ONE MORNING THIS week as the world was waiting for word on who would be the next president of the United States, I was standing in front our new refrigerator, waiting for it to make "the noise."
It had made the noise plenty of times after arriving in our kitchen, replacing our 23-year-old fridge. It even made the noise shortly after I went online and filled out a form on the General Electric Web site, requesting that a serviceman come to our home and soothe the angry soul of our new GE Profile Performance unit. Given an array of weird noise descriptors on the Web site, I had chosen "groan."
However, by time the refrigerator repairman had arrived in our home, I had come up with what I regarded as a superior way to describe the commotion. "It sounds like Chewbacca the Wookiee in `Star Wars,' " I told the repairman. "You remember that guy? He was big and fuzzy, and he was the pal of Han Solo, but he couldn't talk; he sort of moaned? That is what it sounds like."
The refrigerator repairman had seen the movie. He remembered Chewie. But he told me that this was the first time anyone had ever told him that a Wookiee was trapped inside of a fridge.
The usually clamorous fridge had gone suddenly silent. I tried to fill the noise void. "It sounds like this," I said, proceeding to do my best Chewbacca imitation, a low, back-of-the-throat gasp, sounding something like the first noise that comes out of a football player who has just had the wind knocked out of him. It is not a pleasant sound to hear, especially when you are sitting down to eat a meal. Some professions may not be trained to remain calm when faced with a man moaning at them, but this refrigerator repairman took my moaning in stride.
He let me know that while my performance might be entertaining, what was more important was listening to what the fridge had to offer. Unfortunately the fridge was now on its best behavior.
The repairman made the fridge produce ice cubes. He made its fan switch on. He listened to its compressor kick on. The fridge made plenty of sounds, but they were the polite, civilized stuff of refrigeration in action. The fridge refused to get rowdy, to make "the noise."
As the repairman and I waited for the fridge to misbehave, I tried to impress him by dropping names, mentioning some of the other refrigerator noises I have known.
There was "the chirp," the noise in the old Kenmore that sounded like a bird warbling in the corner of the kitchen. The chirp turned out to be a squeaky, defective fan.
There was "the gurgle," a signal that water was moving toward the icemaker. The gurgle was a normal fridge sound, or at least it should have been. In its final years with us the old fridge went into semi-retirement. It made ice cubes only when it felt like doing so, usually on the coldest day of the year. So with the old fridge, the gurgle had become a sometime thing.
The new fridge, however, had gurgled regularly and had produced mounds of ice cubes, regardless of the weather. We have tried to make this new fridge comfortable in our kitchen, even though getting its wide body to fit into the "fridge spot" had been a bit of a squeeze. We had been pleased with the setup, but apparently the new fridge had not. It emitted that mournful wail. Maybe it was homesick for the factory back in Louisville. It did not sound happy.
Had the repairman heard the noise he, no doubt, would have been moved to action. He could have ministered to the fridge's anguished innards. But he heard nothing out of the ordinary.
As he left, he suggested that I keep a log, recording what time of day the noise was made, and any pertinent details. He said these clues would help the next refrigerator repairman - and here I got the idea that this fellow was hoping one of his colleagues would be tapped for the next call - to induce the fridge to make "the noise."
Exactly 24 hours after the repairman had left our house, I made my first log entry. At first I wrote the fridge "sang like a canary." Then I scratched that out. The fridge, I wrote, "moaned like a Wookiee."