My sister, Cathy, baked me some cookies. She stopped by with a whole bag of them. She and her husband, Joe, were making the rounds.

Visiting shut-ins during the age of the virus.

I am starting to look like somebody you could easily feel sorry for. I haven’t had a haircut in months. And zipping my fly’s become optional. That’s something I have to work on when I walk the dog.

I have Cindy to remind me, in any case. I hook up the dog, ready for a stroll.

“Do you have your phone?”

She always asks that, in case I get lost and have to call for directions.

“Got it,” I say.

“Is your fly zipped?”

“Oh, that.”

Cathy and Joe stayed just long enough to hand me the cookies — and compliment me on my hair. Wow, I’m thinking, with my longish curls, I must look pretty cool.

Next day, at the park with the dog, I’m greeting people, from an appropriate distance.

“Hi,” to a young couple.

“Hi,” to an older woman.

“Hi,” to a mother and her two children.

I’m outgoing. I’m affable. But nobody seemed to appreciate my good hair. Instead, they made faces and went way around me, well beyond social distancing. Halfway through the walk I saw why. I was no longer the cool guy with longish curls. I was just an old guy with his fly open.

At least I had chocolate chip cookies to look forward to. And they were great. I wondered if my sister used my mother’s recipe. She baked the best cookies.

Lots of people have been baking lately. They’ve taken it up during the lockdown. They have time to try those recipes Melissa St. Aude writes about for PinalCentral. And baking is good family fun, what with kids at home all the time. My neighbor bakes dog biscuits.

Maybe some day we’ll bake, if we ever get our oven repaired. We can’t remember the last time it worked. My joke would be, when trilobites roamed the earth. It’s a classic GE wall oven, built around 1960.

It came with the house. It worked fine then. But a few years later, the wires caught fire. They got fried. Or maybe baked. We were told we needed to split the circuit.

It was on the same circuit as the stovetop. We saved our money and in a few years’ time, we could afford an electrician. He split the circuit. We got a new stovetop. The consensus was we should repair the oven. It was, after all, a classic pink GE wall oven.

That called for a classic oven repairman. We found one in Tucson. Dave worked for a shop that sold antique ovens. He drove up, took a look and gave us a price. About $1,600. Cindy revived me, and we said OK. Dave took the oven back to Tucson and worked on it in his backyard. He put in new wiring and parts and cleaned it up. It looked like new when he reinstalled it.

When Dave left, it seemed to work. But when it took five hours to roast a chicken, we suspected something was wrong. The oven wasn’t getting very hot. Then it stopped working altogether.

Dave understood. He said it might be the thermostat. He’d be back to make it right. We last heard from him in late 2018. He was going into the hospital for surgery.

I hope he’s OK. His health is more important than our oven. And it’s not totally broken. The broiler works, so we can nuke stuff from the top down.

But we won’t be baking during this pandemic. Dave was our only hope, if we wanted to finish the repairs. I briefly harbored the thought I could do it myself. I already had a diagram for everything inside a 1960-circa GE wall oven.

There were wires and things attached to the wires. I studied it very carefully. It still didn’t make sense. I guess I won’t get that call from NASA anytime soon.

“Bill, could you wire up our next moon rocket? We’ll send you a diagram.”

“Does it have lots of wires?”

“A few.”

Well, I haven’t heard from NASA yet. And I’ve pretty much given up on Dave. Our next move might be a new oven. That will likely mean building a new cabinet to make it fit. We’ll save our money.

In the meantime, I’ll check my zipper. OK, I’m good.


Reach contributing writer Bill Coates at