A Shakespearean appliance warning

Note: I “borrowed” this refrigerator story from my brother, so I anticipate some pretty tense holiday dinners in my future.

My recent post about my near-miss with a refrigerator magnet reminded me of this story.

During his college days, after a particularly rough night, my brother and his friends were lounging around a dorm room. One of them, for reasons that only made sense at the time, was lying on his back with his head in a dorm-sized refrigerator. You know the type – a small, white cube that in my day housed mostly generic diet cola and nail polish.

As he lay there, he noticed a warning label that you could only see if you were, in fact, lying on your back with your head in the refrigerator. It read:

Caution: When defrosting the refrigerator, use neither knife nor gimlet.

…raising the questions:

  1. What is a gimlet?
  2. By the time you spot the warning in its obscure location have you already used the gimlet?
  3. What happens if you use the gimlet? And is it worse than exploding a magnet?

Still, I think this might be my favorite warning ever, and it was highly suitable for the students of that particular, elite liberal arts college (even if they did misuse appliances.)

6 thoughts on “A Shakespearean appliance warning

  1. I was driving about thirty minutes outside Glasgow last week, and passed a typical red-bordered triangle road warning sign which read, “CAUTION. Otter Crossing”. But someone mustn’t have been paying attention, because a few hundred yards down, I saw another one, all- red this time: “ORPHAN BABY OTTERS CROSSING”. Of course, by then I’ve got the car down to a crawl, so it was easy to see that just beyond that were some tire skid marks ending at a tree with a large hand-lettered sign: “WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T WATCH OUT FOR OTTERS”


    1. Too bad the signs couldn’t be reversed so you get the most dire warning first. I had some otter type creatures run in front of my car one night – there were a pile of them. Looked like the whole road was moving. They would be hard to miss if you weren’t paying attention.


  2. This reminds me of my time as a Montgomery Ward catalog copywriter: I was breaking in a new copywriter, asking him to expand on the features and benefits of a power drill we had in the catalog. His creativity exceeded my expectations, in that he filled the last empty space with the following words: “Drilling has certainly come a long way from the slow motion of the brace-and-bit and the tedium of the gimlet”.

    I may not be able to tell you what a gimlet is, but I certainly learned that it is tedious to use!


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