I woke up at four a.m., with covers flung back and sweating like a fat lady in tights. I thought I was in Iraq � minus insurgents and sand.
Bleary-eyed, I stumbled out of the bedroom to see what the temperature was, and � Yipes! � it was almost 90 degrees.
Phyllis joined me in our panic and pajamas � a couple of confused city-dwellers in night clothes. Believe me, all sorts of things went through our minds.
We never had a gas furnace until we moved to town. Was that the culprit? Phyllis immediately called the emergency number to get help, and I wondered who'd be up at that gawd-awful hour.
But a cheery voice answered, and not only was the person on the other end of the line sympathetic and friendly, but she wasn't at all worried like we were.
In the meantime, in my inimitable all-thumbs fashion, I fiddled with the out-of-order thermostat. I couldn't get the danged cover off; and even if I could, I wouldn't have known what to do with all the stuff inside � unless, of course, there was a dead bird in there.
My wife � the cool one � then opened doors and windows, the temperature went down and we returned to bed, albeit nervously. In the morning (not at four a.m.), a serviceman came, replaced the defective instrument and explained what went wrong.
Meanwhile, Phyllis brought up another problem for us. What about carbon monoxide from the furnace and water heater? You can't smell the gas, and it is often fatal.
Just yesterday, she said, she had encountered a friend in the grocery store who had suffered CO poisoning. She was recovering, but the experience left her with ill effects. That was something else we could fret about!
The upshot, of course, was that Phyllis bought a couple of carbon monoxide detectors, so that worry, too, is behind us.
Now, don't get me wrong! I love my city house, furnace and all. I'm sure I'll love it even more when the snow piles up this winter, and I don't have to shovel it.
Our dilemma � if you can call it that � is that we exchanged a heat and water source, which we understood, for one that has baffled us. Until now, that is.
It's just a matter of getting used to it, that's all. The flawed thermostat, and the middle of the night episode, was our awakening.
Of course, I have a saving grace. Phyllis's cats sleep in the furnace room, and she wouldn't let anything happen to them.
Oh yes, and we bought smoke and fire alarms, too!
� 2005 Robert F. Karolevitz