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Posts Tagged ‘furnace’

Brrrr…

So, Facebook friends already know that during the coldest snap of the year so far, our furnace died. Well, not died completely, but in the context of doing what it is supposed to do, the furnace failed and when the temperature is several degrees below zero, that becomes a huge issue.

To make a long story short, we had the repair guys out to the house five times over eleven days to replace parts and figure out what the heck was going on. The furnace is just over 20 years old, so we knew that this day would be coming eventually, but as our friendly repair guy Tom put it, people don’t think about the furnace until something goes wrong. He said that he sees customers who have landscaping that cost them in the thousands of dollars, but balk at the thought of having to replace the furnace, often for about the same amount of money. Now, those who know us in real life, especially our neighbors, know that the amount we spend on landscaping is several thousand dollars short of “in the thousands”, pretty much amounting to whatever flats of annuals that English Gardens has on sale that week, but we also used to not think about the furnace very much at all. Like most people, we (used to) take it for granted that when it begins to get chilly in October, you switch the little tab to “heat” and on it goes, and so it has for more than twelve years. Then, last Monday, it didn’t. The good news is that Tom was able to eventually replace the circuit board and get it running again. It has been running for almost two days now without doing anything hinky, but Marty and I are still fairly paranoid about it. I listen for that click of the ignition when it starts feeling chilly, especially this morning while waking up to 6 degrees. I will probably dread that cool, drafty feeling until the weather turns from frigid to scorching all in one day, usually sometime in May or June. We don’t get much of a spring around here.

I have to say that not having heat really did a number on my psyche this week. I was stressed anyway from being back in school, going through an unsuccessful audition, dealing with the furnace going on and off, getting a magazine issue out, and not sleeping very much in the process. Last night, one of boys clogged the toilet and while trying to unplug it, the water ran over the edge of the bowl. Not very much, but enough to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. At 11:30  at night I was having to not only unclog a stupid toilet that no one told me about earlier, but having to bleach the bathroom as well. I’m a total germaphobe when it comes to the bathroom. I hate toilets and everything having to do with bathroom functions to the point of absurdity. Marty knows this and he knew that there would be nothing he could do to help me when I get into that state and so he just went to bed. That was for the best, as two seconds later, the tears came rolling out. All the stress from all week long just kind of ganged up on me all at the same time. In my head, this dialogue was playing: “I can’t believe this is happening! Is it too much to ask that I get one freaking night where I don’t have to worry about anything or fix something in this money pit? Just one night?” And on it went for about ten minutes while I toweled up excess water, put towels and rugs in the washer on “hot”, bleached the toilet and anywhere in the bathroom that the contaminated water might have touched. It was a nice little pity party, but it did stop and I calmed down. It was scary, though, to think that just that little taste of no heat, along with everything else, was enough to cause a little meltdown. It made me wonder about other people, those who have to live without central heating as part of their lives instead of just because their furnaces went out. We hear about it on the news all the time, of house fires that start because of an oven being used as a primary heat source or space heaters that overheat or get too close to something flammable. How do those people feel all winter long? How can they stand it? It really made me feel guilty about feeling the way I did, even as cold as we had been. We’re by no means well-off, but we’ve never had to worry about a problem like that, thank God.

As a middle-class person, you hear the plight of the poor and you feel bad for them, but how often do you really experience what they do? I remember working at Greenfield Village, at Firestone Farm where we used a coal-burning stove and fireplace to heat the house. Even though there was a heater in the house set to very low to keep the artifacts from being damaged when we all went home, it was still really cold in there when we would arrive in the morning. It would eventually warm up as the day went on and I remember thinking that I could have done that, lived in that time period, especially when I would think of all of my Little House on the Prairie books which told how Laura Ingalls and her family stayed warm in the winter. I remember thinking that with a roaring fire, it wouldn’t be all that bad and that it had probably been pretty cozy with all of them together. It just goes to show how naïve and idealistic I was at that time. Being cold sucks. A lot. Laura and her family were probably used to it, but that wouldn’t have made it any more fun for them. When you can’t get warm, because there’s nowhere to go that is warm, being cold begins to feel desperate. I can imagine having to look forward to that feeling every day and it scares me. There are kids growing up like this, probably only a few miles from where I’m living in my (now) warm colonial.

I guess, at the end of the day, that losing heat taught me a lesson on perspective. I want to know more about helping people, about warming centers, and supplying the warm and fuzzy tree that we have at church. I feel stupid now, but I really hadn’t thought of the donations on the warm and fuzzy tree as items of clothing that some would wear inside as well as outside during the winter. Spending a couple days wrapped up in my scarf and hat while in a blanket on my couch lit that particular light bulb in my head. I don’t know what I would do if that was my way of life, if I couldn’t afford to pay the heating bill or to finance a new furnace. I do know that going through this has made me incredibly thankful for what I do have and that we had the means to fix what was wrong. I also know that I’ll never take that particular blessing for granted again.

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