Charlie Woods, a good friend of mine, offered this advice to an e-mail from a puzzled woman of the house.

We have an upright freezer and sometimes when you open the door you hear something like a sizzling sound. Well the other night I opened it and it was fairly dark and where there are holes to let the cold in you can see a pipe like the coils and it was red and drops of water were dripping on it and making the sizzling sound. My husband thinks I am crazy because I couldn’t get it to do it when he got home. I'm worried it might cause a fire. Any idea? TShultz

Of course you're not crazy. Your powers of perception seem to be particularly keen. Hasn't your husband learned by now to defer to you in all matters? I was sure that in this day of enlightenment all men had figured out that their wives are always right and should never be questioned. The sooner he embraces this, the sooner his life gets easier. Instead of being accused of having a loose screw, you should be congratulated. You my friend, have witnessed first hand one of the great events of modern refrigeration... The automatic defrost cycle.

To save you from having to remove great chunks of ice from the freezer with your bare hands like your parents did, some genius invented a way for the freezer to remove the ice automatically. It goes like this. Every now and then a timer in the unit decides that it's time to melt any ice that may have accumulated on the coils. It directs the compressor to shut down and a small heater to start. The heater runs for 15 to 20 minutes and gets hot enough to melt the ice. Those mysterious sounds are not caused by snakes in your head. On the contrary, they're caused by the resulting water dropping onto the hot coil and vaporizing. The rest of the water then travels down through the condensate line and into the pan at the bottom of the freezer.

So take that money you were saving for the psychoanalyst and get yourself a manicure. Or maybe buy one of those t-shirts that says "I'm with Stupid".

Charlie Woods

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