Mary Ellen is not a risk taker. Other than her commitment to me more than 30 years ago, she seldom gambles with the odds. But a business obligation in Chicago has required that she leave me to fend for myself. She has left me alone at home before, but my son was still living with us, so she knew if we had a power outage, someone in the house would know how to put batteries in the flashlight.

In the past, I always got very detailed instructions for how to muddle through the day when she was gone. It was even alphabetical.

B: (Bedtime) You both need to do this toward the end of each day. Do not skip a night.

D: (Dishes) Wash after each meal in the dishwasher. Do not mix dishes and underwear in same load.

M: (Meals) To be eaten while seated-not in the car, and not standing at the sink. Space them out over the day.

V: (Vacuum Cleaner) About three feet tall, with a hose coming out the side. I don't expect you to use it, but I didn't want it to scare you if you opened the closet by mistake.

This time, Mary Ellen simply abandoned me. I was okay last night, stopping at a sub shop for some dinner. However, this morning when I walked into the kitchen to make breakfast, I realized what a bad personal relationship I have with our appliances.

My wife sets the toaster to light, so it's already popping up while she's putting the rest of the loaf back in the pantry. I like my toast very dark. I know it's done when the smoke detector goes off. Then I get up on a kitchen chair so I can fan the alarm and make it stop. It's hard to tell your doctor you hurt your back making toast.

There are no dials on our microwave. It's just this high-tech control surface that makes me feel like Data on Star Trek determining if Planet RaNon 17 has sufficient oxygen for Captain Picard and the crew. I don't know how to change the power level; I don't know how to set the timer; and I have no idea what DELAY means. The device does tell me the current time. It's the biggest and most expensive clock we've ever had.

Given the opportunity, I'd swap the stove for a decent pool table. Our old stove had these coils that heated up, which was a pretty good indication that things were about to start cooking. But now the stove is called a glass-top and it is completely flat. Little circle thingies light up, then they go off, then they come back on. Whose stupid idea was this? When I was a kid, we had a gas stove, like with a real flame. My dad used to light his cigarette by leaning over the range and igniting his butt. That doesn't sound exactly right, but it made me laugh when I wrote it.

The toaster oven has been a big disappointment (rivaled only by the dehumidifier in our basement, which we never thought worked until we found out I had purchased a humidifier by mistake.) I tried to make a tuna melt in it. The cheddar never melted, although it did age very nicely.

Oops, gotta go. The smoke alarm just went off. Breakfast is ready.

Dick Wolfsie appears weekdays on WISH-TV sharing his humor, stories and video essays. His column appears weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County.