We grandmas have a reputation for being the best cooks in the world.
Stories are told and retold by those who are now young parents about the fabulous eats that once meant warmth, comfort and care for the duration of their childhood. Now they bring their young flocks home for the holidays so they can experience the same, thanks to all those thousands of days of trials and errors that made experts of us Grandmas, Nanas and Ya-Yas.
Last year all my family members young and old were flying home to the Burgh to enjoy that type of great feast at the old house and relive their good old days.
I am a planner. Cookies and tea breads can and should be prepared many days ahead so they are not too old and not too rushed, but just right. Following the calendar carefully, I was peeking at a pair of rising cranberry breads lying side by side in my oven. Ah! They were beauties, if I may say so myself.
But to my horror, I noticed that the inside panel of my oven had shattered, looking like an intricate spider web held together by some wonder of physics. To me, the glass seemed ready to explode right all over those loaves.
I quickly turned off the oven and ran straight to the phone -- not the Internet, mind you -- and dialed the 1-800-whatever, then pressed this and pressed that, all the while nervously counting the days remaining before the family was to gather.
Finally, a human voice asked how he could help. Excited but still polite, I explained the situation. The Voice wanted to know the name and the make of my stove. I described it as best I could, but sorry, I was not able to locate the magic serial number.
The Voice reassured me they had the records of the original purchase, so he could check what part I really needed. Oh yes, he fully understood the urgency with the holiday approaching, and, well, luck would have it that I should get the replacement in less then two days.
"Good," I sighed, and thanked him profusely. The Voice was true to his word and the big flat box was on my doorstep the day after. While I was again measuring and mixing vigorously a second batch of batter, my talented fix-everything husband was hard at work filling the kitchen with tools of many kinds. He expertly removed the offending cracked glass and pulled out the new replacement ... and suddenly he stopped.
"They sent the wrong [bleep] thing" he uttered bitterly. "This glass fits the outside and not the inside"
"Where is the phone?" I shouted in a fury, stepping all over his tools, my hands sticky with batter. I proceeded with the 1-800-this-and-that, grumbling un-ladylike words to myself. And suddenly there was a new Voice on the line.
This one was deep -- booming even -- and it sported a slight Southern accent.
" Hello, Madam! How may I help you on this lovely day?"
"You better," I growled and poured upon him the story of my family flying from afar ... my oven door shattering ... the customer service sending the wrong thing ... the indignant husband ...
" Madam," he interjected calmly, "can you tell me the serial number of this offending oven?"
"Noooooo," I said, raising my voice to a high pitch. "I do not know where to find it!"
"Well, does this oven have a drawer on the bottom?"
I looked down. "Yes, it does," I reported testily.
"Well, would you be able to pull that drawer out for me?"
"Yes," I answered, now on my hands and knees.
"Good! Do you see numbers on the right inside wall of that drawer?"
"Oh, I think I see it," said I, somewhat sheepish now. Thankfully my glasses were on my nose and I could recite the digits one by one.
"That is excellent." He sounded thrilled by my success. "Now to make absolutely sure I have the information correctly, Madam, please tell me this: If I am a goose roasting inside your oven and I am looking at that door, do I face the very glass panel that needs replaced?"
"Yes, exactly, that's the one!" I laughed out loud.
"I sure do not want to make a mistake, with me being that goose roasting in there, and I assure you that the glass will be delivered tomorrow. Have yourself a blessed holiday," he finished, and I could distinctly hear a whimsical smile in his voice.
Now have you ever had a customer service person like that?
Susanna Fussenegger, a counselor from Harmar, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The PG Portfolio welcomes "Holiday Herald" submissions about interesting holiday experiences, good or bad. Send your writing to email@example.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.