When your world collapses II: Fixing the Oven

From the day I arrived at this job I’ve been fighting the same battle: the knobs fall off the oven.

Now, this is not just your normal household oven.  This is an enormous, industrial, 6-burner, 2 oven, gas-fired contraption on which we average meals for about 100 people a week.  And the knobs fall off.  When the knobs fall off you’re left with a little gold stump that’s so greasy you can’t turn it with your fingers, and then you can’t light the burners, and then you can’t cook.  Why not put the knobs back on?  Funny thing… they don’t just fall off, they crack off, right down the middle of the knob, and then they don’t go back on.

So in 2010 I contacted the manufacturer and he sent 2 new knobs for the 2 that were off when I started, and I changed them out and we had 6 again.  A year later, in 2011, we’d lost 3 more, and I called the manufacturer and got 3 more, and then we had 6 again. And over the course of this past summer we had a rotating cast of about 3 that we always falling off and being taped/ wrenched/ manhandled into service as best as possible.  The manufacturer won’t return my calls any more, and the internet is full of “fix-it” blogs that all say the same thing: the knobs don’t work and there’s nothing to do about it.

Today I bought some super glue.

And you know what?  When I pulled them apart to put the glue in I discovered a little set screw in there that’s supposed to hold the knob to the gold stump.  With the screw properly tightened it doesn’t take as much effort to push the knob in to light the pilot, and less effort means less force means less breaking.  I think I might be on to something.

I put this story here, as part of the “when your world collapses” post, because I think it says something very important about brokenness: sometimes you have to take something all the way apart to find the thing that’s causing the problem, and sometimes it’s not obvious.  I would have never seen that little set screw if I hadn’t ripped the broken joint apart, and it seems to be the key to everything.  Maybe, just maybe, when your world collapses, you need to kick the rubble over, mash it into dust, and look for something totally unexpected in there, mucking up the works.

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