Monday, May 17, 2010

The Heat and Air Unit

October 8, 2009

So yesterday I spent half my annual salary.

I'd known this was coming. For years when repairmen have turned the corner into the laundry room and have caught first sight of my heat and air unit, they've stopped abruptly in the doorway and said things like, "Oh. Unh. Hunh."

"It still works," the last one said in an awed voice. "Has this house been lived in continuously?"

So three men arrived at 7:30 in the morning, planning to be done in the early afternoon. But the new unit required more electricity than I apparently own, and by mid-afternoon the men were talking to each other in low, ominous tones. They took turns climbing up to look into the attic crawl-space, which provoked strong statements about the mental health of the original electricians and about the astonishingly unconventional ways later hands had dealt with the original deficits.

"No ground wire!" they kept muttering, which, come to think of it, was the same thing the stove installation guy complained of a few years ago, the one who warned me it would be illegal to put my house on the market. The repeated refrain reminded me of the Beatrix Potter mice who kept saying that they had "No twist!" to finish the suit for the tailor.

At one point I looked up from my paperwork to see the three heat-and-air guys grimly standing in a semi-circle over me. The one in the middle said, "M'am, we need to talk."

They explained that they weren't electricians, but that they had a solution to the problem if I'd give them permission to do it. So I gave them permission. Then they cut a hole in a wall, hooked the unit into the back of a light switch, and eventually got the unit to work. Then they wrote the bill for the original quoted price instead of charging me for 12 hours labor, even though the quote was well over 30 days old and the paperwork had said very clearly that the quote was only good for 30 days. That was very nice of them.

So I have a new furnace/air conditioner/light switch. My daughter Elizabeth, who works with wiring and voltages and stuff, had a fit when I told her about it, but the men claimed it's perfectly safe. Still, I'd feel easier about it if they hadn't made me say aloud, twice, slowly and solemnly, "I give you permission to do this."

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