They came by the thousands, vying for the dubious honor of having the ugliest kitchen the world has seen.
In loving detail, ugly kitchen owners from Anne Arundel and the Baltimore area told the HechingerCo. of bile-colored walls, bright yellow countertops, psychedelic wallpaper and disgusting linoleum. They sent pictures of doorless cabinets, rusting metal cabinets, crooked cabinets, ancient appliances andtacky curtains.
"Nice people like us shouldn't have to be in a place like this," wrote one Pasadena couple, who were hoping to win a new $15,000 kitchen in a sweepstakes offered by Hechinger to promote four new "home project centers."
A Glen Burnie shopper enclosed a checklist of defects for her "Kitchen from Hell," including "bile/puce" walls and an oven that died in 1988. "R.I.P.," she wrote.
A Dundalk man begged, "Help me keep my wife."
Alas, that marriage may be over. The sweepstakes winner, chosen in a random drawing last week, is Melinda Tomalino, a 50-year-old Glen Burnie housewife who was already in the process of renovating her kitchen and who doesn't like to cook.
After 13 1/2 years in England, Tomalino and her husband, Donald, who works for the Department of Defense, returned this year to their Glen Burniesplit-level. They had rented the house out while overseas. Now, theyare gutting it from the ground up.
Since March, they have had no kitchen. The plaster has been torn from the walls and the tile rippedoff the floor. There's no stove, just a microwave. The kitchen sink works, but it's sitting in the middle of this mess, with the plumbingexposed.
Unlike many contestants, who described their plight in dramatic prose or a poem, Tomalino explained her situation simply.
"For months I have been managing with nothing but the kitchen sink and a microwave, with no end in sight. I would love a 'real' kitchen once more. I am desperate!" she wrote.
The Tomalinos had planned to spend about $5,000 on a new kitchen. With $15,000, "I'll really get to go crazy" on things like a $500 faucet with its own soap dispenser.
"Fifteen thousand dollars buys a very special kitchen," said JohnW. Hechinger Jr., the company's president and CEO. He gave Tomalino her gift certificate yesterday morning at the Glen Burnie Hechinger on Ritchie Highway.
About 2,000 people from all over the metropolitan area entered the ugly kitchen contest, said M. Carolyn Bodie, a company spokeswoman. Applicants were asked to submit a picture of theirkitchen and to describe, in 50 words or less, "Why I need a new kitchen."
One woman with cancer said she couldn't afford to renovate her kitchen because of medical bills.
Parents wrote in on behalf oftheir newlywed children who don't have the money to fix up their fix-me-ups.
A Baltimore resident said she's afraid to open her curtains for fear the neighbors will have her kitchen condemned.
"Peoplewere very creative," Hechinger noted, like the Parkton contestant who wrote a poem based on Billy Joel's song, "We Didn't Start the Fire":
Crevices and holes within;
Little mice, big ants;
Washer, dryer caving in.
Rain's drumming, plumber's coming;
Ceiling falling to the floor;
Paint peeling, spackled walls;
I can't take it any more!
Bodie said Hechinger selected a winner at random rather than judging the essays, poems and pictures "because it would have been cruel" to have singled out one person as having the ultimate ugly kitchen.
Tomalino, who said she's never won anything before, is shooting for "a very classic English country design."
She's telling everyone she meets to enter every contestthey can.
"You never think you're going to be the lucky one," shesays.