Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Yesterday, I clicked and sent some money to the folks at the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota because they've had ice storms and lost water and electric systems pretty much. I've lived without potable water and without electricity for short times, and it's not great, but I was living in a warm, rainy area where I could boil my water and get some from the town water truck if the water system wasn't working. In South Dakota, in the middle of winter, though, that's a whole 'nother story. That's dangerous. So I clicked.

This afternoon, I got home around 5:30, ate, took a picture of my new snow shoes and got all excited about the prospect of going snow shoing maybe tomorrow afternoon, if I get home before dark.

Then I went and did the third of my four Chaucer discussion sessions at the library, and it was lovely. The folks there were great, the discussion fun. And a few stayed after to ask me if I would be doing more, because they were enjoying this, so we talked about some possibilities. It's very nice to feel appreciated.

Then I got home, sat down for a sec to check facebook and put a picture of my snowshoes up (because that's the sort of exciting update my friends get). And dang, it's cold. But unless I'm actively running around or teaching, I'm pretty much always cold in winter. My hands get cold typing, even. But boy, it really felt cold, so I thought, hey, I'll go to bed early and get warm!

And for a change, as I passed the thermostat in the hall, I bothered to turn on the light to look and make sure I hadn't screwed up the temperature, and it showed 56F. Now usually I set it to 67F, so it's not like I'm living in a sauna, but 56F is cold for inside my house! COLD!

I went down to look at the furnace, which is sort of futile, because I don't think Shakespeare ever wrote about furnace maintenance. There, on the furnace, is the instruction book that goes with it. At least that's something. So I try to figure out and remember where the pilot is supposed to be, and I think I found it, something that said "pilot viewing window" at least, and I didn't see a little person in a plane, so I think that was it. But there wasn't any light there.

I looked at the furnace "if this isn't working" instructions. Check the breaker switch or fuse is the first thing. The circuit breaker box is in the back bottom bedroom, in a corner of the closet behind a plastic organizer, so it's nigh unto difficult to see at best. I opened the closet, looked in, and the heavy oak folding closet door fell, hitting my head. That made me extra cheerful about the stupid builders of my house. (It was a folding door that hung from the frame on a sliding thing. Now it's a folding door that's sitting on the floor where it can't hurt anyone for the time being.)

But I didn't fall or lose consciousness, and there's not a spongy spot where it hit on the skull, nor do I even have a headache, so I don't think it's too bad. But if it were, I wouldn't be found for months, you know.

Have I mentioned that I had a detached retina once, possibly from a fall with a load of books while I was helping a friend move after her apartment tilted badly in an earthquake? I don't know for sure that's when it happened, but that seemed the most likely thing. Anyway, when I had the silicon "rubber" band put in (lots of fun that was, only NOT), the doctors put a lot of emphasis on my need to not take up boxing and not get hit by my boyfriend. (That seemed to be their theory of how I'd done it, although I told them it wasn't. They kept asking, though, because really, I guess they couldn't imagine a woman not being attached to a man who could beat her.) I mention this because I'm sort of paranoid about whacking my head, getting punched, or falling really hard. (Yes, I know the paranoia there isn't strong enough to keep me from jumping out of an airplane on purpose, riding my bike around, or trying to learn to ski. It's not logical. But I've been very careful not to pursue a boxing career.)

I found what turned out to be my retina detachment by realizing that I had a blind spot in my eye at the upper inside corner, which I figured out because I'd learned about the Hinman Collator, and how differences between what the two eyes saw would flicker. And then I was able to check by waving a finger up where the blind spot was, and seeing it disappear. (This wasn't the normal blind spot we have in each eye.) So you have to understand that I've been waving my fingers around the edges of my eye to see if I've suddenly developed a new blind spot. See, early modern text studies arcana has a purpose!

I pushed the door aside, negotiated myself around to try to see the breaker box door to find out which circuit breaker to turn off and on again for the furnace. It's #26, in case you were wondering, four up from the bottom of the unnumbered switches on the right. At least I hope so.

I went back to the furnace, and it made a little sound and then stopped.

Next on the list is to check the filter. I changed the filter in September, but I checked it, and it's dirty grey, and I had an extra, so I changed it again. Nothing.

