The other day something happened to my gas furnace. It started making a strange squealing noise, so I turned the thermostat down to zero. I picked up the user manual and paged through it, mostly to pretend that I was doing something manly to address the situation. I knew I was kidding myself – I studiously avoid anything mechanical or anything that requires assembly (Ikea is my idea of hell). Why? Because any time I read a story about someone being crushed by their own car while trying to fix it, I laugh and then say “Yup, that’s exactly what would happen to me.”
Donald Rumsfeld put it perfectly when he said “We know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.” As in, if I try to fix this gas furnace, I know I’ll have to get skin grafts after I set myself on fire. I just don’t know how many or what those surgeries will cost.
So I called my heating company and they said they’d have someone out by the close of the day. Twenty minutes later they called back and said someone could drop by immediately if I was available. Needless to say, I agreed. But my first thought was that this would be a fantastic way to market your customer service prowess and get an edge over the competition – tell a customer it’ll be a while (when it really wont) and then surprise them with quick service. The cable installation companies could learn a thing or two from my beloved heating company.
The technician arrived at noon. I flicked the thermostat back on and the furnace started screaming.
“Yup,” the guy said, “that’s the inducer motor.”
“That’s exactly what I thought,” I replied.
The technician laughed and removed the panel on the furnace. He shone a light in and said “Well, your runner plate isn’t cracked, which is good. The company that makes these units is facing a class-action lawsuit.”
That good to know, I’ll sleep better now.
“So,” I asked in a serious voice, “maybe I should bring the charcoal grill inside and just use that to heat the house?”
The technician looked up and said, “Oh yeah, I totally recommend that.”
The guy dripped some oil onto a spinny thing and cleaned a filter. He fired up the furnace, which purred and started sending glorious heat into the frigid house. Then he told me that I’ll need a new inducer motor in a few years. It’s a $500 part, but for now I was okay with the current one.
I gladly paid the $108.00 for the short visit. Getting major home appliances is fixed is a lot like visiting the dentist. You’re happy to pay for the filling because it’s far less painful and expensive than getting a root canal. With home repairs, as with the dentist, it can always be far, far worse. That’s the way to approach it.