Monday, March 9, 2009

Never too early to clean up that barbecue grill

It's still too early to enjoy an outdoor barbecue but it is never too early to hope fo rgreat weather.

I bought new steel burners for the inside of the barbecue. And I decided to buy a push buttown igniter to light the new burners.

Barbecues always work great the first summer you have them. But they are like American cars. They fall apart fast. The first to go is the push button igniter that lights the burners. I remember that second summer. I nearly broke my thumb, cussing and screaming because the ignitor button snapped but wouldn't crackle. Isn't it always that way?

Heck with it. I bought one of those long Bic lighters. And I have to bend my arm around the table to get the lighter into the hole near enough to the burners after I turn the gas on full blast. Boom!

The next thing to go is the burners. They rust out faster than a Chevrolet on the Winter salted Streets of Chicagoland. Which reminds me. Since most cities skimped out on salt this year to save money in this bad economy? Will the body of my car actually hold out and not rust before the transmission locks? The insure everything on a new car except the things that break.

So I went out and bought a new steel burner. It cost $29.95 at Lowes. And as I was walking out to pay for it, I saw the push button ignitors. Another $19. Could I do it I asked myself?

As certain as I am about finding my way when I am lost driving my rusting Lincoln LS beater. My wife tells me to ask for directions, but I won't. I don't need no stinking directions! I can do it myself. And as my wife watched from the comfort of the dinner room room, I stood out in the chill of what I thought looked like a nice day. The rain finally stopped. The sun was out. And it was still 38 degrees outside. It felt colder though because I wasn't wearing a coat. Another reason my wife was shaking her head.

Do you ever notice that the stores are more concerned about security than they are with service? I mean, if I wanted to get help to do something, I can never find a store clerk.

But, buy something like a new steel burner, and it comes encassed in an almost impossible to break-into plastic container. I can see the burner inside but for the life of me, I can't break through the plastic to get it.

That's whent he first burst of cuss words comes streaming out. My wife can't hear me through the window panes with heat running in the background int he comfort of the dining room. But she knows I'm swearing something awful.

I try ripping it open, Pulling it apart. Cutting it with scissors. Anything. It's double sealed. I get through the first layer and there's another one inside. And it's not like soft plastic, either. It's made like a brick wall.

Finally, the steel burners, screws and instructions spill out all over the cold patio and I spend the next 10 minutes looking for "Screw A" which the instructions say must be used to insure the burner burns safely.


I don't know.

Of course, I don't discover that until I am almost done putting it all together because the instructions come in 16 languages including six variations of Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Greek, Arabic, and some other languages I don't even know. Somewhere in the tiny squares of small type are the English instructions. But why would you put instructions in English when you are selling something so American to an American?

Hell with the instructions. Who needs them? I know what a burner looks like. And I know what an igniter looks like and is supposed to do.

So I start screwing all the pieces together that I can find. Not bad. It balances in the grill. Next is the igniter. Who needs a ground wire? The igniter goes in a two piece metal triangle that comes together somehow with the do-hickey. And no matter how great the thing is, I have to gerrymander something. I have to bend the "teeth" that grip the edge of the burners when it's finished. And I am pushing to try and get the wire around the igniter when my hand slips and the wire connector slams my thumb. Now. I couldn't have aimed to hit the spot between where my nail and my skin meet, but that's exactly when the wire metal connector thing-a-ma-jog slammed.

And I drew first blood. So with a paper towel wrapped around my thumb, eyes squinting and tongue know sticking out of the right side of my clenched teeth, I get everything together only to discover I have to take it apart so I can work the wire through the hole in the grill. Fine. I did it once. I can do it again.

Three hours in to it – my wife has long ago left the window – I finally get everything together. I open the gas tank, turn the knobs, pump the igniter one time and wahlah! The fire starts.

That’s when my wife opens the door and asks. “Feel going out to get something to eat at Olive Garden.”


-- Ray Hanania

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