down the stairs

Life is not for the fainthearted.

Our past three houses have been old, old, old. Heated with radiators powered by boilers. The landlord for our current house asked us to schedule a boiler check.

Last Wednesday, grouchy service guy was supposed to arrive between 8 a.m. and noon. What time did he show up? Around 12:15 p.m.

It’s routine maintenance, I thought to myself. He’ll be gone in no time flat. Then I can get on with my life.

Three hours later, he’s still in the basement. Should have known I was in trouble when he told me he needed our garden hose.

“But I have all our stuff organized and stored down here for the movers,” I said. “Maybe you can come back and do this after we’re gone.”

“I’ll run the water down through the boiler and into the floor drain,” he said. “Your floor’s got a nice slope.”

the hose

A nice slope. Terrific.

I moved as much stuff as far away from ground zero as I could, retreated upstairs, and shut the door. The hours passed and it was approaching pickup time for my son at school.

“How’s it going down there?” I said from the landing.

“I’m done cleaning the boiler,” he said. Then he stepped into view. He was covered head to foot with grimy soot.

“Now I need to come upstairs and drain the radiators. Are they all clear where I can get to them?”

A mild panic ensued somewhere deep inside me. I think it was in my liver or maybe my spleen.

“Uh, give me a minute,” I said. “I’ll clear the way.”

He did not give me a minute, but came charging up the stairs.

roll with it baby

“Um, I need to get my son soon,” I said. “When will you be finishing up?”

“After I drain the radiators, all that’s left is cleaning up the mess downstairs,” he said. “Tell you what. Rather than me cleaning it, how about I give you a $50 credit and get out of your hair?”

“Okay,” I said cautiously. When he stepped out to his truck, I skedaddled to the basement.

A thin layer of black soot rested silently on every surface.


“I don’t want the credit,” I said when he came back into the house. “Go ahead and clean it up. We’ll pay you the extra.”

That’s when grouchy service guy got sassy. All huffing and puffing, throwing attitude around, like the big bad wolf or a 16-year-old.

As he stomped down the stairs, I made a call. “I think you should come home,” I said to my husband.

Of course when my husband got home, sassy grouchy service guy sang a different song. The menfolk got on the phone with the landlord and worked out a deal. I didn’t care. My day was shot. I was done.

Come to find out, the soot now all over the basement had been a serious fire hazard as carbon inside the boiler. Perhaps we’d escaped flames via sassy grouchy service guy and a garden hose. God works in mysterious ways.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways
and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT

Strong Enough to Save, Tenth Avenue North.

11th hour bumper sticker

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8 Responses to Soot

  1. Cheryl Brewer

    Great post!

  2. I can relate. Yesterday I blew a fuse in my apartment – three times. But I have replaced the wiring now and it is all safe. Which is the key. Glad to know it’s all managed.

  3. Whoa, that could have gone very badly.

  4. Elizabeth Whelan

    As I was reading your post this morning I kept shaking my head “no” while reading it! No, because you can’t make this stuff up — it’s true!! I had a repairman actually ask me once if I needed to get my husband’s approval to fix something AFTER I told him to fix it! For once in my life I was speechless.
    Hopefully the new house has a cadillac furnace!!

    • The new house promises to be an improvement in the HVAC and insulation depts. For starters, it’s less than 400 years old!
      And I’ve nearly given up my General Manager duties for all contractors to my husband. My dad was/is an auto mechanic, so I can speak the language. But it almost always goes better when my husband talks to them. Them, including my dad. lol.