Once again, guest blogger Michael Noble returns with a tale of an elderly woman and her need for old ice.
About 5 years ago I refinished a backyard deck for a little old lady in downtown Placerville, CA, a job I acquired through an on-line exchange while actively hunting for permanent employment when I moved from the Los Angeles area.
Ever since – up to and including the present day – I continue to work for her at least once a week, mainly as her gardener.
“Doris” (not her real name) is an older lady, rock solidly set in her antiquated ways, particular about her specific methodologies and opinionated to a fault. But she’s (sometimes) open to suggestion and willing to listen to reason over “the way she’s done it for years and years and it’s worked out just fine for me.” Oh… and she’s feisty as all get out, too, which keeps things entertaining.
But I’m convinced: There are days when the old woman is trying to kill me. Or at least test the limits of my patience.
On this particular day she asked for a favor before I got going with the yard.
“I’m having trouble with my refrigerator. It’s not making ice. It hasn’t been working for the last few weeks. I wonder if you could take a look at it, please…”
I took off the ice maker door and Doris pulled out the ice receptacle tray. Frozen packages of bacon, hot dogs and various other items came tumbling out the freezer. The freezer was stuffed to the gills. Why a little old lady needed to have enough frozen food to last well after a nuclear holocaust was beyond my comprehension, but I left well enough alone and decided not to comment.
Upon inspection, I discovered the ice maker shut off bar had been knocked out of place, rendering it non-functional. The reason it wasn’t working was because, not only the abundance of items located in the freezer, but of those stored within the inner workings of the ice maker itself. At the rear of the contraption, there was a quart cottage cheese container packed full to the brim with ice. Doris had filled the container with water and stored it in the ice maker compartment to freeze. And beside it, were two additional cottage cheese container-shaped hunks of ice. And they appeared older than dirt. There could have been fossils embedded in them for all I knew. I had little doubt they had contributed to the shut off bar being disengaged from its slot.
“Doris … what are these huge blocks of ice doing inside the ice maker? It looks like they’ve jammed it up. That’s why your ice maker isn’t working…”
“Oh, those” she said. “I have those in there in case I need them later. There are a couple more on the bottom shelf.”
“They look pretty old. When was the last time you used any of them?” I asked.
“I haven’t yet. And they’re not that old. They’ve only been in there a year or so…”
“You mean… they’ve been in here since last year?”
“Yes. I think I put them in there last summer.”
“Well… you can’t have them inside the ice maker, Doris. It’s not a storage area. They’re messing with the ice maker…”
After removing and handing them to her, I fixed the shut off bar and verified it was functioning properly before replacing the receptacle and door.
“Now where am I going to put them?” Doris asked. ” There’s no room in the freezer…”
“I know. You have too much in there as it is. If you haven’t used them in a year, you may want to reconsider their usefulness, Doris.”
She sighed and thought about it for a moment. Flustered, she grouched, “I guess I’ll just have to get rid of them then.” She trudged out her back door, ice in tow, and deposited them in her planters. “At least I can use them to water my plants.” You could see the defeat in her eyes as she came back in the house.
“Hokay… your ice maker is back up and running. We just need to put the receptacle back in,” I noted.
She handed it to me. It had been sitting on her kitchen counter during the entire repair process. But there was still ice inside it. Old ice, I realized. Really old ice. Ice fused together over weeks and probably months. Melted, shapeless globs of ice chunks that had clouded into frozen masses. I considered them for a moment and questioned her.
“Doris… do you really want to keep this ice? It’s been sitting out for some time. Wouldn’t it be better if you just let the ice maker make some new stuff?”
“But I just made that ice, Michael.” she explained. “There’s nothing wrong with it…”
“Doris, it’s old. And melting. I don’t think you really want to use this stuff…”
“But I just made it.”
“Didn’t you tell me your ice maker hasn’t been working for a few weeks? There’s no way you just made this ice…”
That’s when the compromise started. “Well, I’m sure it’s still good. It can be used.”
I poked at it because I saw something strange within the translucent globs. “I’m going to call you on that, Doris. Look… there’s blue and green stuff in this ice! What is that… ???” I started digging to the bottom of the container. There were exploded freezer treat wrappers twisted at the bottom of the thing. “Look… you have frozen pop things in here! They’ve have broken open and contaminated the entire tray! You don’t want to use this, Doris… believe me.”
“But… I just made that ice,” she insisted.
I threw a stern look her way. “Doris… seriously. I think you have an attachment to this ice for some reason. Is there something you’re not telling me? I mean, it’s not like this is the last ice on Earth. It’s not made with rare Artesian water. It doesn’t have any mystical properties. It comes from a common waterline at the back of the fridge. Are you going to get all nostalgic on me if this ice gets tossed out to make room for new stuff? I bet it doesn’t even taste good with those ice pops mixed in. Come on, let’s get rid of this stuff. You like fresh ice, don’t you? I know I do. Do me a favor: Chuck this stuff. It’s seen better days…”
Doris looked at me with her best puppy dog eyes but it didn’t do any good. My lips tightened and caused her to sigh once again. My demeanor worked. She gave in.
“Oh, all right. Have it your way. But put it in my plants so it doesn’t go to waste. That’s still good ice… I just made it, you know.”
That old woman… she’s trying to kill me…
Thanks, Michael! You can read more by Michael Noble at Hotchka.com.
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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.