This is a picture of the Skyland Avenue bridge, taken as I was walking – in the extreme cold, yes – through the Habitat for Humanity store parking lot this afternoon. But what, Felicity, you say, were you doing at the Habitat store? Is it not true that a) you have too much furniture already and b) you are really scarily flat broke, as in there is no money, like none, like 0, in the bank and you ate the last eggs today? And the answer is yes, my children and oh sages, yes, these two things are so true but what else is true is that Habitat sells $10 space heaters and I found myself in need of two of them.
I woke up this morning and thought as I got out of bed, brrrr, it is cold in here! I was shocked because whatever else can be said about my house, it has always – well, since I replaced the Soviet boiler with the iBoiler, anyway – been toasty warm for very little money. Those low ceilings? Are filled with insulation. Also asbestos, but hey, the house isn’t going to burn down! Or at least not the ceilings! Look on the bright side, I say. Well, actually, no, I never say that, instead I usually say things about how much more interesting the dark side is, but let’s pretend.
Anyway, here I am dislodging the cat and saying hello to the dogs and getting out of bed, only to go to the thermostat and discover that while it was set at 65, the house was 55. OK. I thought, I will make muffins, warm the place right up, so I turned on the oven. A few minutes later Theo started to bark. “Shut up, Theo,” I said, as I do so many times every day that it’s an automatic response that I say in my sleep, but then I smelled the great smell of gas and realized that lo, the oven was not lighting but the gas was, I guess, gasing. I turned the oven off and started worrying about how I was dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. I worried about that for a while and woke A up and made her worry too and googled to see if gas lines could freeze and that was why I had little heat and no oven. Results were inconclusive and eventually, after I had terrified myself into near oblivion, I called the gas company.
They sent two super nice guys over. The nice guys dismantled my filthy oven and I pretended that my kids were still teenagers.
“I’m on strike,” I said, “That’s why the house is so dirty! I’m not doing the dishes until they do!”
The guys chuckled wisely. “That might work!” they said, and then they said, “See this here? This is why your oven isn’t working.”
This here is the thing that lights the oven, which is not a pilot, because those were deemed unsafe some time ago. “OK,” I said, “Can I light it with a match?”
“Oh no, no,” they said, “Can’t do that anymore. You can light the burners on top, sure, but not the oven.”
I know from last summer that you can’t get the gas to come on if the oven door is open, either, so that nobody can go all Sylvia Plath anymore. I am usually a fan of the nanny state but I really needed to bake a cake today and, incidentally, heat my house and failing that, I might well want to stick my cold head in the filthy oven, you never know. But, thanks Obama, can’t do either.
“Well,” I said, “But the heat isn’t working either! It must be the gas line!” So we all trooped downstairs, where, I am sorry to say, my daughter was sleeping. “Get up!” I hissed, “The gas guys are here.” She pulled the covers up over her head and pretended to become invisible, which had the magic effect of making me and the gas guys all also pretend that she was not there.
OK it was a little weird. But then things so often are, and what the hell.
The gas guys ran gas tests on the boiler and concluded that the gas was okay but the boiler, now, the boiler was not doing well and they could not say why, but they thought I should get someone in to fix it, pronto.
“Who put it in for you?” asked Cute Gas Guy (I had, naturally, by this time divided the Gas Guys into Cute Gas Guy and Avuncular Gas Guy)
“Nameless Well Known Asheville Person,” I said,
“Oh, he’s the best,” said CGG. “You should get him to come look at it.”
“Uh,” I said, “We did not exactly part friends.”
“NWKAP?” said CGG, “You’re saying you didn’t get along with him? Well I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you,” and then he laughed for a long time, by which we all understood that I was not the first nor, probably, the last person who could say such things about NWKAP.
“Well,” I said, “He’s not exactly easy to get along with, is he?”
“Well,” said CGG, “There’s easy to get along with and then there’s really good at what they do, and I’ve done this work for 27 years and he is the best in the business, so it’s all just business, is what I say, and you had better call him.”
I called him. He said, “You haven’t had me in to look at that boiler for three years and if you don’t have maintenance done I don’t know what might go wrong and it might need to be replaced and it’s an expensive boiler so you should have called me last summer.”
“Last summer,” I said, “It wasn’t broken.”
“Call me tomorrow, honey,” he said, “Call me tomorrow afternoon and I’ll see if maybe I can come over then.”
And that is where we left it, because I also called another place but they never called me back, and I can’t call the third place – there are only three in Asheville who deal with boilers, and that’s one more than there used to be – because I owe them $72.35 from October when I had a freak out and thought the heat was leaking, which it wasn’t. Anyway I didn’t have $72.35 then and I don’t have it now and I guess tomorrow I will write NWKAP a check and pray it clears on payday, which is fortunately the day after tomorrow. Although I won’t be able to buy eggs for a bit, then, and I won’t have an oven, well, until when. But more about abject poverty and the lessons therein later! Today we are talking about winter, which still had one lesson left.
After I put down the phone, my son came upstairs to inform me that the pipes to the washing machine – the pipes in the little room that was designed BY MORONS to freeze pipes – naturally froze despite my tent of blankets and lamp with old school bulb and dripping taps. So that is why I went to Habitat and got two little $10 space heaters – one for the pipes and one for A’s room, which is now up to almost 55 degrees. Whoo! Toasty now.
And so by the time I got home I had had enough and thus bethought myself of a jar of homemade Baileys that my friend Sabrina gave me for Christmas and the last of the Jamesons that was sitting on the shelf, so A and I had Irish coffees and watched the season premiere of Downton Abbey, which I guess was the last lesson of winter because it sucked donkey balls and I am so disappointed, I could cry. The hell with you winter, I say, the hell.