Some call it the Deer Camp microwave, a reference to its—shall we say?—rustic charm.
The 1980 Kenmore Solid State boasts a faux wood exterior and an unlikely but inspiring list of cooking options (braise, simmer, roast, sauté) on the front panel. A cardboard inner wall has been secured with tape and heating times are substantial, causing lines to back up at lunch.
"It's a good thing there are no pregnant women in this office," workers have been known to quip.
But no matter. The Reagan-era microwave at the engineering consulting company Ricardo, Inc. in Burr Ridge is practically a member of the office family.
"Like anything else, it tends to be the butt of jokes – but it's all in fun," says senior program manager Jim Ernest. "You tend to remember and tell better stories about the things that went wrong in your life than the things that went right. They tend to be the stories you tell at family events."
"This falls into that category."
The Deer Camp microwave, submitted by Ricardo employee Tyson Stewart and clocking in at more than 30 years old, is the winner of our Oldest Office Microwave contest, but it's by no means the only vintage oven with personality to spare.
The second-place finisher, an Amana Radarange at the law offices of Ronald N. Primack in Tinley Park, actually looks older than the winner—or, for that matter, the horse and carriage. A sturdy brown box with a single dial labeled "timer" and a button labeled "start," it sports a sizable metal vent on the upper right.
Um, how hot does it get in there, anyway?
Our 25-year-old third-place winner, a classic Montgomery Ward submitted by Charlie Bendler, vice president in charge of software at Kleinschmidt Inc. in Deerfield, is shiny, sleek and relatively quirk-free.
But when we asked Matthew Elster, a law clerk at the State of Illinois Appellate Court in Chicago, about the 22-year-old office microwave—"Any quirks? Nicknames? Hobbies?"—he was ready for us.
"I can't think of any nicknames, but it's about as loud as a jet engine when it's on and sometimes it winks at me when heating food (although this could just be the light flickering)," he said in an e-mail.
"As far as hobbies go, it is an avid collector of dust and bits of peoples' lunches, both of which it has been collecting, it appears, without interruption, for the past two decades."
The winning microwave is actually second-hand; an employee fished it out of her garage more than 10 years ago. But it's clean and well maintained, as befits an office of detail-oriented engineers, and it offers cooking features you're unlikely to see on the newest model.
Ernest says he's never tried the braise option—but hey, there's still time.