge,” which also happens to be a line from a folk song. I thought that, too, except that the refrigerator and the house it lives in are both less than four months old, which makes the presence of deceased rodentia unlikely. Nevertheless, I unscrewed a back panel to the refrigerator and poked around with a flashlight, and I found nothing other than what I assume is supposed to be there. (Actually, for all I know about the workings of major appliances, a dead rat could be a necessary part. “Well, here’s your problem,” the repairman would say. “Your rat’s outdated.”)

Absent-mindedly, I began glancing through the owner’s manual that came with the refrigerator. I wondered if, along with the instructions on how to operate the refrigerator (Step One: Put things in; Step Two: Take them out), there might also be tips on eliminating vile, baking-soda-defying, priest-defrocking odors. I found guidelines on fridge cleaning, accompanied by a phone number to call if a smell persisted.

“A-ha!” I thought. “Now there was a great ’80s band. I wonder where A-ha is now?” Then I gathered my thoughts more coherently and thought, “Well! This must be a common problem, if there is a Smell Hotline.”

Turns out it’s not a Smell Hotline; it’s just the Amana customer service center. The Amana woman (say it out loud; it’s fun) said she had never heard of such a thing as a refrigerator’s cold air being the source of a smell, and she hinted that I was crazy. (“That’s crazy,” she said.) However, she said she could send a repairman out to investigate.

This meant we had to locate the nearest authorized Amana repair center. It amuses me that in order to service an Amana product, one must be “authorized.” Are there maverick appliance repairmen out there, working on appliances they have no authority to work on? If apprehended, can they be called before a repairman’s tribunal and tried by a wise council of elders? And if so, do the elders have to take the trial back to the shop and work on it for a week to 10 days?

A man holding authority was sent up from Santaquin. His diagnosis was that a legitimate foul odor had found its way into the refrigerator’s circulation system and was now being cycled through it, over and over again. He said I should put a bowl of chopped-up charcoal in there, and within a week the smell would be gone. But I’m thinking I should also look into having my dead rat replaced, just in case.

An entire column about a malfunctioning refrigerator, and not a single joke about repairmen's butt cracks.

This column presented the challenge of explaining the refrigerator's odd situation as briefly and as humorously as possible. The problem itself is amusing, I think, but not especially funny, and this is supposed to be a humor column.

I owe the reference of an old priest and a young priest to my friend Chanel, who says it now and then. Of course, it's actually a reference to "The Exorcist," but I never would have phrased it that way were it not for Chanel.

This was one of those times where I thought: I have a really strange job. I just got paid to write about my refrigerator smelling funny.

By the way, the chopped-up charcoal did the trick! For real. If you have a persistent smell, try the chopped-up charcoal. Works like baking soda, but faster.