WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT? – Marilyn Armstrong

The heat went out. Again. Third or fourth time since the temperature started its plunge past zero. This was going to be the coldest night of the year to date so of course, the boiler went out. I called the company — and the guy who fixes stuff was supposed to call back and let me know when he would get here.

He didn’t.

Sometime around eight, I realized it wasn’t chilly. It was cold. I looked at the thermostat and it read 59 degrees. The heat was set at 67. Bit of a drop, there. I went downstairs and it was even colder.

Today, toasty warm!

I pressed the red button on the front of the boiler and it whooshed into that delicious little roar we love to hear in the winter. Then it got a lot quieter as the flame went out. After which, the chilly silence of a non-working boiler.

Two weeks ago, we had them here to fix the identical problem. I had delicately suggested that the “new” igniter might not be working but maybe no one heard me and anyway, why would a new igniter not work? It was new, right?

In the middle of July, the service fellow was here and tuned up the boiler. He replaced the igniter, which was reasonable. The heating system is not a child bride anymore. It needs regular servicing. But since that replacement, it doesn’t work. Sometimes, it stops. Normally, I press that red button (it’s really the only thing I know how to do on a boiler) and it restarts.

It’s okay, at least for a while. Other times, it just stops and won’t restart. We’ve got almost 3/4 of a tank of fuel, so that’s not the problem.

By now, it was 9:30. We’ve been working with this same company since we moved to the valley, 19 years ago. The contract includes 24-hour service because it gets very cold here and no one can survive long without a heating system. They always get back to us in a few minutes, at least to tell us when to expect the fixer. This time, the phone did not ring.

By 10:45, I was getting worried and cold. The dogs didn’t care. Let’s hear it for fur coats! I got really ON that phone call. They seemed a bit at a loss and they said they really WERE trying to get hold of the guy.

“Have you lost him?” I asked. Can you lose your service guy? He’s a pretty big guy.

Maybe the truck broke down. Maybe the cell phone battery punked out. Maybe there’d been an accident. These are dependable people and this was most unlike their usual way of operating.

Finally, I got a call back from the woman who owns the place (she just inherited it from her father)  and she said: “He fell asleep. Didn’t hear the phone. I told him to not explain, just get in the truck and GO.”

Last night? Cold toes, but warm quilts!

It took almost an hour an a half. Where does he live? Not in the valley. You’d have to travel the length of the valley two or three times to need that much time, so he must live north or even further into the empty lands than us.

At 11:45, I called again. Mainly, what I didn’t want was to be sitting and shivering by the telephone waiting for someone who would never arrive. It turned out, he was on our street and in less than five minutes, full of apologies, there he was. I told him I didn’t care what happened. All that mattered was that he was here. He’d made it, praise be.

Please, sir, make the boiler work!

Shit happens. People oversleep, get lost, lose the phones, drink too much. I don’t care what happened. I’m just glad when they arrive.

I told him my personal theory that the newly replaced igniter was the problem. “I don’t know anything about boilers except where to push the red button, but I know when I fix the computer and everything stops working, I have to do it again because something went wrong. I’m betting the igniter is bad. Until it got replaced, we didn’t have a problem. Mid-July, someone replaced it and nothing has worked right since .”

The igniter was bad. He replaced it. Heat arose. Sometimes, parts arrive already broken, direct from the factory. It has happened with cars, with the house, with the computers. It just happens. It’s not supposed to happen, but it does.

This was another “I don’t care” moments for me. How the igniter went bad? Not my problem. All I want it that the new one works and I don’t discover I need a new heating system. Heaven forfend from such a grim possibility!

Three goldfinches. Lunchtime!

Then, after he hung around another half hour to make sure it was going to continue to work, he packed up and went home. I had already hauled a second down comforter upstairs because I was pretty sure we would need extra insulation this evening.

The dogs still didn’t care.

Today, the house is all toasty. Oh, blessed be the service people who fix our broken homes, even if they do sleep through the phone call for the first three hours.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

38 thoughts on “WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT? – Marilyn Armstrong”

    1. As I led the very tardy repairman to the wounded boiler, he remarked, “Hey, I grew up watching you on television…what an honor”. I wasn’t warmed up by the compliment.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Why does it always happen at this time of year? Two years ago our igniter went. The guy charged us $150.00 to tells it was the igniter. (I already knew that was the problem and had told them so). He was going to charge us another $500. for a new one. I also know that they cost $70.00 and that it is just a matter of plugging it in. We went to another company to get it done for much less. I have since bought a new igniter and it is nice and handy should this happen again. He knew it was Christmas and it was cold out and he thought he had us by the shivers. I think he was planning a vacation on our particular repair job. We don’t do business with them anymore.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. If it was warm, we probably wouldn’t notice until we realized there was no hot water for the shower. But you notice now, oh boy oh boy. It was COLD.

      Owen says they used crappy parts and after Christmas, he will go and spend the $75 and it will last us another 10 years because it’s the one that is supposed to go with this heating system.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Sometimes stuff arrives from the factory already broken. Yup, just like my camera. But at least a dead camera isn’t a health hazard. So glad you got your boiler working again, and I hope it continues to work. Winters are hard enough when they stay outside where they belong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was just so damned COLD … and the doggie door flap needs replacing, too, so we’ve cold a snappy little breeze down in the hall. I got the new flap today, so when Owen has a moment, it take a few minutes and we’ll have a better seal on the doggie door. Maybe we’ll also get a better quality igniter!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Owen is going to replace their igniter with the right one for our system. They use these cheap igniters that don’t work well and you wind up paying a lot of money for the same item repeatedly. It costs $75 to buy one that matches our heating system and they last for a decade!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, this was not a holiday or weekend, but it was at night when everything is closed. ALL the companies who contract out for oil delivery are on a 24-hour come when called basis. It’s just too cold here to go 24 hours without heat and yesterday was VERY cold. So far, though, we’ve missed all the snow. It has snowed north from here and southward but has managed to miss us. I don’t mind one little bit!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. We had plenty of warm covers. I must have at least four down comforters in the house, but the house was getting pretty uncomfortable — and we wouldn’t have had any hot water, either, so I’m really glad it got fixed!


              1. Do they not have any kind of warrantee on the igniters??? or their so-called ‘repair’ work?? it was less than 6 months ago it was ‘serviced’ right?

                Have you considered moving to someplace (much) warmer? 😉


    1. Yeah. Unfortunately, software doesn’t FIX hardware. I’ve tried to explain that over the years to many people, but they seem to think all you need is the right app. Sometimes, you need a thing. An object. HARDware. Or, in this case, an igniter!

      Liked by 1 person

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