The Teetering Stove
I recently had an experience here in Miami that reminded me so much of my life in the Dominican Republic that I simply have to share.
As I have written about in previous posts, moving to Miami has been an adventure for many reasons but one in particular is that the house we moved into was not at all ready on the date promised and, as is typical for “tropical time” as we used to call it in the Dominican Republic, we did not find out the house was not ready until we were already moving down. So we came anyway and for the last 6 weeks have been trying our best to get settled while the workers on the house, all Cuban, take their sweet time finishing everything.
Meanwhile, the only leverage I have is to withhold the rent until everything was finished. When we first moved on December 1st there were 6 workers for the first few days. Then it was 4, then 2, then one. The work went from daily to once a week and each time they left a list of work unfinished, a bit shorter than the previous week but still a list. So it was last week that the owner contacted me about the rent, not having received December or January, and I told him that I was happy to pay it once the work was done. The owner called the workers who said they were done and back and forth we went. Finally, realizing that this was the only way the rent would be paid, the owner sent the workers back for one more day.
The remaining things to be done, six weeks after our move in date, was to fix a couple of windows, clear out the back yard which was piled with cement rubble and broken pvc pipe (the workers had collected the rubble into piles some weeks before, I guess they thought that was “finished”) and fix the electric stove.
Now I don’t try to be a pain in the ass but it had been some weeks that the remaining work was at most one day to complete yet week after week it dragged out. So by now, I was a bit fed up and wanted everything done. It is the downside of moving in before everything was done (like we had a choice) because once you’re in there, there is less incentive to “finish” everything. As a constant cook, the problem with the stove was a particular thorn in my side, primarily because it was such an easy fix yet it was never getting done.
When we agreed to rent the house we were told that all the appliances would be new. But, in a manner that reminded me so much of the Dominican Republic, instead of taking responsibility, the property management company gave the money for the appliances to the workers, and the workers, looking to make some extra, did not buy the appliances new but instead from a second hand shop, probably one which gave them a kickback too. I didn’t mind that the appliances weren’t new, however, as long as they worked, which they did except…
The stove was electric with coil burners that plug in with burner pans under them. The coil burners are designed to lock into place with the burner pans, usually with little grooves in the side of the pans. When installed properly the coil burners stay put and are level. The burners on my stove, however, all wobbled, teetering back and forth. After some investigation, we discovered that the coil burners and their corresponding pans did not lock together. The grooves were in the wrong place. This was probably because either the coil burners or the pans were not the correct brand. All that needed to be done was to replace them. Good luck.
I tried explaining this, seemingly simple, issue so many times. Each time I was told that the stove worked because it heated up. “Yes, I know” I would say (or Si yo se.) and then explain the issue. They would tell me that the burners were supposed to be like that, sitting up above the stove. I would sigh and say “That is not the issue.” and demonstrate the wobbling, point to the grooves. I was getting nowhere. The property manager even came by one day that I was working and my ex showed him but he didn’t even take the time to look and just said they wouldn’t fix it. But I didn’t give up. I cook too much so this was important to me. Besides, it was not an expensive fix.
Finally the day came when the workers were to finish everything. The main guy came, with a belly so prominent he looked 9 months pregnant and his ear constantly glued to the cell phone talking to some girlfriend. Boy oh boy was he mad! “You said we weren’t finished.” he said with exasperation when he arrived. “You aren’t.” I said calmly and walked him around the house showing him the windows to be fixed, the yard to be cleared out and then the stove. Once again he protested and once again I explained the issue. By then he was so frustrated that he basically would do anything I asked. “La cocina funciona.” he said (The stove works.) “Se calienta.” (It heats up.) but then went on to say he was just going to replace the stove to make me happy. I protested that it was not necessary but then I realized that there was no reasoning with him.
So the appliance guy came with the new stove. I had to laugh. This one was the kind that was all flat, no coils, so the issue of “teetering” was now null. I chuckled as they swapped out the stoves. The appliance man then demonstrated that everything on the new stoved worked fine. They started to take the old stove away when the appliance man stopped, and as if he was merely curious, asked me what the problem was with the old stove. I explained to him how the burners were not stable, they wobbled and teetered. Then I showed how they were supposed to fit into the grooves of the burner pan. The man pointed to a groove as if to say “these pans have grooves so they are fine.” and I said “Yes but they don’t match the coil, they don’t fit together. They are not from the right brand.” Then there was a pause when the worker and appliance man both finally listened and thought a minute. I swear the room got brighter as their light bulbs went off. “Ahh…” they both said in unison, “ya entiendo.” (I understand now.) Then they hauled the old stove away.
So now my stove issue is solved after a long wait and with a more complex solution than necessary but it teeters no more.