Ah, the fridge – cooler of beer and sundry other items.
I feel compelled to make a confession here, just in case you ever find me standing in your kitchen, invited or otherwise: I am a habitual fridge browser. It’s not so much what exists inside that interests me, unless it involves beer of some kind, but rather what attaches itself to the outside, the adornment of the surface that distinguishes one fridge from another. The significance of the fridge, for me, lies not in what it keeps fresh internally but rather in what it preserves externally.
Fridges are like books waiting to be read and typically what they tell is a life story, each one as distinct as the lines on a face, made unique by the gradual accretion over time of pictures and notes, messages and reminders. Mementos. Bills and receipts. The slow backwash of daily life, its exchanges and milestones. Every item fixed there, even the most mundane, is a mini-narrative with its own back story, meaning and significance. Together, these items form a patchwork of isolated and overlapping moments in time, frozen no less (this is a fridge-freezer after all).
Even the naked fridge with its unblemished skin tells a story, perhaps hinting at one which is yet to unfold or maybe one which is largely lived elsewhere, away from the daily exposure and closure of the fridge door.
And inevitably, wherever there is a fridge, there is a fridge magnet stuck to it like a remora fish on a whale. I know some people can’t stand them, regarding them as akin to carbuncles on the pristine surface of their fridges, but, for some reason, I always seem to attract them like, well, a fridge. At last count, I had 57 on my fridge. Call me unthinking but whenever I get a fridge magnet, I just automatically stick it on the fridge. And so it grows. I can be very literal that way.
Perhaps it is the accumulation of these magnets and memories that can imbue fridges with a quasi-personality. Almost stealthily, they take on a life of their own and become an extension of the household, like Nanny McPhee without the magic. They are a strong, silent (apart from the occasional rattle and cough and tendency to hum in the night) presence in the home, a little repository of coolness. They are responsive to our needs, helpfully providing a light when we need it (that’s magic!) and waiting patiently as we fumble around in their innards. What hope and anticipation we invest in the fridge, peering into it as if looking into the future, eager to discover something unexpected and delightful. All the while, we rely on the fridge to guard carefully what we deposit in/on it – both sustenance and souvenirs – safe in the knowledge that it will always be there when we return, even when those items are no longer safe to keep.
There are moves afoot to make fridges ever-more intelligent so they can watch over our consumption and advise us as to our needs. From there, it will be just a short step to health advice and life coaching. The fridge then will truly become our better half.
A good fridge can last a lifetime, or certainly longer than many marriages. And when, finally, rust, exhausted motors and perished seals take their toll, the abandoned fridge still retains an air of unassuming splendour in its demeanour, resonant of the past like a large metal sarcophagus robbed of it contents.
Dating back to primeval dawn of the White Goods, the solitary fridge is the standing stone of consumer culture, a modern menhir.