Home Schooled

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I learned something from my shower: yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the debut of Sesame Street on PBS. I’ll bet you don’t learn these kinds of things from your shower.

My shower, which is special in every sense of the word, comes with an FM radio, and somewhere along the way recently I finally figured out how to make it work. It’s much more complicated than it needs to be. If you want steam, assuming that was a possibility and your electrician hadn’t tried two different breakers and it still trips the breaker and emits a burning smell, you push one tiny button. To get radio, you push four tiny buttons in a series of sequences. Doesn’t that seem a bit backwards to you?

Without instructions, this took a long time to figure out. One button turns the radio on; that part was easy enough to figure out. But the volume was roaring, and trying to figure out how to turn that down and make the tuner work was much harder.

So there’s the button that turns the radio on, with an image of a motion-picture clapper, and then there’s a button that says “Vol/Tun,” and then two buttons with rectangles. What you intuitively figure out after only three moths of operation is that after you push the motion-picture clapper, then you go to “Vol/Tun” and depending on whether you have a basic number (1, 2, 3) or a radio number (87.1), you are set to take on either volume or tuning. For this you use the rectangles, one to go up in either volume or frequency and the other to go down.

Isn’t this simple?

Now, here is where I would like to sound intellectual: I have been listening, while showering, to Colorado Public Radio’s classical station, which I heard just this morning is broadcasting in Delta and Gunnison. And I know enough that I could identify I was listening to a Copland composition when I first tuned in (selections from his Billy the Kid ballet, I was told by the announcer speaking in that required hushed, authoritative voice required of all classical disc jockeys).

But here is my confession: the radio generally seems to reset back at 87.1 as soon as it gets turned off, and the first station I come to is CPR at 89.1. There is yet another button on my shower, one that says “Mem,” and I pushed that once without success and once maybe with success, because when I turned the radio on today it started at 89.1. Getting to classical is easier than seeking another station.

And now that I have practically mastered my shower, and ought to be a producing a Youtube video for other hapless purchasers, I can not only fiddle with buttons but actually listen to my radio. The speakers, even though I think one isn’t working, are tremendous. Volume on a classical station is always iffy — sometimes the music is very quiet, usually right before the cymbals start crashing and the kettle drums boom — but I can hear everything, even over the water and the two fans (one inside the shower unit itself and the other in the bathroom at large) with the volume at 4. No wonder it seemed loud when I first pushed buttons and static poured out at volume 11, which I somehow worked up to 13 before I figured things out.

Thus I can now learn while in the shower, and so I know how old Sesame Street is, and also that you can “hear” people slipping on the ice in Vivaldi’s “Winter” concerto from his Four Seasons. Once the dulcet tones of the DJ told me that, I mostly certainly could, indeed, hear it.

We have not had such educational luck with our microwave. Going on-line I found a Maytag page with links to at least 100 microwave models (for once, not an exaggeration), perhaps all of them “over the stove,” but ours was not among them.

I was able to use other instructions to silence the beeps that make Oz bark, although now I keep thinking I’m not having effect when I push buttons, because there’s no noise. I also found an option to cut out noise entirely, but I would still like to be alerted when the microwave has finished nuking food.

Other than that, instructions haven’t been nearly as helpful. Lynn was excited to see that this microwave offered a “soften/melt” feature, theoretically helpful for bakers needing to work with frozen butter and chocolate. So far, though, it’s been like Month One of the shower, lots of guesses and pushing buttons without much success.

I did find, on one of the 100 sets of instructions, a suggestion to push the number corresponding to what you want to soften or melt, but no code list was forthcoming. Googling further afield I found instructions for a Whirlpool (people at True Value seem to regard these two brands as interchangeable) that appeared to have two buttons, one for soften and another for melt, and “butter” was the first code for both.

So Lynn tried that suggested sequence, but it got her nowhere. Eventually she gave up, which is what I did for the first three months of steamless steam shower ownership, but I’m sure if she perseveres and keeps randomly pushing buttons, she will someday trigger the secret combination that gives her microwave leeway to inform her of the important things in life, like the anniversary of Sesame Street. Can you tell me how to get, how to get there?

One button devoted to steam, and five for an FM radio. Does that seem wrong?

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