May 26, 2020

Just Call Me Stupid

• By John F. Chisholm •

Learning that I’m stupid is a reoccurring experience. I wish that it weren’t true. But, being strictly honest, it is. My latest reassurance came yesterday.

Sometime in the afternoon our furnace started and didn’t shut off. I came back from the garage to find the temperature over 80 in the house. Whoa! We never keep our home that hot, at least not if we can help it. I shut off the furnace at the emergency switch and my wife called Dead River Fuels.

All this is fairly ordinary, I know. Things breakdown. Assistance is required. Yes, I do have some experience working on furnaces but it’s always best to call in the professionals. That’s especially true with something as important as heat. Warmth is simply too near and dear to my wife’s heart to risk our marriage over my repairs.

I went upstairs to take a shower while there was still hot water. I pondered the issue while bathing. At first blush, it seemed clear that the thermostat was to blame. We have a fancy new one. All pertinent details are shown on a liquid crystal display. Different buttons raise and lower the settings and display them, together with the actual room temperature, on a clear plastic screen. The readouts are backlit. A rheostat controls the brightness. My. It’s just too wonderful, disposable, inexpensive and electronic for proper description.

What could possibly go wrong with all that? I washed and dried myself while pondering that very question.

Donny from Dead River Fuels arrived eventually. He was very nice, professional and clearly used to ignorant homeowners. You could tell. First thing, he took the thermostat off the wall. Then he took it apart. “Did you check the batteries?” he asked casually.

I was thunderstruck. “It has batteries?”

“Two double ‘A’s,” he explained, taking them out and handing them to me.

“Our old Honeywell thermostat didn’t have batteries,” I objected. “Just a bimetal coil with a mercury switch on one end.”

Donny grinned. “But this isn’t a Honeywell. You didn’t read the instruction manual that came with this thermostat, did you?”

I felt my face grow warm and hung my head, shaking it slowly. Then I got two new batteries and watched, chagrined, while Donny installed them. Then he reassembled the unit and put it back on the wall.

The furnace worked fine thereafter. The thermostat did, too.

No. I didn’t feel particularly proud of myself, having called professional repair personnel to change AA batteries.

Donny took one look at my face and laughed. He even shook my hand before leaving.

Learning that while our furnace runs on oil, it is turned off by batteries was a new experience for me.

Alas! Learning that I’m stupid isn’t.