There's a switch on the side, that looks like a light switch, so I tried flicking that on and off, and it did the same make a sound thing and then go off.

I called the emergency number of the furnace installers from when the house was new in 2000, and decided that 56F was not actually an emergency worthy of getting someone out of bed for, with the help of the answering service woman, who was kind and helpful. $200 minimum charge might have played into that decision. But also, 56F isn't likely to kill me when I have blankets and stuff.

It was cold when I got up this morning, and maybe the morning before, but I haven't been really at home enough to think about being cold since Sunday, so the furnace could have gone out whenever, and I might not have noticed for a day or two. Which is to say, it seems unlikely that a house would drop another 15F to something really unbearable in 8 hours, right? (Please tell me that's right!)

Have you ever noticed how all sorts of services assume there's an adult either home or who can easily come home whenever to take care of furnace stuff? It's a pain a lot of times for me as a single person, but at least I don't have the added responsibility of a little kid. I don't know how single parents manage. But I know a lot who do.

Tomorrow, I'll call my neighbor and see if she's going to be home, or have a friend who's either retired or likely to be free, to see if s/he can let in the furnace service folks if I can get an appointment tomorrow or Friday. If I can't get something tomorrow, and it's getting colder, I may stay with a friend for the night or get a hotel room. Brrrr!

I still haven't lost consciousness or gotten a headache, so I think I'll go try to get warm in bed and figure it's likely I won't die of a bad brain injury in my sleep. Nor do I seem to have a new blind spot.

So, is it ironic, or just pathetically stupid?

By the by: Here's the official website of this Lakota Nation, and the Disaster Relief information page they've set up. There's a donation link at the bottom of that page should you have resources to share. They sent me a nice email for my tax returns next year.


Addendum: When I checked this morning, the thermostat said it was 60 in the house. But there's still no pilot light or anything.

And my neighbor isn't home, and it's too early to call another person I know who could go.

AND, I read over the website of the local heating company that I would call, adn they have a trouble shooting thing that says if you have a self-igniting furnace you should turn the thermostat off for five minutes, then turn it on again and it should reignite.

Yay, my neighbor just called back and she's going to do that test, so maybe we can solve it!

In a final bit of news, I survived the night without further evidence of head injury, so I think that's okay.


  1. Eep! I read this just now and was worried, so thanks for adding that you made it okay through the night. I hope that the furnace can rev back up to life. If not, let's hope that the repair folk can figure out the problem and quickly!

  2. I don't suppose you have a fireplace? Nearly all the houses here in Pork Smith (even our horrible little shack) have fireplaces, b/c the frequent horrible weather causes the power to go out so often. We're always having to do without heat for days at a time.

  3. Yikes! I'm glad you're ok, and hope you have heat by this afternoon. What a pain!

  4. Yikes. I'm glad you're ok, and I hope the quick fix works. My furnace is in the crawl space under the house, and I really don't look forward to having to explore THAT!

  5. |That is the one saving grace of working those 30 hour shifts - sometimes you have an afternoon to do that kind of shit. And working regular days is sort of like a nonbroken march to the grave.

    Seriously, I have no fucking idea how people do they go to banks during bank hours etc?

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  7. Frustrating! My pilot light used to go out all the time, and naturally in the coldest weather. Once the cat even crawled in under the sheets, and I didn't kick him out because I wanted his body heat.

    My neighbor used to come light the pilot light for me, but (this being the South and all) he was so nice that he'd do it FOR me instead of teaching me to do it myself. I miss the nice neighbor, but not the old cranky furnace.

    Ironic about the doctors assuming your boyfriend was hitting you. (Let's make assumptions about ALL women, because they're all the SAME!) When I was in high school, I got sick a lot, and the guidance counselors kept nagging me to start eating breakfast, despite the fact that I always ate breakfast. But of course ALL teen girls are on a diet, right? (I wasn't.)

    I totally understand that home repair people want to spend their evenings at home just like I do, but it does drive me crazy when they automatically assume that I'm a '50s housewife who stays home all day, whipping up tasty dinners for my hard-working, breadwinning husband. Again, it's the assumption of "you are female so this is obviously your role" that bugs me. But I have to be polite and ignore that assumption, because I want the house fixed!