Microwaves and me go way back. We had a microwave oven in the back room when I worked at the movie theatre in college. One of my favorite things to do was bend a paper clip into a design and set it on a flat tortilla chip. A few seconds was all it needed to start sparking and flaming. In thirty seconds, I had a custom designed “branded” chip.
When I worked at Burger King in high school, our microwaves were industrial strength. I could heat up a Whopper patty to a temperature that would burn my hand in eight seconds. One slow afternoon, I placed a cleaning rag in one of the ovens and jammed the pre-programmed buttons so it would microwave continuously. The rag dissolved into a pile of smoking thread in about six minutes.
Our first home microwave was permanently mounted to the cabinet above the stove. Microwaves were still pretty new back then; it came with a color booklet that explained what you could cook via “radar range”. It also explained you should never microwave anything that had an unbroken skin or shell. Beans would burst and hot dogs would split down the sides. And we were warned: under no circumstances should we try to hard boil an egg.
My friend and I waited until my parents were gone for an afternoon. We debated how many eggs we should cook and settled on “all of them”. I didn’t want to make a mess; I put a dozen eggs in a bowl and covered the top. I set the digital timer for 99 minutes and 99 seconds. The oven hummed to life and we went into the living room to wait. I flipped on our Wurlitzer organ and played a few songs until there was a loud blast from the kitchen, right on the down beat of the electronic chords.
The kitchen was full of smoke and steam and it smelled like burning eggs. Slimy egg juice was dripping down the far wall of the kitchen above the table. The explosion had literally blown the door off the microwave. It was hanging open by one hinge and – to my horror – it was still on! We dropped to the floor to dodge the deadly radiation. I crawled on my belly across the kitchen and managed to whack the CANCEL button with the end of a long wooden spoon.
We opened all the windows downstairs though it was December in Chicagoland and the temperature was somewhere south of freezing outside. My friend went through a roll of paper towels cleaning up the wallpaper and the counter and the floor. I gingerly aligned the plastic ceiling of the microwave so it wasn’t obvious that it was broken in half. I slipped the door back on its hinges and crimped them shut with a pair of pliers. The microwave still worked after our little experiment, but the safety features were compromised. You could open the door and it wouldn’t turn off automatically. Luckily, we had just got it. My parents thought that was how it was supposed to work.