When my 33-year-old furnace coughed, sputtered and died. I called an English major.
Just kidding. Our household already includes one English major -- me. Everything I know about furnaces can be put into this capital O with plenty of room left over for use in one of my short stories.
When faced with the decline and fall of our furnace, I called an expert. The machine expired on a Friday night -- of course -- but Marv's Plumbing and Heating was willing to send a crew out to take a look, with no sky-high weekend charges. The crew inspected the furnace. They pronounced a few possible problems. I stood by, nodding knowingly, icicles hanging from my mustache. They concluded that they didn't know enough about my ancient furnace to diagnose the problem accurately. They said their top-notch HVAC (that's heating, ventilation and air conditioning for you laypeople) expert could come out on Monday and take a look. I said that would be OK.
When they left, I dialed up another heating company. I asked the man on the phone if he fixed old Lennox furnaces. He chuckled and then said it would cost me $120 for him to come out and take a look on a weekend. I thanked him, hung up and waited until Monday. My wife and I huddled around the space heater as prehistoric humans once huddled around the fire. We could have repaired to a motel for the weekend. Alas, I am an English major, salary-wise, and my wife works for a non-profit org, so repairing to a motel until my furnace was repaired was beyond our means. You will notice that I employ the old-fashioned, Middle English use of "repair" (from Anglo-French repairer) to add some language playfulness to the situation. I also can diagram any of the sentences I use in this blog.
I cannot, however, diagram or repair a furnace.
Chris the HVAC guy came over on Monday. I expected a guy my age, a battle-hardened, gray-haired veteran of the furnace wars. What I got was a furnace expert from the Millennial generation. He carried all the right equipment and diagnosed the problem quickly. Along the way, he said he had graduated from a heating and air conditioning school in California. While there, he met a young lass from Cheyenne who spirited him away to Wyoming. They live in an old house with a 60-year-old furnace which he could fix, and did regularly. He said that he would get back to me with an estimate. He did. The cost was astronomical. I called around, got estimates for a new heating unit.
Randy at Mr. B's replaced my furnace a week later. Unseasonably warm weather made life without heat bearable. I came home while Randy worked in the basement. We struck up a conversation. His roots go back to Tennessee, the Civil War and beyond. We swapped family history stories. His grandfather, a B-17 pilot during World War II, was shot down and spent 18 months as a prisoner of war. His grandfather kept a journal on the backs of wrappers of the soup cans that came in Red Cross packages. Those makeshift journals survived the war and were typed up. Randy had a photocopy and gave it to me. I read it. Amazing what people can do under duress.
Also amazing are the stories people tell. You have to listen, though. I advised Randy that there were many inexpensive ways to print his grandfather's journal as a book or booklet. Thanks to technology, the jots and scribbles of our forebears can be put into forms that will last for generations. My sister Eileen is doing that with our grandmother's World War I diaries and my father's World War II letters. I told Randy to get in touch with me and I could give him some publishing guidance. That's one of my specialties at my day job.
Randy provided a tutorial on my new Daikin furnace. He gave me a booklet with instructions and detailed diagrams. The diagrams look the same to me right side up or upside down. Randy knows the meanings of manometer and total external duct static pressure. I am grateful.
My new furnace hums along.
And here I am, writing.