The Furnace

I live in a rural area and winter is coming. There are a number of preparations. Crawl spaces under the house have to be sealed. Hoses have to be drained. The furnace and snowblower need to be serviced. It’s a lot of physical activity. I’m in decent shape but as I age I am becoming more prone to random injury.

So there was a random injury.

I have been renovating my bathroom. Took out the tub. Put in a shower pan. A very heavy shower pan. My son helped me get the pan into the bathroom. We left it leaning vertically against the wall while I measured to cut the hole for the drain. And then I had to lower the pan myself.

No problem. I have a chain hoist. I made a tripod out of 2-by-4’s and slowly lowered the pan into position.

I was pleased that it fit. And then I hooked up the plumbing. I crawled under the house and cut and fit new PVC pipe to connect the shower pan’s drain to the septic. And then I turned on the water to check my work: such a flood has not been seen since the time of Noah.


Eventually and just in time for winter I got the plumbing fixed so that it doesn’t leak (I hope).

And now I have a sore knee. I can walk on it, except when I have to go to the bathroom at night, which I do a lot, because I’m old and drink too much coffee…

Notice that at any given time in your life, there are some things you can change, and some things you must accept. I could drink less coffee…

But I was going to tell you about the furnace. We have a little propane forced air furnace that heats half the house. We had it serviced, all ready for winter, all checked out. On Thursday it stopped working.

It’s a fancy furnace that flashes lights at you to tell you what’s wrong. Six flashes, break, one flash, break. I looked it up and it meant “soft lockout”, whatever that means.

Wanting to sound knowledgeable I called up the furnace technician on Friday and said, “I have a soft lockout.”

And he said, “What the hell is that?”

And I said, “I don’t know, actually.”

And he said – and he really said this – “Have you tried turning it off and on?”

We were having this conversation while I was in Owen Sound so I said, “No but I will tonight and let you know.” At the time it made sense, sort of. Maybe a “soft lockout” is something that happens when a furnace’s circuits get scrambled. I mean, even the tech hasn’t heard of a soft lockout, but who knows?

Narrator: That is not what a soft lockout is. And turning it off and on did not solve Carl’s problem.

Late Friday night, I turned the emergency switch to the furnace off, waited five minutes, and turned it on again. Turning the power off to the furnace worked to clear its circuits. Turning the power on, the furnace says, “Wow! A brand new day! Oh, a signal from the thermostat. Well, I must build a fire…” Whereupon the furnace gamely attempted to light. It does not have a pilot light. It has some kind of electronic ignition. For several minutes I heard the furnace trying to light.

And meanwhile it’s flashing me, six flashes, repeat. Six flashes, repeat. So I looked that up. It means, “I can’t start the fire.”

And after several minutes the furnace became – much quieter. And flashing six and one. Soft lockout. Which now I realize means, “I tried to start the fire, it didn’t work, and I have given up.”

Man, I know what you mean.

I’m not in any danger of freezing. It’s not that cold. And I also have electric heat. And a fireplace.

But I’m tired and cranky and my knee hurts and I tried “turning it off and on” and now I have an image of a curly-haired, bespectacled kid in IT not doing his job while I slowly freeze to death.

I started to get mad. I know that I can reach the furnace tech’s boss by Facebook Messenger. I wrote the boss, “You serviced my furnace last month. It’s not working. And the tech told me to try turning it off and on.”

Now I’m one of those Karens. I’ve gone to the manager to complain. And while I am partly justified, perhaps, the context of my complaint includes my sore knee due to activities that I unwisely undertook on my own that have nothing to do with the furnace.

This will harm the relationship that I have with the furnace tech.

But it felt good to email the boss on Friday night to complain that my life is not fair and it’s all his technician’s fault.

I’m sorry.

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