TIME WAS grumbling on. The clock in the stove was marking the passage of each second by emitting a low sound, at times guttural, at times grinding.
At first I didn't mind. As a matter of fact, the commotion helped me remember that tonight we have to turn our clocks back an hour as we revert to standard time.
The clock's murmur of dissatisfaction was, I figured, its way of saying it wasn't appreciated. There is something to be said for grumbling.
I guessed the clock wanted a little attention. A pat on its dials, a respite from its daily duty, and it would be fine. I walked over to the stove and examined the situation.
The source of the sound was the timer. This was the part of the clock that could be set to to signal an interval, say 15 minutes, by setting off a loud, buzzing alarm.
Even during the best of times, the timer would grumble a bit just before sounding the alarm. Now, in the autumn of its discontent, it was grumbling nonstop.
I tried coexisting with the unpleasant noise. This was something that parents of teen-agers are trained to do. Once you have become accustomed to tolerating "O.D.B." and other music blasting from sound systems, you should be able to live with a little clock noise.
I couldn't. The noise got louder and increasingly irritating. It began to bother my wife, the main tender of the stove.
I had to stifle that clock. I began by flipping off the circuit breaker that sent electricity to the stove. To make sure the power was really off, I set off the stove clock alarm and I let it buzz as I walked to the nearby circuit breaker box. I flipped circuit breakers until I found one that made the alarm stop. I made a mental note of which breaker that was.
Next, I popped the clock assembly out of the stove. Once I got it out, I saw a variety of gears, wires and lots of grease. I wrote a note to myself about which wires went where, then disconnected the wires. Using a paper towel, a wooden matchstick and some kitchen cleaner, I gave the clock a bath. I thought the matchstick massage would improve its mood. But after I put the clock back in the stove, the clock continued to grumble. So I turned the power back off and snipped two little wires that were the ones that made the clock work. The noise stopped. But so did the clock.
I began the search for a replacement stove clock. In the telephone book I read through the listings of businesses that sold parts for major appliances. Some people regard themselves as patrons of the arts. I think of myself as a patron of appliance parts shops. As I scanned the listings, memories, if not shop names, came back to me. That parts shop on Crain Highway in Glen Burnie, All Appliance Parts. Wasn't that the spot where I once got a coffee maker fixed?
And the place in Parkville on Putty Hill Avenue, Associated Appliance Service Inc. Wasn't that where I once found a heating element for a stove?
The "green" part of the address for a shop on Greenspring Drive in Timonium, called Wagner Appliance Parts, stumped me. I recalled buying a dishwasher part at a shop on Greenmount Avenue, but that shop was no longer listed. Could it be that the parts outfit had moved to "greener" pastures in the suburbs? I promised myself the next time I'm out in Timonium I would swing by this place and see if any of the parts looked familiar.
I couldn't find a listing for the parts place on Howard Street above North Avenue. It had been a regular haunt of mine, back when I was in the period of my life when I was acquiring parts for the clothes dryer. It turned out that the old Howard Street store, Trible's Inc. and Associates, had moved about three years ago to an industrial park in western Baltimore County, not too far down a winding road from Martin's West.
I used Martin's West, a big hall where a lot of fancy shindigs are held, as my landmark as I made my way through a maze of squat, brick buildings to the store's new location. I was headed there to pick up the new stove clock I had ordered a few days earlier.
When I called the store, I had made a major faux pas. I had not known my correct model number. All your major appliances have model numbers. To get new parts, you have to know this number. These numbers are stamped on plates that are hidden on bodies of the appliances. Among the favorite hiding spots for model numbers on stoves are inside the oven door and underneath the range. Christa, the woman who answered the phone at Trible's, told me this, in a kindly way. She also told me that my stove, a Jenn-Air, usually put the model number down by its grease-catching jar.
She was right. After I found the model number and called Christa back, she ordered the part. I couldn't buy just a clock. I had to buy a clock assembly, which included the timing devices that can tell the oven to turn itself on at 2 p.m. and off at 4 p.m. The entire assembly cost about $90. Proving, I guess, that time is money.
I picked the part up and drove home. Then I did something very stupid. I carelessly turned off the wrong circuit breaker. This meant that the electricity to the stove was on, not off. As I began to remove the old clock from the stove, one of the wires touched the metal of the stove frame. I saw a flash. I heard a "Pop!" Somehow I did not get shocked. I was very lucky. I could have been fried.
Gingerly, I set the clock back in place and turned off the correct circuit breaker. Just to be sure the power was off, I tried to turn on the oven fan. When it wouldn't work, I was confident that this time the juice was really off.
Now we have a new clock on the stove. As I reset it to accommodate tonight's switch to standard time, I will feel grateful. Time may be marching on, but it's quieter now. Moreover, I'm not toast. I'm still here, ready to grumble.