I will present
of this story first: Always
a secondhand freezer
to make sure it works
before you clean it!
Recently my wife and I had a new baby. Before the
baby was born, we took inventory of all the things that
needed to be done around the house to prepare for his
arrival. There was the customary going through the whole
house and throwing out all the stuff we didn't need anymore,
getting the baby's room ready, and accumulating all the
requisite new baby accoutrements (and assembling them,
an area which sadly is not my forte).
Even though there were a whole bunch of things we
didn't need anymore, there were a lot of things we
figured we did need. One was a freezer. We had planned to
make a lot of casseroles and lasagnas and the like and
freeze them so we wouldn't have to do as much cooking when
the baby came.
During the course of a haircut, my wife mentioned this
requirement to her stylist. What luck! He
had one to sell us! For fifty dollars he would bring it
over in his pickup. Did it work? Why, it was working
right now! Why was he selling it? It was his mother's,
and she didn't need it anymore!
On a rainy Sunday afternoon soon after he brought it
over and dropped it off. We hadn't made this arrangement
very well, though, because we weren't home, and so he left
it underneath our deck at the back of our house, where
it was at least somewhat sheltered. To our horror, the
color of it was harvest gold. We had forgotten to ask
about its color. My next door neighbor helped me
carry it inside and down to our basement.
It was really quite hideous. It was very dirty. Some
fairly sticky brown substance was spattered all over
it, and it smelled like old fish or old milk.
It seemed obvious that more than anything, the freezer
needed to be cleaned. I filled a bucket with some
bleach and water and wiped the outside and inside until
it gleamed. I noticed, in the process of cleaning it,
that there was a panel on the side. I found a
screwdriver and removed the cover. Inside this
compartment, which contained all the freezer's
mysterious electrical inner workings, I found the
key to the lid of the freezer, which was good, but I also
found a lot of rather greasy dust (many years'
accumulation), mouse droppings, seed husks, some
bugs which had long expired, and what resembled dryer
I got our vacuum cleaner and used the crevice
attachment to suck out all the nooks and crannies of
this compartment first. Then I set to work on the dryer
lint. It was a little more tenacious, and the vacuum only
sucked it up slowly. Gradually I saw what looked like old
twigs underneath it. By this time I had to use the crevice
attachment to scrape the dryer lint while it was being
Presently it became clear what was the twigs were --
the arms and legs of a dried out mouse carcass! The
dead mouse was firmly stuck to the bottom of the
compartment. I scraped it up with a paint stirring stick
and threw it in the garbage.
Now, I have to say, that at this point I felt like it
had been a bit of an event to clean the freezer. It
had taken a few hours, and all the dead animals in it
had begun to make me feel a little queasy. But I
replaced the cover of the panel and plugged the freezer in
and turned in for the night, with visions of buying six
cartons of ice cream at a time, and whole sides of
beef, and boxes and boxes of Fudgsicles and having a
place to keep them cold.
The next morning I was in too much of a hurry to
check the freezer. I rushed off to work, and told the
story of my macabre discovery in cleaning out the
freezer to my co-workers. A few asked why I didn't make
sure the freezer worked first before going to all the
trouble of cleaning it out. And one explained to me
something about how refrigerant in older freezers --
particularly those of the harvest gold era -- tends to be
rather dainty and doesn't easily tolerate the rigors
of being knocked around and jostled in transportation
for some reason. But I didn't pay too much attention to
When I got home, my wife told me that the freezer was
still warm -- warmer inside than out, as a matter of fact.
I knew I'd made sure to turn the freezer on when I plugged
it in, so I checked to make sure I had set the dial to the
coldest setting. I made an adjustment and left the
freezer running. Two days later, the freezer was still warm.
Which brings me back to what I learned from this, and
it's worth repeating: Always plug in a secondhand
freezer to make sure it works before you clean it.