Come with me back to Thanksgiving Day at our house, where we weren’t expecting a crowd – just two of our sons – but Susan had the stove working overtime for much of the day.
We were roasting a turkey for the sake of the boys, so it had been in the oven for more than three hours. All four burners were occupied: squash, corn, English peas, and broccoli.
The turkey was almost done when Susan added cornbread dressing and sweet potato soufflé to the oven and took up the corn so I could start making the giblet gravy.
That’s when the aging Kenmore – so old that I can’t remember when I bought it – stood up on its hind legs and rebelled.
The stove had had enough.
The first indication was a distinctive odor – not the enticing aroma of turkey, but something odd, something that emerged from memory: not just something burning, but the smell of an oven in self-cleaning mode.
Of its own accord, the angry appliance had switched on its top heating element full blast and locked the oven door. Smoke poured from the vents as the pecan crust on the sweet potatoes began to burn. We could see the top layer of the dressing turning black and the turkey was getting dark and crispy.
We could almost hear a deep and wicked laugh accompanying the smoke as the range reveled in its revenge and a red “ – F3 – ” code flashed like a sideways grin where the oven temperature should be. “Hah! I’ll fix your turkey!”
What to do? We could have panicked. We could have called the fire department.
Or, we could turn to something more immediate.
I Googled “Kenmore oven F3 code,” but that only told me the temperature sensor had failed. Then I Googled “How to open locked Kenmore oven door.”
The first several options were useless, as they advised letting the oven finish its cycle and cool down for an hour or so until it unlocked automatically.
Soon, guided by more helpful suggestions, I cut the power at the circuit breaker as Susan pulled pans from the surface burners. Opening the bottom drawer to find a handhold that wasn’t scorching, I dragged the stove from the wall and unplugged it.
Eight sheet metal screws stood between me and getting the back cover removed, but with a bit-equipped power drill, I did a NASCAR pit crew imitation and buzzed them out. With the cover out of the way, I found the automated locking mechanism and turned it by hand to free the door so Susan could rescue the oven’s smoking contents.
We put it all back together and plugged it back in, hoping the thing would reset, but no matter what we did, the oven was determined to remain in self-cleaning mode.
Susan scraped off the burned pecan topping and replaced it with marshmallows, and most of the dressing was salvageable. We finished the turkey by intermittently putting it under the monster oven’s determined broiler with a stick in an oven mitt holding the door cracked so it couldn’t lock again.
After all the excitement, the meal was saved from the maws of the killer stove, and we were truly thankful.
I’m sure we could have had someone replace the sensor and repair the unit, probably costing half the price of a new one, but we would never have trusted it again. We spent the morning on Black Friday buying ourselves a joint Christmas present, and now our stove matches the stainless-steel microwave above it.
Not wanting to let an experience go to waste, I pondered the situation, and the angry oven reminded me of how, in our country, so many of us are overheating and in mental lockdown mode. It seems that just about everyone feels put-upon or disregarded to the point of overload.
Many rural folk resent what they think of as the urban elite. Hard-working people get mad because they think too many poor people are getting a free ride and that immigrants are taking over the country. Shrewd politicians tap into their anger to support an agenda that privileges the wealthy and does little to help their supporters except making it easier to buy guns and feel morally superior to the opposition.
On the other side, progressive people, centered mainly in the cities, resent the populist movement to preserve white supremacy through voter suppression and various efforts to keep Blacks “in their place” and immigrants in their countries of birth.
Both sides get overheated and lock their metaphorical oven doors. The result is that any hope of meaningful conversation, mutual understanding, or potential compromise goes up in flames.
I don’t know what it would take to trip our circuit breakers, get past our protective covers, and unlock the doors to a better society. I’m pretty sure Google doesn’t have an answer for that.
What I believe is that someone must take the lead in their willingness to try seeing the good in everyone and showing love even to those who act, in our view, in unlovable ways.
If only we had a civilian corps of ambassadors like the late Fred Rogers. He once said: “Deep within us – no matter who we are – there lives a feeling of wanting to be loveable, of wanting to be the kind of person that others like to be with. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know they are loved, and are capable of loving.”
Mr. Rogers learned that from Jesus, of course, who said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
If anything has the potential to open angry doors, I suspect that would be it.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.