Sometimes we need a bit of conflict to make us feel alive. Here’s a recent example:
I was up early, about 6:30, and the house was slowly warming after our nightly lowering of the thermostat. Then the furnace stopped abruptly. I checked the temperature – about 65 – and went to the basement to examine the furnace. I tried fixing it by tapping on it with my knuckles in several places. No luck. I removed a panel where last year we found a mouse’s nest, and I found a few pieces of nest, but removing them did not fix the problem, and I could feel the cold air coming in where last year the nest had blocked it.
It was, of course, a Sunday morning, with nobody open. I phoned the guy who our neighbor Karen had recommended, and left a message. He called back and said he couldn’t make it. My diagnosis from the sound of his voice was COVID-19. I called Nate, who had installed our HVAC system when we built the house, and he was not willing to come out, but he agreed to talk me through a repair. I thought briefly about the guy, probably an English teacher, attempting to land the plane when the pilot and co-pilot have passed out, and he is trying to follow instructions from the tower. (This would not work for me, as I would not know how to turn on the plane’s radio.)
Nate directed me to a small window where I could read the “error code.” There were two: 10 and 57. He said he would look that up and call me back. He did, and I learned that the 57 meant a water problem, so Nate instructed me to remove the panel, locate a small plastic box with some hoses attached, remove the small one and blow on it to clear the blockage in the box. I blew, with no success. The 10 meant I had to unplug the furnace and plug it in again, which I did with the circuit breaker, there being no visible furnace plug. No luck. I tried, with Nate’s permission, blowing on the larger hose, resulting in a gurgling sound, but the furnace did not start. I asked Nate about sucking the water out of the little box, and he said, “Sure,” so I did it, spitting about 10 ounces into a glass, and re-hit the circuit breaker. Victory! I thanked Nate and hung up. The furnace ran for about two minutes and then shut off again, with the same error codes. I repeated the sucking and spitting, and again the furnace ran for a couple of minutes before abruptly stopping.
I called Nate back. He said to keep sucking out water until it was all gone, and then the furnace would work. Three gallons and two hours later, I knew that Nate was wrong, but I ke[t sucking and spitting because we would at least get a couple minutes of heat.
I called another HVAC company, and they said they could come out the next day. The temperature was holding steady in the house at 61, thanks to a fire in the fireplace, our gas stove on our sun porch, and my sucking persistence. We slept in the basement where it was warmer.
Bill came out on Monday afternoon and quickly diagnosed and remedied the problem: mold had clogged the hose that drains the combined condensation from the furnace, the humidifier, and the air conditioner. He fixed it with an old plastic squeeze bottle and hot water. It was both satisfying and horrifying to see the large mold boogers emerging from the hose where it reached the floor drain.
I had, with assistance, triumphed over my defective furnace – though, to be sure, the real defect was in my furnace maintenance, and it was Bill who triumphed. (Football fans note how we say “We won!” when the team you were watching actually won, not the fan.) Nevertheless, the conflict led to an energized sense of accomplishment every time I hear and then feel the furnace turn on. I feel better now than I did when the furnace was working fine before any of this happened. It’s more than just furnace appreciation. I am The Man.
Now, on to my computer . . ..