I came home early Saturday before last and when I opened my bedroom door, it was cold inside my room. Naturally the first thing I did was to go and turn up the heat. I have two furnaces. The basement furnace heats the basement and first floor. The attic furnace heats the second floor.
As I listened for the sound of the furnace kicking on, it started for the initial 30-second build-up and then died. I turned the thermostat up even higher and the furnace did the same thing. The furnace is only 7 years old, so whatever was wrong and the corresponding costs to fix it had me scared. It was also five o’clock in the morning and too early to call a repair person. I went to bed, deciding to address the problem later.
When I woke up later that morning, I tried the furnace again. Same problem. As I thought about who to call to look at my furnace, my first thought was with all the houses in Austin. How come we don’t have a lot of heating and A/C shops? I put on my hat and coat and went to a neighbor’s house. He had recently finished going to school at Coyne, so I asked him to come and check on my furnace.
He had a couple of errands to take care of and promised to stop by later. As he was looking at it, he explained everything about the furnace to me. Most importantly, he told me he wasn’t an HVAC guy but had completed his training in electrical. He’s also handy with a lot of things, and my furnace was somewhat similar to his own.
My neighbor diagnosed the problem to be the hot surface igniter. Those are some of the first things to go bad when you have an appliance that doesn’t have a pilot light. As he was explaining his diagnosis to me, I thought back to having to replace the igniter in my stove recently as it, too, had gone out, and the stove was barely 3 years old.
I gave my neighbor a couple of hundred dollars to get the part. He left but called me a couple of hours later to tell me he couldn’t find the part, and I would have to wait until Monday. No problem-I had turned the furnace in the basement on and the heat was rising. My upstairs temperature was hovering around 68 degrees and that wasn’t too bad. I’d go to the store and buy a hot oil electric radiator to warm my room. My upstairs was chilly but not uncomfortable. I could live without heat since my downstairs was warm.
Monday came and my neighbor tried to get the part. As luck would have it, most places didn’t carry the type of part my furnace needed. He was now networking with a couple of other people trying to locate the part, but by Monday evening, the part still couldn’t be found. On Tuesday, my neighbor came by and took the part off my furnace as he wanted to have it to compare to any replacement parts he could find. Again he got the runaround, and when he did finally locate the part, he was told the part for my furnace could only be purchased by someone who had an EPA card.
By Tuesday evening, I was getting worried. I had a broken furnace and no idea of the total cost to repair it. I was also out a couple of hundred dollars. So I told my neighbor to bring me back one hundred dollars, and I would find someone to get the part myself. He agreed, but when he didn’t return the money, I got nervous. I couldn’t afford to lose money and still had the furnace repair bill to consider. I called and called his cellphone, but he didn’t answer. I left message after message and still no response.
So I went to his house and rang the doorbell. His car was outside and no one was answering. I pounded on the door louder and shouted for him to give me back my money. I kept pounding and shouting so loud that someone on the block called 911 and the police showed up. In fact it was two squad cars. I explained to the officers about the furnace and my money. They knocked but still no answer.
A couple of hours later, he called. He hadn’t been home and his cellphone was acting up. He’d heard about the police and me being at his door. We had a very long and, at times, heated conversation. All I wanted was my money back. All he wanted to do was complete a job he had started.
He finally got the new part and put it on my furnace Wednesday night. But the furnace still didn’t kick on. I was sick with worry about having to now spend even more money and calling another repair person. I agreed to let his friend who is a HVAC person look at my furnace. He came by late Thursday evening and fixed the problem right away. He fixed the problem with a safety pin. My gas pressure valve had become stuck as well as something else.
This story had a happy ending. But far too often when it comes to black-on-black disagreements, it can end ugly. My neighbor apologized to me and me to him. In this modern age of cellphones, it’s easier to believe the calls are being ignored on purpose than to consider forgotten cellphones, dead batteries or no signal. And when it comes to money, we know how hard we worked to get it, and we want others to respect that knowledge as well.
This is Black History Month. Let’s make a pledge to practice black-on-black love, respect, understanding, tolerance and forgiveness every day toward each other for the rest of our lives-’cause, as my story shows, every once in a while two wrongs can make a right.