The good news is that neither my mother nor I are displaying signs of senility (at least, not more than usual). The bad news is that no human being had re-set my refrigerator's temperature to 73 in the frozen section and 64 in the cool section--it had done this on its own. Toasty.
I got in at 2:45 AM Wednesday morning from my latest trip to DC, and the house smelled fine when I shuffled inside. Not until I opened the refrigerator to curdled milk, warm vegetables, leaking ice cream cartons and assorted other delectables that I realized all was not right. The mechanism was still humming, but clearly not doing its job. I had to throw away almost everything. The contents weren't rotten to the point of stinking--it'd clearly not been failed for the duration of my absence--but they were rapidly progressing in that direction, all being warmer than room temperature.
Thank God, my mother had bought an extended warranty on the fridge when she moved into the house a little less than five years ago, and it was still good (under the wire with three months to spare). I itemized the things that had died and was told by Lowes that I'd be refunded for the same. The repairman came out this afternoon and was able to find the right part, so my icebox is back online. Not that I've made it as far as the kitchen more than a handful of times since my return--I'm not just tired, I'm sick with a sore throat, and too dizzy to be far from bed.
I posted my experience on Facebook; "You know you're ill when you catch yourself rinsing your hair brush under the tap prior to brushing your teeth with it. Though I suppose if I were more under the weather, I wouldn't have noticed until I'd put toothpaste on the bristles and couldn't get it shoved into my mouth." Somehow, before being confined to my room for the duration, I managed to port all the perished goods over to my mother's garbage bin (I produce so little waste, I don't have home trash service), visit all the consignment shops where I have items, get checks from each, and put up and decorate my newly-acquired artificial Christmas tree. I put off proofing a friend's school application essay until this evening, however, as I knew I wasn't that coherent.
If the United States were a Christmas tree, right now it would be overwhelmed with ribbons of red and white lights. Traffic during the "holiday season" is absolutely horrible. I only managed to crawl 50 miles in the first two hours I was on the road home the other day. Coming down with a cold made the slow trek worse, but not to the point where I was lambasting other drivers like my Serbian coworker, who, as we made our way up to Bowie, MD, on the Beltway this past week, ranted at her fellow immigrants: "You haven't gotten off your goddamn donkey, and here you are getting in a car and becoming a weapon. This is a melting pot of fools!"