When I was getting ready for work this morning I noticed that my kitchen floor was awfully cold, but I had so many other things on my mind that I forgot about it. After lunchtime I came home to a freezing apartment and the crashing realization that it was happening again: the furnace had stopped working.
I spent two hellish weeks in November 2006 without heat, in a different building but with the same landlords. I have vivid memories of sleeping under a suffocating mound of blankets, and spending evenings trying to watch television in front of two howling space-heaters. My life ground to a halt back then -- there's just no way to be productive when it's only 12 degrees in your building -- and I DO NOT WANT THAT TO HAPPEN AGAIN.
Fortunately, this recurrence was ridiculous enough to get immediate action from landlord D, who brought me space-heaters and invited me to call him if things got unbearable.
But the problem is, what is REALLY unbearable for me is NOT KNOWING WHAT'S GOING ON. If somebody had told me "we've got a service person coming tomorrow at 10am," I could just moan and deal with it. What I CAN'T deal with is sitting by the telephone waiting for an update.
And landlord B -- who does the repairs -- is not a guy who gives updates. I spent hours, wearing a sweater and a robe and an afghan and a cat, waiting for the telephone to ring...and it didn't. This situation is absolute hell for me, the feeling of powerlessness, at the whim of somebody who doesn't communicate the situation to me.
Something had to be done.
I went down to the basement and stared at the furnace. It was humming quietly. I flicked a switch on the wall and it stopped humming. I opened the furnace up and found an instruction manual, which told me to turn the furnace off for thirty seconds and then turn it on again.
I did this. The furnace buzzed back to life and proceeded to make four feeble popping sounds before going quiet again.
One part of the manual told me to turn off the natural gas and go through a bunch of complicated BTU calculations. I decided not to blow myself up; if it was a natural gas problem, somebody else would have to fix it.
Another part of the manual said that the furnace wouldn't start if its filter was clogged. So I found the filter and pulled it out, and it looked like Frankenstein's table napkin. Since there were no clean filters in the basement I scraped the black gunk off as best I could and put it back into the furnace (upside down, for luck).
I flicked the switch on...and the furnace began to hum like a warming-up kitty. It's been running now for an hour (constantly, because it has a lot of rooms to heat). I'm scared that it'll suddenly stop working again and I'll be back to square one, but maybe...
...did I fix a furnace? If I didn't have the black gunk on my sweater to prove it I wouldn't believe it myself.