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Food by VICE

I Was Anonymously Sent a Microwave and I'm Creeped Out But Delighted

A microwave isn't a necessity, but if a little white Westinghouse mysteriously arrives at your doorstep, you quickly realize the luxury of owning such an appliance.

by Allie Volpe
Apr 10 2018, 4:00pm

Photo by the author

It’s purely an accident, or perhaps a practical joke, that this microwave is in my posession.

For years, my leftovers have been ravenously consumed cold, and my popcorn has remained unpopped in the pantry. This is a fine way of living. No one really needs a microwave. But if one mysteriously arrives at your doorstep, you quickly realize this is a luxury you can’t believe you’ve lived so long without.

Such was my reality one afternoon in October, when I returned home to a moderately large box on my doorstep. Assuming it was for one of my roommates, I was surprised to see the package was addressed to me—though a different address where I’d never lived had been printed and then crossed out, replaced with my current address written in Sharpie. Delighted, yet slightly horrified, I unloaded the box’s contents: a white Westinghouse microwave. The packing slip indicated it had been sent directly from the manufacturer with no tracking info nor payment information.

Whoever sent me this microwave knew multiple things. Namely, that I didn’t have a microwave. They perhaps knew where I lived, too. I don’t know if you’ve ever questioned your entire network concerning a kitchen appliance, but it is a confusing experience.

“Why would I buy you a microwave?” friends and family asked. “Maybe it was [insert crush’s name here],” “Are you sure it wasn’t [insert various relative’s name here]?” Every lead came up short.

While the mystery remained, rather than let the device go unused, I figured I should utilize it. As a result, the winter was a revelation in reheating. Gone were the days of cold leftovers. I came to realize that I deserve the best in life—to eat lukewarm two-day-old meals over the sink, to scald my mouth with tea nuked in my free microwave. The chill of every nor’easter was minorly abated by a frozen dinner I was unable to heat a year ago.

Food has a curious appeal when its preparation is purposeful. Rather than binge-eating random items from the fridge, I made concentrated efforts to ensure the meals I was consuming tasted at least somewhat good. Just the few minutes I waited for dinner to heat up was a lesson in mindfulness.

Every now and then, I’d get pangs of guilt while reheating the previous night’s dumplings, pondering the fate of the microwave’s original recipient. Was there another Allie Volpe out there who ordered this appliance? Did they ever get a new microwave? Maybe this was intended for me, but the gifter forgot?

At the behest of persistent friends, and against my better judgment to remain invisible when accidentally the recipient of some prize, I decided to visit the original address on the box. I needed to find the Allie Volpe who lived there, perhaps the true owner of the microwave.

Frozen broccoli? No problem when you HAVE A MICROWAVE.

This was a posh part of town, the kind of place where apartment buildings have doormen, and hotels have chandeliers and five-star restaurants. Upon arriving, I quickly realized my memory had not served me well: I got the address wrong. No such residence even existed, which meant, like a true detective, I’d have to walk into each complex one-by-one and explain myself. “Does an Allie Volpe live here?” I asked various apartment and hotel front desk attendants. “I think I have their microwave.”

The following day, I dug up the original shipping info I’d shoved into a junk drawer and discovered one of the buildings I’d visited was the package’s original destination. A call to the front desk led to finding a person named Alex inhabited the apartment in question. Afraid to raise suspicion, I made no further inquiries and instead messaged every person in Philadelphia with said name. One Alex responded on Facebook—it wasn’t him.

I later sent an email to the apartment building’s manager explaining the situation and to send Alex my message. He replied right away: “Oddly enough we had a resident with a name very similar to yours living here last year (she’s since moved),” the email read. “I’ve seen the package services attempt to forward packages in the past based on a customer list they have, so it is not altogether surprising that you accidentally ended up with that package.”

They promised to forward my info to what could be the microwave’s rightful owner. I’ve heard nothing since.

The quest to determine the microwave’s path proved almost as satisfying as using it. Every steamed bag of frozen brussels sprout is a reminder of how little it takes to impress me and how I still don’t know where this box of culinary delight originated.

Whatever cosmic shift left me with this microwave, I thank you. I am taking very good care of it.