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The funky microwave at my Seville apartment


Spring 2001 —

I kept feeling a stinging on the skin of my arm when I set it on the metal rim of the formica-topped metal table on which the microwave sat.

No explanation made sense. It felt like some effect of the surface of the metal, hooking small hairs and pulling them. Slightly painful; just slightly.

I mentioned this to a friend when we were sitting at the table. He promptly stuck his tongue to the table's metal rim. We discovered that it was delivering a low-level shock via contact with the metal bottom of the microwave oven.

Peter, my new flatmate, showed me the trick for operating the microwave.

Juan, the property manager at "Roommates Seville" had shown him.

One of the two little plastic tab-hooks holding the door shut had been broken off and glued back on.

You had to hold the "open door" bar in when you closed the door to keep the end of the hook from having to push its spring-loaded catch downward. Otherwise you'd risk breaking the hook again, and then the oven wouldn't work.

Fine enough. For the price of the fact that everything wasn't all up to scratch, I got an apartment without scrutiny of my legitimacy. (I'm American, so I didn't really have any legitimacy in Spain.)

Of course, a few months later, I broke the microwave's doorhook. My flatmate Marie, a French woman who'd moved in there during the month that Peter was still in town, told Juan that the microwave was broken. Juan told her that he wouldn't charge us for it, but that we wouldn't have a microwave.

Well, of course this just really got up my sleeve. (Jan, a German who later lived there for a while, called Juan a "little wanker," with a special emphasis on "lit-tle" as a distinctly two-syllable word.)

Since Juan, unlike most Sevillanos, spoke English, I naturally thought long and hard about what to say to him. The nerve of him. And it was easy to see that Juan's agency was based upon the exploitation of foreigners. The name of the place is in English, for God's sake — and Juan speaks it with a smooth tongue. So I figured I had to say something.

Then I figured it out. When I got my money from Restaurante Mex Rock, I went to pay rent. Juan was in. I gave him the money, and kept light conversation to a minimum. I'd mentioned the problem with the microwave, and explained it to him.

When our business was otherwise complete, I asked him if he knew where I could get a tube of superglue.

I made him describe to me how to get to the shop where I could buy it.


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