Thursday, December 15, 2016


I'm sorry to post this so late this week, but I have been dealing with an abscessed tooth that also caused a throat infection, which made me feel a little less humorous than usual! Fortunately, it's on the mend now, and I will be able to eat my way through about 75 buffet lunches during the holiday season!

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I keep hearing on the news that the Big Chill is heading this way for the weekend. According to the weather forecasters, any exposed flesh will freeze in 20 minutes. So I have visions of myself wrapped up like The Mummy,  just so I can go out and get my mail. I don’t mind cold weather, but when I have to wear so many layers of clothes that I start to worry about falling down and never being able to get up again, then that’s a little TOO cold, even for me.
I guess what worries me the most about really cold weather is my furnace. Ever since I bought it seven years ago, it’s had a habit of working when it feels like it. Usually, that means if you happen to turn it on in July, it will run fine. But if you turn it on in mid-winter, it will do nothing.

I vividly can recall, a few years ago, during this exact week, when the furnace we had in our former house decided to die. I’d climbed out of bed on a chilly Saturday morning in December, padded out to the living room and turned up the thermostat to 68 degrees. I then waited for the familiar sound of the furnace kicking on.
Nothing happened.

I cranked up the thermostat to 80. Still nothing.
I opened my mouth to shout to my sleeping husband, but then changed my mind. First, I decided, I would try everything possible to get the furnace to pop on. If I failed, then, and only then, would I wake up Rip Van Breslin.
First I checked the oil tank. The gauge said it was half-full (or, if you are a pessimist, half-empty). Then I checked the circuit breakers. They were fine. Finally, I hit the furnace’s reset button. Nothing happened. There was only one thing left to do…write two obituaries – one for the furnace and one for myself…for waking up my husband on a Saturday morning.
In a last-ditch effort, I called my cousin, the heating/refrigeration technician, and asked for advice. He ran through the list of everything I’d already done, then said there was one more thing I could try.
“You know those two screws on the motor that are holding the wires down?” he asked me. “Well, sometimes you can jump-start the furnace if you take a pair of needle-nose pliers and touch the two screws with them at the same time.”
“Won’t I get a shock if I do that?” I naively asked.
“Yeah, but it will only be a mild one.”
I woke up my husband.
“Well, we’re not calling a repairman till Monday,” he said after he tried and failed to get the furnace to pop on. “They charge double, even triple on weekends. I’d rather wear a hat and long underwear around the house than pay all that extra money. Besides that, the furnace is practically new. It can’t be broken!”
“Well, I hate to say it,” I said, “but the blue tint on my lips and my teeth chattering like castanets are a pretty good indication that it just might be!”
So all of that weekend, I suffered with a frozen nose and a bloated bladder (from drinking 400 cups of hot tea to keep my body from turning into a life-sized Popsicle).
The repairman arrived on Monday afternoon and spent a lot of time fiddling with the furnace. At one point, he actually got it to pop on, only to have it pop off again. This continued until he finally got frustrated, muttered a few things under his breath and called for backup. Another repairman arrived within 15 minutes.
Together, the two of them stared at the furnace as if it were a UFO. “I think it’s the heat sensor,” one of them said. “And let’s change the nozzle, just to be safe.”
An hour later, the familiar sound of the furnace running filled the house, followed by the long-awaited blast of warm air. I removed my scarf and earmuffs.
“That should take care of it,” one of the repairmen said. “If not, be sure to give us a call.”
“How much do I owe you?” I asked, bracing myself for cardiac arrest.
He shrugged. “You’ll get a bill in the mail.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. Visions of them leisurely sipping coffee and taking extra time to add every little bolt and screw to my bill, filled my head. Christmas shopping, I decided, would have to be put on hold until that bill arrived.
A week later, I still hadn’t received the bill, so I got up that morning with every intention of calling the billing office and asking about my balance. First, however, I turned up the heat.
The furnace made three loud booming sounds, coughed and died. The strong smell of oil began to fill the house. The furnace then struggled to pop on again and made a helicopter sound. I, picturing my house going airborne and landing somewhere in Munchkin Land, dashed to the furnace’s emergency shut-off switch and flipped it. Then I called the repairman.
I was put on hold for 45 minutes.
There have been only a few times in my life when I’ve been really angry, like the time I found out that my supposedly sick boyfriend actually had taken my best friend to a drive-in movie, but I honestly can say that after minute number 35 on hold, I was feeling just about that angry. As each minute continued to tick by, I found myself wishing I had one of those huge old-fashioned furnaces with the fire roaring inside, so when the repairman finally did show up and was bending over to look inside, I could shove him into it and slam the door – kind of like what Hansel and Gretel did to the Wicked Witch (hey, I told you I was angry!).
The repairman arrived two hours later. This time, he decided it was a clogged fuel line. Maybe it was sediment from the bottom of the tank, he said. Or maybe it was a kink in the line. Or maybe it was air in the line. Or maybe it was a clump of jellified oil.
I was waiting for him to say that maybe there was a family of tiny trolls living in there, but he stopped talking and set to work clearing the line.
Fortunately, it worked. And the furnace continued to run fine for all the rest of that winter. When the bill arrived, however, I was forced to finish all of my Christmas shopping at Dollar Tree.
So now I’m waiting to see if my current furnace, known for being cruel and sadistic, will behave and keep running through this upcoming Arctic blast. In the past, it has stopped working due a wasp’s nest in the vent, a nest of mice in the vent and an accumulation of spiders’ webs in the vent.
This time of year, however, it’s probably too cold for the wasps, mice and spiders to be crawling into the outside vent.
But with my luck, it will be the aforementioned family of tiny trolls.
On second thought, make that Santa’s elves.

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