Sunday, October 2, 2011

Make it Stop

Funny how quickly one learns he can no longer call maintenance or apartment management every time he has a problem. Well, not ha ha funny, but whimsical. No wait. Whimsical isn’t the word. The word is frustrating.
Although I am very good at putting together furniture (if I do say so myself), when it comes to home repairs, I am like George of the Jungle. Any time I have attempted to fix something around one of my apartments, the situation usually ended up with me calling a repairman to come fix what I had “fixed,” and the landlord paying triple the initial cost of the repair. I became very good at saying things like, “I don’t know how that pipe came loose and flooded the kitchen?” “I looked up, and the next thing I knew, the light fixture came crashing down.”

I should have earned an Academy Award years ago.

While in college, I was hired part-time as a construction worker. After watching me hammer nails in a fashion that either split the wood, bent the nail or missed the target completely, I was relegated to perform menial tasks that I was assured were vital to the construction of the house. “Hey, Stern, move those two by fours from the front yard to the back.” Needless to say, I became a very good nuch-schlepper.

I still wonder if any of those houses with my split wood or bent nails are still standing. By now, some have to have been remodeled, and somewhere there is a happy homeowner, who is pulling up his carpet and saying, “What the fuck kind of moron framed this house?”

This is where I feign surprise and say, “I don’t know how that floorboard split in half?”

Now, I am a happy homeowner. Silly me. I thought I could prance around in an apron, pearls and sensible heels and all would be well.

I do have a warranty on the structure and the appliances being that this house is brand new, and I have managed to get a few things fixed without admitting I am the one who broke them.

When I first tried out my Weedeater, a lawn care tool I despise, not only did I weedeat my shin (is weedeat a verb?), but also, I managed to poke a few holes in the skirting around my house. A few days later, I called Bubba, head of the management office (yes that is his name) and said, “There are a lot of cracks and holes in my skirting, can you guys replace them? I think the lawn care guys did that when this house was the model.” Two days later, I had new skirting.

I would like to thank the Academy, my agent and God.

But even I know that a day will come when my Claudette Colbert routine will no longer get things fixed for free. I am a homeowner now, so there is no longer a naïve landlord or apartment manager to call, which brings us to Global Warming.


Stick with me here. When I taught school (and I was really a lousy teacher), I used to say to my students, “It is a fast-paced world, so you need to keep up with me!”

Global Warming has brought us extremely hot summers with violent storms and bitter cold winters with lots of snow according to Al Gore, who is now single, which has nothing to do with the price of eggs at Weis.

I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, and like much of the Eastern Seaboard (is that supposed to be capitalized?), we rarely had spring or fall. One day, the temperature would be eighty degrees, and the next day, the fifties. Anyone from this part of the country is used to that.

A consequence of having these extreme temperature changes is that on Monday you are running your air conditioning and on Tuesday, you turn on the heat. We called it life; now they call it Global Warming.

That is what happened this week. On Friday, the temperature was beautiful and in the eighties. On Saturday, it dipped into the fifties, so I turned on my heat for the first time.

Propane heat, like gas heat, is a little foreign to me. I am used to Electric heat, which comes on immediately. Gas heat seems to do something that makes odd sounds for a few minutes before the fan comes on. See how technologically advanced I am?

My heater kept doing the odd sound thing for a bit too long, and the fan would not come on. Any normal homeowner would have done one of two things: either fixed it, or called a repairman. I am not normal.

I opened up the furnace and looked around. Remember the episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show where they had a flashback to Rob and Laura’s wedding? His Jeep broke down, so he opened the hood and said, “Well, that’s a motor.” I pretty much did the same thing.

I looked for a pilot light or a fan switch and couldn’t find one. So, I called Bubba. He told me to look for the gas control switch and tell him what direction it was pointing. I said, “Up and down.”

He said, “That’s correct. Now look for the primer switch.” And of course, he could have been talking Chinese to me. After ten minutes describing every switch and wire on the furnace, I found it. It of course was not in the on position.

He then told me to flick the on/off switch on and off a few times until the flame took. Yes, I did find that switch, too. He said once the flame took, the heat would come on, but he also warned me that since this was the first time it would be running, there would be a lot of smoke, so don’t be alarmed.

Before I continue, let me tell you that propane cooking makes the smoke alarms, and I have four, go off every time you preheat the oven. I plan to switch to electric by next summer because this is driving Esmeralda crazy even if I do hit the button on the alarms almost immediately. She is running out of places to hide.

Well, the heat came on, and I didn’t see any smoke, but within seconds, all the smoke alarms went nuts. Esmeralda went running and hid in the bedroom closet. I then proceeded to run from one end of the house to the other pushing the buttons on the alarms in an attempt to make them stop.

This, of course, proved futile. I even opened the living room windows, but the alarms kept sounding, and I was on my fifth lap around the house, when I finally screamed in frustration, “MAKE IT STOP!”

And they did!

I didn’t know whether to be happy or a little scared.

Did my years of watching Bewitched and studying Endora finally pay off?

I don’t know.

I did turn the heat on and off a few more times, and the alarms never sounded again.

Now only one questions remains. Will I use my powers for good or for evil?

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