Broken Furnace (Why Home Repairs Make Me Feel Like A Failure) Part III


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The furnace broke on a Monday and the company that managed the warranty called me on Tuesday around 4PM, one hour before they closed, to inform me that they would have a technician at my house the following Monday. The man on the phone was named Rocky. He had the tender voice of a man in his early twenties, but the hardened tone of someone who had been dealing with customers for some time.
“Hold on, dude,” I said. “That’s seriously the soonest you can get to my house? One week? It’s getting cold.”
“I will put you on a cancelation list. If something opens up, we will swing by earlier.” Then his voice went cold, sinister. “Or you can contact an outside technician to come fix your furnace, but you will have to pay out of pocket.” 
I didn’t know what to do. I felt confused and frustrated, so I just agreed to it. The moment I hung up the phone, I felt like a huge pussy. I should have fought with the guy. I should have put my foot down and told that little shit how it was going to roll. But I didn’t. I just rolled over and took it. The same despair that filled me the night before when I couldn’t fix the furnace filled me again.
I told Mel the bad news over the phone. She didn’t ask if I told Rocky about my small kids and that my wife was pregnant. She didn’t mention that I should have fought with the man. She didn’t say that I was a failure. She just exhaled into the phone and it seemed to say everything.
The next day it was 25 degrees in small town Oregon, unusually cold for a town close to the coast. We struggled to keep the house above sixty degrees. We worried about our pipes freezing. The snuggy that was given to me as a gag gift for my 31st birthday became pragmatic. Everyone but Tristan wore coats, gloves, and jackets in the house.
After a long cold week, the furnace guy arrived. Mel described him as a slender man with a lazy eye.  He looked over the problem and said we needed a new something or other that controlled the this or that, and it would take 72 hours for the warranty office to approve it. This was on a Monday, and by Thursday I still hadn’t heard a word.
I called the warranty office, got Rocky on the line, and asked how things were progressing. “We found the part you need,” he said, “But it will not be in until Friday evening. We will be there on Monday to fix your furnace.”
I’d developed a nasty cold, and my voice was hoarse. Mel was moody, and the kids were getting sick of sleeping in the same bed for warmth. I was angry and tired and sick of this shit.
“Listen, dude.” I said. “That’s not going to work.” I laid into him. I told him about Tristan and Norah, ages six and four and reminded him that it was twenty degrees outside. I told him about my pregnant wife walking around the house in gloves. “Do you hear my voice right now?” I said. “I have a serious cold because you people can’t get your act together.” I told him that Monday was not going to work.
While this seems like a small gesture, getting pissed and arguing with this guy really made me feel like I was doing something. I couldn’t fix the furnace myself. I knew that. And I didn’t know how I could pay for it. The warranty was my only option and it was taking far too long. Getting pissed at this man over the phone felt good. It felt like I was fighting for my family.
Rocky put me on hold. Then he came back and said, “Someone will be there on Saturday.” It was still two days away, but it was better than Monday. I thanked him and hung up. Then I sat in my office chair, feeling like a champion. Feeling like a problem solver. Although I hadn’t fixed my furnace with my own two hands, I felt like I’d done something. And perhaps that’s what I should have done all along. I should have fought for my family. 

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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University. 
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Showing 6 comments
  • John Mankowski

    That must have been upsetting for you. Imagine having so much delayed service. Yet we can't really choose that much though, seeing as you're relying on warranty. It really pays to have a working furnace at home, especially as your wife is pregnant and is at a very delicate state. I hope the furnace finally got fixed so that you guys can be comfortable again.

    John Mankowski

    • Clint

      John: Thanks for your comment. Yes, we did get our furnace fixed. But then it broke again. Luckily the second time around the warranty company was much quicker.

  • George Ellsworth

    Sounds awful. You were close to flipping out, but I'm glad you kept your cool. It all comes down to who you're doing it for. Your family must be very proud of you. Hopefully, nothing like that happens again. I can only imagine what you've gone through. Thanks for such a nice read. Keep us posted! 🙂

    George Ellsworth

    • Clint

      It was rough, I will admit. But at the same time it helped me understand that I had options and to look for them.

  • Tommy Hopkins

    Don't worry about it, Clint. Even if you didn't really tackle things with your own two hands, having to call a pro to do them is still admirable. At least you fought hard for them to change the schedule. Anyway, I hope the furnace has been fixed by now. All the best! 🙂

    Tommy Hopkins @ AccuTemp

  • Troyjjefferson

    Furnace problems can be extremely difficult to properly diagnose and fix without experience and training. It keeps repair companies busy, but it also creates a market with a high demand so they can charge higher prices. I'm glad you were able to get the timetable moved up because that can be extremely hard to do with some companies, but it's still a difficult situation to deal with. Furnaces