I grabbed the frozen cinnamon raisin bagel from the freezer and tapped it on the counter. The bagel was as hard as a hockey puck. Good thing we have a big, powerful Whirlpool microwave that has been a source of pride since it was installed six years ago.

The Whirlpool is like a muscle car compared to the yellow Toon cabs from the Roger Rabbit ride at Disneyland.

“Katie, you guys should definitely buy one of these,” I said when she and Hunter were considering appliances. “It’s the best microwave we’ve ever owned.”

I said this like I had been there with Percy Spencer when he invented the microwave after World War II. This microwave was so good, it could have thawed the Cold War.

I slid the frozen bagel onto the large, round plate and punched in 15 seconds. Twenty is too long and renders a bagel chewy-dense, in a Black Hole sort of way, and five seconds doesn’t give the microwave time to whip up its electromagnetic magic .

Within four seconds of punching enter, there was a loud screeching noise, and a flash of light that looked like a small atom bomb had detonated but whose blast had been contained by the sturdy microwave door.

I tried again. You never know. Computers have bad days, why not microwaves? What I was telling the microwave was, “Let’s just start over and pretend that didn’t happen.” I was giving it a microwave mulligan.

I repeated step one and two, and if anything the screeching was louder and more alarming than the first time. It was as if I had tried to scale the fence at Area 51 and the aliens were telling me to fall back into the alien-free zone.

Had I left a fork in the microwave? Was there a fleck of foil embedded in the side of the bagel? Had a bagel baker inadvertently lost a golden tooth in the bagel batter?

“Sue, I think the microwave quit,” I said, feeling somewhat responsible.

There is a marriage for you. Kids who never call. Sprinkler heads snapping off for no reason. Failing appliances. It’s amazing we’ve stayed married this long.

“Let me try,” she said.

Are you saying I am so lame I don’t know how to operate a microwave? I stepped aside, a microwave martyr. Please be my guest, you microwave savant.

She examined the bagel and repeated step one and two. The microwave almost burst into flames and sounded like a nitrogen-fueled funny car. I’m surprised she wasn’t thrown against the back wall.

Sue left the area and I stayed to deal with the troubled microwave and a frozen bagel. I took out the serrated knife, stood the bagel on its side and prepared to cut the bagel in half, as well as all four fingers and maybe the thumb too, when the knife rebounded off the cutting board. I stopped, only because some of my friends have been doing themselves in lately with similar types of moves. Although my time is coming, maybe I could make it through breakfast first.

I tossed the bagel in the air, blew on it and then ignored it, thinking that it might get the message that I wanted to eat soon. I could have hammered the entire bagel into the toaster but if it expanded, I might be forced to remove it with the jaws of life.

I had to face that breakfast was compromised. I called Ferguson, the store that sold us the microwave, and told them my story. Carrie said that a new Whirlpool cost $271. I called Appliance Repair and asked what it would cost to fix the microwave and a nice woman told me it would cost $115 and that it might be better to buy a new one.

I’d like to say this will be the last microwave we will ever own but you know how that goes.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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