Fixing the FI Machine


As an office-going cubicle-dwelling member of the workforce I have it easy compared to other professions. Full 100% of my work time is spent indoors protected from the elements in a climate controlled environment with temperature and humidity set at constant and comfortable levels. Even during the nastiest heat wave, it’s fun to venture out for the daily lunch break walk knowing that no matter how hot I get, I’ll return to the AC cocoon in no time. Passing by a worker sweating all day at the construction site doing physical labor in a 100 degree heat I can’t help but feel grateful for my luxurious work environment.

One other luxury that many office workers take for granted is the ability to prepare their own food. Most don’t even take advantage of it, preferring to buy prepared food and drinks instead. Realistically, free water from a chilled fountain is more than enough to quench your thirst. Heat up that same water in a microwave adding a tea bag of your choice and you’ve got a nice hot beverage to pick you up and keep you going during the day. If you work in a fancy office you might have access to a free pot of coffee or maybe even a Keurig machine. If you don’t but you like coffee, just get a personal coffee maker (no paper filters!) and brew your own. And as far as food – let your last night dinner leftovers spin around in the microwave for 3 minutes and you’ve got a delicious home cooked meal for less than $3.

That construction worker has no access to any of this so he goes out and spends his hard earned money on fast food almost daily. Sure they can bring a sandwich from home but most don’t. I personally would not want to eat cold cuts all the time either. Did you notice the food trucks shuttling between construction sites peddling burgers, fries and soda? There is always a line to the one here across the street from my office.

I talked about my fondness for bringing my own lunches from home before. Convenience, nutrition and savings are the main reasons I’ve been continuously doing it for many years. One key appliance in all of this is, of course, the microwave.

When I started working at my current job we had a community kitchen with a sink, refrigerator and a microwave. After yet another re-org and office reshuffling, my team was moved into the basement, a-la Milton from Office Space. All the luxuries we were accustomed to were no longer there. I can live without a fridge and have no problem travelling 50 yards to get to a bathroom which has a sink, but I have to have my microwave! The 3 of us that always bring our lunches from home chipped in to buy a used one from another co-worker. We paid $25 cash for Sylvania model P70D20AL-D5. SOP resumed.

A couple years go by when all of a sudden Silvania decides it had enough last week. All the buttons work as you dial in the settings… except that when you press the Start button nothing happens. No beeping, no starting. After running up and down the stairs several times a day to stealthily use a microwave in another department we conclude that we miss our Sylvania way too much and need to do something about it.

Yes, we can get a new one at the store yesterday. Easy but we’re all in agreement it seems wasteful. A bunch of used ones are on Craigslist – better but still somewhat inefficient. Lets try to fix it instead. We have no idea how to work on microwaves but we can’t make it worse than it already is, can we?

After borrowing a screwdriver and a pair of pliers from the maintenance guy we go to town. It’s just a few Phillips screws and 2 “security” screws that can only be taken off with a special tool… or a pair of pliers. Taking the cover off the microwave I see a bunch of wires connected to the keypad in a suspiciously similar manner as the wires to the heating element on my electric stove at home. Remembering that easy repair I inspected for loose wires and voila: one contact simply got disconnected. Same exact thing that happened with the stove.

Circled in red is the area where one of the wires was disconnected causing the Start button to stop working.


Two minutes later Sylvania was humming away happily as if nothing happened. We all briefed a sigh of relief gaining new appreciation for this wonderful appliance.

Sure, calling a microwave an “FI Machine” might sound like a bit of a stretch… Yet it’s true – used consistently, this Office Microwave will save loads of cash and ultimately help you escape from a cubicle much quicker, if you so desire.

So get to know your own Sylvania at work; save your lunch money and eat better!  And if it breaks one day, see if it’s something as simple as a loose wire and fix it instead of trashing it.


5 thoughts on “Fixing the FI Machine

  1. Ha ha, The FI Machine, I love it!

    A few of us pooled together at work and bought a toaster as well. I’ve started making scrambled eggs on toast for lunch utilising both the toaster and the microwave. A versatile combination! Two things have made me laugh about it:
    1. Everyone seems astounded and impressed I can be bothered to spend 10 minutes making it.
    2. Half of those were entirely unaware you can make scrambled eggs in the old FI Machine.

    These people don’t know they’re born etc… 🙂

    • Office made scrambled eggs on toast is a whole ‘nother level of awesome. I made bacon in the morning once in the microwave but after a whole bunch of hungry people came out of the woodwork because of the great smell I stopped doing that.

      • Ah yes I’ve done bacon a few times. Did you cook it from raw or reheat? I’ve only reheated and it came out pretty well.

        Some things don’t cook or reheat well in the microwave which maybe is what puts people off, but there are a few things where you can barely tell the difference so if you find out what they are you are good to go.

        • Easiest way to cook packaged sliced bacon from raw: two paper towel sheets on a plate, slices of bacon laid out in a row on the paper towel and one paper towel sheet covering the bacon. Microwave on high adding 1 minute per slice. I usually do 6 slices for 6 minutes and it comes out perfect every time. Tastes just as good as stove top made but without the smoke, in half the time and with a lot less mess and grease. I only do this at home, though.

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