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Our Home Heating Unit is Broken … and We Think It’s Funny

February 15, 2015

The prognosis did not look good.  The Friday sunset shined through the basement window, landing a gentle yet sorrowful beam on the old heating unit.  Manny,  our grizzled Eastern European heating-and-air man gave me one of those resigned looks so famous to their profession – a mixture of grim resolution, mechanical puzzlement, and a bit of pity.  He nodded toward the unit and pointed at a metal piece attached to matchbox-sized machinery at the end of various wires.

“This part here, she has a clog.  The gas is not getting through to this, I am very sad to say.” He shook his head slowly as he looked at our unit.  “In fact, this is a great surprise that this whole box is still running.  This machine is old.  Very 1Fold.”  He patted it lightly and I think I heard a small sigh coming from within his chest.  I’m not sure.  Manny does seem to be passionate about his work, it’s true, and perhaps his emotions were intruding upon his professional demeanor.

I gave the standard response.  “Do you think you can fix it?”  I had just received news that over the weekend Eastern Tennessee will see a rollercoaster drop in the temperature joining a thick explosion of snow, and I was kind of anxious.  Well, very anxious.

He straightened up and wiped his hands on a small towel. “This is a problem, for I have checked my van and I have no part to match this.  The supply place for which I do business – they are closed for the weekend.  Monday is the best I can do to reach them.”  He glanced with another truly sorrowful look.  “The parts may be obsolete.  Perhaps I cannot get any. I am sorry.”  And I knew he was.  Our Manny is an impassioned mechanic.

I tried to comfort him.  “We’ll muster through the weekend and we’ll take it from there, okay?  You’re doing the best you can, Manny.”

He looked up at me and then around at our fixer-upper house.  He raised his eyebrows.  From the day we bought our home four years ago, we’ve enjoyed excitement virtually every month.  Guest bathroom faucet leaks.  Mysterious puddles in a basement closet. A washing machine death.  Wallpaper mysteriously peeling for no apparent reason. Ceiling fixture failures.

Well, okay, we don’t really enjoy this kind of excitement.

This weekend, however, Jill and I looked at Manny and shrugged.  “We can make it – we have space heaters and the upstairs fireplace.  We’ll make do.  I’ll check in with you Monday.”

He ran his fingers through his thinning hair and looked like a dad about to leave his kid at college for the first time.  “You will be okay?”

“Yes, Manny.  It’s late.  Go on home to your family.  I’ll call you Monday.”

I imagined I saw him sobbing as he pulled out of our driveway, but I can’t be sure.

“Well, family, here’s the way it is,” I said as I drew our ten-year-old Julie and my wife Jill into the bedroom. “We have no heat.  The whole contraption downstairs is dead as a doornail.  We’ll have to pool our resources and keep warm.  Everybody into the master bedroom and bring every space heater you have.”

Julie jumped up and down.  “It’s like Laura and Mary in the book Little House on the Prairie!  The part with the blizzard!  What fun!”  She ran to get a second pair of socks.

Jill was just as excited.  “We’ll bundle up and batten down the hatches!”  She gathered up extra blankets.

“Jill, we don’t have any hatches.”

“That’s okay!  We have popcorn and Andy Griffith and Big Fat Greek Wedding, though!” With a whoop and a holler both ladies ran and gathered every heating element in the home.  Before I was able to get dinner carried into the bedroom, both Jill and Julie had tables and plates set up in front of the television.

You’d think we were having a Super Bowl party.  But right now, as I write this, we are halfway through a very frigid existence.

And let me tell you, it was cold last night, but we all had a blast, darting from room to room.  It was when I was racing into the kitchen to get some hot coffee that I realized how conditioned we have been in enduring so many of these problems over the years.   I know of at least three times our vehicles – each a different one –  have broken down on the highway.  We’ve had appliances give up the ghost.  Our roof was totally destroyed by a hailstorm.  We’ve had furniture collapse, appliances sizzle, and even suffered vandalism and thievery on more than one occasion.

Once, in a public debate, my opponent accused me of living in an ivory tower.  I almost collapsed with laughter. I corrected him.  My tower is more like trailer-park aluminum, with pop-rivet welding.

We find ourselves starting to laugh at calamity now.  Sometimes I think our lives are like a comic book.  You never know what will happen when you turn the page.  And lately I’ve been okay with that.

The first chapter of First Corinthians tells us that God gives us comfort so that we may comfort others.  I’m not going to get preachy here.  Let’s just say that we’re getting a freer reign in empathizing with others who face struggles, and I see how God prepares us to be responsible in our responses.  The Father has put us in a path where we meet more folks who are getting hobbled by daily and weekly crises, and we’re able to identify better.

Especially with anyone who has a cold house right now.

And thinks it’s funny.

Julie and Jill don’t know I’m writing this.  They’re gathering up the extra sweaters and chatting about the night’s fare:  hot soup, three scenes from HMS Pinafore, and two reruns of Get Smart.  I thank the Lord for such optimistic ladies.

I’ll let you know if Manny gets the part.  I hope he does.

Because I don’t want to see him cry.


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