Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Forecast: Shoes

Part the First
At 6:30 on Monday morning, I was at Home Depot. The thermostat in my office had died over the weekend, and I needed to get a replacement.

Normally, a dead thermostat wouldn't be too much of a problem; I'd just keep my windows closed. But my wife was using my office to apply coats of polyurethane to a canvas "rug" that she is making, and the fumes made my nose sting and my head hurt. So I had to have the windows open.

Also normally, in April, it wouldn't be a problem to have the windows open (and the fan on, did I mention the constant fan?), but this past week has seen record low temperatures. On Monday morning it was below freezing outside and below 50 in my office. And that's way too cold to type anything.

And so, up at 5-ish, read & pray, off to Home Depot. (I hate Home Depot. It's like Kroger: nothing is where it's supposed to be, there's nobody there to help you, but the prices are so low that you have a hard time justifying not shopping there.) The thermostats were not in with the other electrical items (switches, outlets, lights, etc.). They were in plumbing. I walked the entire length of the store twice looking for a) a sign that said "Thermostats", or b) an orange-aproned employee, 1) of whom I could ask "Where are the thermostats" and 2) to whom I could convey my utter disgust for his or her store and chosen profession.

I finally found someone in electrical itself, and he was so helpful with 1 that I decided not to proceed to 2. So I went to plumbing, found a thermostat, and headed to the checkout line.

Part the Second
In the checkout line, I discovered that my check card was gone.

I rifled through the entire contents of my wallet (it didn't take long, I work at home, you know) and did not find it. So I used my business credit card, which means that I have to write a check to my business and then, next January, remember why there's a $31 charge from Home Depot on my business card.

That's right. I'm the financial records keeper for my business. We're doing fine, why do you ask?

Back at the car, I call my wife, "Have you seen my blue card?"


"Because it's gone."

"What do you mean it's gone?"

"It's not in my wallet."

I'll skip the discussion of where I might have left it, and the lengthy list of places previously visited, as well as the even more lengthy list of my organizational faults that came to light during the conversation.

By now I was halfway home. I said, "I'll call the bank."

"Ok. Don't get breakfast while you're out."

"I won't. I couldn't pay for it if I did."

"You could use your business card."

"True. But I'm worried about a $3 charge from Chick-fil-a on the business card. They're getting strict about this stuff. Look what they did to Martha."

Dial tone.

I got home, called the bank, and told them that I lost my card. They said, "Ok," canceled the card, and issued me a new one. Seven to ten business days. There will be a long stretch in our bank statement this month that does not have Chick-fil-a anywhere on it. I'm hurtin'.

As a confirmation, the nice bank guy asked me to list the last places I used the card. I did, and he said, "Ok," and that was that. Very quick, 5 minutes, very professional.

Then he called me back. "Did you spend $75 at [name of a common gas station]?"


"Ok. There's also a $35 charge at the same [place] on the same day."

"Ah, yes. That's my wife. She bought gas there on the way home from church."

"And she wouldn't have spent an additional $75 there?"

"She'd have had a heart attack first."

"And you didn't spend $75 there?"

"I didn't go to that station yesterday, and if I had spent $75 at a [place that sells only gas and junk food], we would not be speaking and my wife would have made sure it looked very much like a heart attack."

"Ok. I'll contact Fraud Services."

"Thank you very much."

We checked the rest of the processed and pending charges, and they all checked out. So my old card is dead. Long live the new bank card!

Part the Third
By now, it's after 8 AM, and I'm at work. In my cold office. With the windows open and the fan on, pulling in 30-something degree air. It's a nice, brisk breeze. I'm wearing a t-shirt, a long-sleeve thermal shirt, a polartec jacket, wool socks, thick cargo pants, and at least one hat.

No gloves, though, because of the teeny tiny wires and screws and screwdrivers. My hands are freezing.

With my work phone close at hand, I get to work on the new thermostat. As I'm disconnecting the old one, I remember that I'm supposed to label the wires. But they're a mess, and there are no letters printed on the thermostat itself.

"Bah, they're colored wires. Red is red, right?"

As I disconnect, I notice a larger than normal number of both jumpers and wires. And there's a new color. But I hate electricity, so I'm rushing through this to get away from the naked wires.

After I'm done, I start cataloging the wires and looking at the diagram. Red, check; Yellow, check; Green, check; White, check; Blue, check; um, what the [naughty word] is that? Purple? Orange? Puce?

So I look at the old thermostat, and examine which screws are higher than the others, meaning that they used to have wires in them. That's when I notice the letters, printed under the wires. (Robertshaw. Great choral conductor, lousy thermostat UI.)

I run through the letters: W, yep; Y, yep; G, yep; B, yep; um, W2, huh? Oh yeah, jumpers. Despite the fact that my plan is now completely shot, I continue. R2, yep? E? [another naughty word]! There's no E in the new thermostat.

I'm ready to start throwing thermostats (two of them just happen to be close at hand), when I notice the little line at the bottom of the instructions: "If your wires do not match any of the diagrams above, please call Ritetemp for assistance."

So, I walk over to the computer to look up their phone number. Which is good, because I was at my computer, and away from the naked, live wires when the power went out. And something exploded.

Part the Fourth
It took about a second to realize that the explosion was outside, and not inside at my thermostat or downstairs at the heat pump. So I looked out my window just in time to see a glowing, filamentous strand falling lazily down from the sky.

Whew. Transformer blew. Not my fault.

In the dark - the cold, cold dark - I walked downstairs to make sure that everyone was okay. I double-checked the fuse box to make sure that it wasn't really us, but everything was fine. The kids were not really afraid, but the loss of power and the huge explosion did have them in a minor frenzy.

I checked outside, and the mess at the top of the power pole looked a little more messy than usual. And then I saw the squirrel. A big squirrel. A big, dead squirrel. Contrary to previous reports by power-liney guys, he was neither charred black nor smoking. He just lay there, looking up at me accusingly.

So I called the power company, had a nice push-button conversation with their computer, and settled to wait for the power to come back on. Because I couldn't work, and I couldn't call Ritetemp (remember the thermostat?).

I grabbed a book, sat on the couch, and decided to wait for another shoe to drop. None did.

The power guy came within an hour to turn the power back on. I sent the squirrel on his way to the great oak tree in the sky (actually, I flung him into the bushes across the creek, to hope that his decomposition would be well on its way before my boys found him). I called Ritetemp and talked to a friendly helper lady who told me that I had the wrong kind of thermostat (I bought the right one and installed it yesterday). And the $75 charge disappeared from my bank statement.

Now all I need is a Coke.

Update: 1:51 PM
I got a Coke.


At 10:21 PM, Blogger Because I Said So said...

This afternoon our power went out because of a squirrel in the transformer. Instead of flinging it into the bushes, the little boy who lived near the power pole decided to fling it at his grandmother. Gross, but funny.
(no, it wasn't one of my kids)

At 10:00 AM, Blogger 4BoyDad said...

Ew. I hope that kid got a whuppin'.

So is this a common thing? I've never had it happen before.


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