Go Ask Alice: Keeping cool when the fridge doesn’t fit

Alice Coyle

Refrigerators are not one-size fits all appliances. 

When you think about that, it makes perfect sense; in fact some would say common sense. But that was something clearly lacking when we made our most recent household purchase. 

I say “we,” referring to my husband and I. But as I write this, I’m envisioning the indignation, eye rolling and finger pointing certain to ensue after “he” reads it. After all, it was my idea to get a new fridge

I had my heart set on an 26-cubic foot, side by side refrigerator in titanium (looks like stainless minus the fingerprints), which dispensed not only filtered water, but also ice cubes and shaved ice — snow cone anyone?

If I applied for the Sears-plus card, we’d be eligible for 6 months interest free and there was also a rebate for the delivery and hauling away of our older, but still functioning stainless steel Frigidaire. 

I have to admit that our 12-year-old fridge was working just fine. But it wore the marks — dents actually — of two different moves, in which we were helped by dear friends, none of who happen to be professional movers.

I convinced my husband, the avid recycler and conservation-minded member of our family, that a newer model would surely run more efficiently. Appealing to his frugality, since I have none, I also noted it would likely reduce our electric bill.

He had no objections and since our tax refund was not paying for any exotic vacations this year, we took the plunge. We set up the delivery for Friday, a day my husband had already planned to take off. On Thursday night, an automated voice on the phone gave us our 2-hour window — between 1:45 and 3:45 p.m. — when the new fridge would be delivered. 

All there was to do was clear out and throw out as much moldy salsa, old salad dressing and really sour, sour cream as we could before Friday. The first thing we went after was our vast and varied collection of mustard; it really defies description but I’ll give it a go. There is hot and sweet honey mustard, regular honey mustard, Dijon honey mustard and regular Dijon mustard, beer and brat mustard, horseradish mustard, hickory smoke, spicy brown, yellow and the most adorable little bottle of Heinz mustard – yes, I said, Heinz mustard — that I stole from the 600 Club at Fenway park at least a decade ago.   The age and variety of some of the bottles had me thinking we ought to save them from the garbage can, or as my husband insisted, the recycling bin, and open up our own mustard museum. 

We realized through this exercise that in general we tend to overdo it in the condiment category.   We obviously relish, relish. In the depths of the refrigerator, on the bottom shelf behind old beers and cans of flat soda, I found three different containers of dill relish, a full jar of sweet relish and another of sweet red pepper relish. I’ve often referred to my husband as “a saucy one” and the innards of our fridge served to prove my point. We have A1 and white wine and regular Worcestershire sauce, honey chipotle and sweet hickory barbecue, spicy Thai peanut, low sodium soy, sweet and sour, cocktail and tarter sauce to name just a few. I haven’t even touched on the marinades, but you get the idea.

Once we thinned out the condiments, my husband gathered up every cooler he could find in the basement so that we could temporarily store all the food we planned to keep while awaiting the arrival of our new fridge. That task would lie with him, as I was off to work. He got an early start unpacking the old fridge, optimistically but erroneously thinking the delivery would be closer to the 1:45 part of the window. At 3:30 he got a call from the delivery guys telling him they wouldn’t be there for at least another hour.  

“I’ve wasted an entire day off,” he grumbled, when I called to ask if we had a new fridge yet. He had run out of room in the coolers, where the Celeste pizzas and Lean Cuisines had all begun to thaw, and had moved on to any insulated container he could scrounge up including our son, Christopher’s lunch boxes. 

He was also running out of patience, I could tell. 

“We have a problem.” Those were the unwelcome words my husband greeted me with as I walked in the door at about 5:30 that afternoon. 

“It doesn’t fit.”

I could see the refrigerator, which looked a lot bigger in our kitchen then it did in Sears, was still sticking out a few feet from the wall, well in front of the cabinets. I also noticed a small stockpile of tools my husband had amassed on the kitchen island; a sight I found disturbing on many levels.

An electrical cord and panel on top of the refrigerator made it about ¾ of an inch too tall to clear the cabinets and slide back against the wall. Three damn quarters of an inch!

“If I use this to sand down the bottom of the cabinets, we could notch out a space so the cord will fit through,” my husband offered, while holding up some tool I’ve never seen him use.

I could feel my blood pressure going up, but I tried to stay calm. 

“We can’t cut into our maple cabinets,” I said while pacing back and forth and staring angrily the offending cord on top. Besides being the correct size, our other refrigerator didn’t have a panel and cord on top. It also didn’t dispense shaved ice or filtered water at the perfect temperature.

“It’s my fault,” I said.  

My husband did not disagree. 

“I should have measured the space and the fridge. This was so stupid of me!”

My husband did not disagree. 

“They’ll just have to take it back,” I concluded then called the Sears delivery service to tell them of our plight. The woman who took my call couldn’t have been nicer. She apologized for the inconvenience and told us we could simply pick out a different refrigerator that would fit and they would deliver the replacement. We could keep this one until the second new fridge was delivered, so we set to work emptying the coolers of their now nearly room-temperature contents and piled them into the too-tall fridge. I tried not to look at it or become in any way attached, and I told my husband to put the tools away.

The replacement refrigerator, which we measured the hell out of before buying, was delivered Sunday. It’s a 22-cubic foot side-by-side model, similar in color and style to the too-tall fridge, sadly minus the shaved-ice feature.

But it fits. And now that we’ve made some tough calls on condiments, the mustard collection fits, too.

Alice Coyle is the managing editor of Gatehouse Media New England’s Raynham, Mass. office. She can be reached at