Eight months ago, all the lights on the touch-pad control panel of my Jenn-Air convection oven went out. Set-Up, Bake, Convection Bake, Broil, Clean, Timer, even the Clock–nothing lit unless I opened and shut the door–and then just for a moment.

I called the store where I bought it. They suggested a repairman. He came and checked it out. “This died after you used the Clean function?”

“No, much later.”

“Hmm,” he said. “Well, you should get a new range.”

“It IS a new range. I’ve had it three years.”

“It’s the computer,” he said. “Very complicated, very expensive to fix. I don’t do computers.”

The oven still worked, if under a cloak of secrecy. So I kept using it.


Seven months later, I opened and closed the oven door and pressed Convection Bake on the touch-pad. Nothing.

I love Convection Bake. It activates a little fan in the back of the oven that makes bread pretty and browns whole chickens to perfection. Convection Bake makes me feel like Martha Stewart, minus the criminal record.

I pressed Convection Bake again. Nothing.

Bake worked. Cancel, Oven Light, Clock, Timer all worked. These commands were on the upper half of the touch-pad.

Clean, Set-Up, Broil, Convection Bake–none worked. These were on the lower half.

My control panel had suffered a stroke.

I hit my laptop and found a repair guy with great reviews. I called him.

“It died when you cleaned it,” he said.

“No. It died slowly and painfully.”

“Hmmm,” he said. “Well, it sounds like a computer problem. Very expensive. I don’t do computers. You should consider buying a new range.”

I hung up and pondered built-in obsolescence. I expect it in cars and laptops. But ovens? Three-year-and-seven-month-old ovens? My VW Bug is ten years old. I’ve had my MacBook for five. Both work just fine.

That night, my daughter called. I told her about my oven.

“That sounds expensive,” she said. “But you’d have to pay twice as much for a new one, right? Then somebody hauls this one off and throws it in some landfill…”

She was right. It was anti-Green, more than wasteful. I would find someone to fix my oven.

Again, I googled. I found a well-reviewed company here in Brooklyn.

And so, I met John.


John came to examine the oven. “This died when you cleaned it?”


“Hmm. Well, it’s the computer.” He rubbed his shaved head with a tattooed hand. “What Jenn-Aire did is, they put the computer right over the door. Computers are heat sensitive. Door gets hot, wham. Especially when you use Clean. That’s maybe 1000 degrees.”

“It didn’t die when I cleaned it.”

“Heat over time would do it, too.” He paused. “It’s gonna be expensive.”

“So I’ve been told.”

He would call when the parts came in.

Two days later, the touch-pad stopped working entirely. Nothing. Period. John called: The parts had arrived. We made a date.


John showed up with a new control panel and his uncle, who owns the repair company. They removed my panel. “Hah,” John’s uncle said. “Looks like a mouse chewed the wire.”

Hmm, I thought. I’ve never seen mouse poop in my kitchen. Did it wear diapers?

They installed the new panel, tested the current. John’s uncle snorted. They took it apart. Reassembled. Retested. Tweaked a wire. Retested. John’s uncle grumbled. The kitchen was a fury of screwdrivers, beeps, lights and elbows. John’s uncle commanded. John’s shaved head sweated.

After an hour and a half, they declared the new panel faulty. John said he would order another one.


A week and a half later, John returned, sans tools, parts and uncle. He shifted from foot to foot in front of my dead oven. “It’s complicated,” he said.

I steeled myself: he didn’t do computers…

“I called Jenn-Aire. I talked to the rep, his super, the guru at the top, out in Indiana or someplace–”

It can’t be fixed…

“Finally I get the guy who knows this model inside-out. We spend maybe an hour on the phone. There’s no manual, see, but this guy walks me through the design–turns out there’s these two relays we didn’t know about. One isn’t working, you turn on the electricity, wham–you fry the whole thing.”

“So this new control panel–”

“We fried it.” He held up his hands. “Now, we’ll eat that–tell you the truth, we probably won’t make any money on this repair. But we can’t leave it like this. So I got to order the relays, and I’ll call when they come in.”

“Do you really think a mouse did this?” I asked.

“Um. There’s…some evidence there might’ve been a mouse around, maybe, some time.”


He glanced over his shoulder, as if his uncle might materialize. “I’d say it’s the heat.”


A week passed. Then another. I cooked dinners in my toaster oven. John was avoiding me, not that I blamed him.

The phone rang. “We’ve got the parts,” John’s uncle said. “Let’s get this behind us.”

John and his uncle arrived the next day. Twenty minutes later, I had a functioning oven.

“So I shouldn’t clean it,” I said.

John said, “Use oven cleaner stuff. Don’t spray it in the oven–you’ll kill the fan. Use gloves, spray it on a rag, clean it with that.”

John’s uncle said, “She can use Clean. It’s an expensive self-cleaning oven. She should use the feature.”

John shrugged. “I’m just sayin.”

I looked at his uncle. “You’re trying to get my return business, eh?”

He laughed.

I handed John my check. It was expensive. I said I was impressed that they had worked so doggedly to repair something that nobody else in New York would touch. I admired their willingness to track the information down.

“I was a drug investigator for the police in DC before I joined the family business,” John said. He tipped his shaved head at his uncle. “He was a cop, too.”

John’s uncle had retired from the New York City police department, where he’d worked as a drug investigator as well.

Some job skills, I guess, truly are portable.