I’m on a quest to find something positive about doing things I don’t enjoy but must be done. One day, this entailed scouring scalded milk, dripped egg yolk and other charred food off my stove. What led to this dreaded chore was the odor of burning mozzarella cheese after my son decided a cookie sheet wasn’t a necessary piece of equipment when heating up frozen pizza.
While scouring the grates and wiping grease off the range and points beyond, my thoughts wandered back to the day I acquired my stove and how much I appreciated it.
Not a month after moving into my adorable post-divorce house, it was apparent I needed a new stove. I accepted that news about as well as any single mom struggling to get by each month would. But my sister had sent me a $100 gift card to a big-box home improvement store as a housewarming gift, so I figured it was time to use it, if only for the down payment.
I lucked into a top-brand gas model on sale with all the features I wanted. When I presented my store credit card to cover the balance, I was told the card was outdated, and I would need to reapply to be issued a new one. I did so, then went home to await delivery of my new range and credit card.
In less than 24 hours, the appearance of my kitchen improved drastically. It had the equivalent of a shiny black stretch limo parked next to the fridge. Now I was cooking with gas! Literally.
Many weeks later, I received a phone call from the store’s credit department informing me that I was not an authorized signer on the account and would not be receiving a new card. I listened to the credit rep explain that the card was issued to my ex-husband and I was no longer authorized to make purchases on the account. I remembered that he had opened the account when we made some home renovations years earlier. I told the credit rep that apparently he never listed me on the account but was issued two cards.
As she continued talking, it hit me that I’d been cooking on my new stove for well over a month. No wonder I hadn’t received a statement yet! After a lengthy silence, I cautiously asked: “What if I simply hung up the phone and denied we ever had this conversation?”
Without skipping a beat, she replied, “As a fellow divorcée, I’d say have a nice day and goodbye.”
I paused a moment, then thanked her before gently hanging up the phone. I never heard another word about this — from anybody. It’s hard to feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t notice being charged for and paying several hundred dollars for merchandise they never purchased. In fact, it makes the job of cleaning the stove almost enjoyable.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
Emily Yoffe: In this tight little tale, revenge was a dish best served hot.
Gene Weingarten: It isn’t easy to tell a funny anecdote: It’s essentially a long joke; needs all the right antecedents, intelligently arranged, with drama, buildup and bang. This writer can do that.
Anna Gelbman Edmonds tries to make the best of unpleasant situations — whether it’s cleaning the stove or losing her job as an administrative assistant three years ago.
A native Washingtonian now living in Columbia, S.C., she decided to use the career disruption as an opportunity to get serious about her passion for writing. She went back to college full time to study English and writing, and she started freelancing.
“I’m a huge fan of Erma Bombeck,” she says. “I think I’m a little more sarcastic.”
— David Montgomery
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