SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
It can be nice to sit in my house and let the summer breeze blow past us. Or, to get even more breeze, we could open the windows.
My house leaks like a Washington bureaucrat. Over the years we’ve stuffed cracks and other openings with anything we could find: towels, sandbags, small cars, door to door salesmen, whatever. A nice breeze isn’t what you want come November.
We don’t know exactly how old the place is, but Fred Markey carved the date 1879 into a wall. Is that when he was born? When he built the house? Or when he got cabin fever and went crazy with a knife?
The walls once held blown in insulation, but over time it settled, or possibly got carried off by mice. Now we have the annual, depressing, tradition called “winterizing”.
I don’t like winterizing, because it reminds me that winter’s coming. Winter comes every year, usually in the fall. It’s like it’s seasonal, or something.
Hm … maybe that 1879 carving commemorated the winter they found Fred Markey frozen to the outhouse seat. It would be embarrassing to be frozen to indoor plumbing, so we winterize, starting with storm windows. Traditionally they’re installed just before an unusual warm front comes through, forcing you to decide whether to take them back down to let warm air in, or just curse the fates.
I also put plastic up on the inside of the windows. You put double sided tape around each window, then place the plastic on it, then curse and flounder as the tape falls off. Then you put the plastic on again and use a hair drier, which tightens it up so wrinkles don’t show. NOTE: This does not work on skin.
In the spring, this tape will be impossible to remove. In the fall, you’ve got an even chance it will fall off.
You can also use spray foam insulation and caulk, to seal cracks. The main purposes of these substances are to form permanent crusts on clothing. They’re also fairly effective at removing skin.
At some point, the furnace has to be started for the season. This is always a time of great interest in my house: I’m interested to know if it will start. I have hot water radiators, and the water is heated by a boiler. Anyone who knows me understands that me waving a match over a pilot light to start a boiler is akin to Wiley Coyote opening the latest package from Acme Co.
You know something is going to happen; you just don’t know if the result will be ashes and singed hair, or a flattened body against the wall.
But I’m seriously considering not doing any of that this year.
You see, earlier this fall I put on the air conditioner cover. Not on myself. This is a cover that goes over the air conditioner: See what they did, there? My window air conditioner was there when I bought the house, seriously and permanently caulked and set into the dining room window. That makes it at least twenty-five years old, which means whether it starts in the spring is always a mystery, but that’s a story for another season.
The polyvinyl cover has a couple of elastic strings attached to it. The instructions say to wrap the strings around the cover, hook them over the air conditioner, and voila—instant winterization.
Until the first time the wind blows.
What does work? Duct tape. Rolls and rolls of duct tape.
Under the forecast of a 20 degree temperature drop, I got the storm windows up. Then I put the cover over the air conditioner and waved for a truck to back in. I’d ordered a dump truck load of duct tape. They dumped it right into my driveway, and other than the dozen or so rolls that rolled down the hill out back (should have seen that coming), I was set.
I taped the cover to the conditioner. I taped the cover to the window. I taped the cover to the wall, the conditioner to the window, the wall to the conditioner, and I finished by taping the tape to the tape. There was now no sign of the green plastic cover. I might as well have skipped it and just made a duct-cover.
It made me oddly happy.
By then the sun had set on my duct tape paradise, so I did some winterizing inside, such as replacing the door-to-door salesmen in the cracks. The next morning we had some errands to run, so I pulled on my coat, walked out the door, and stepped on the air conditioner cover.
Some of the tape was still on the cover.
Some of the tape was still on the wall.
But they were no longer connected to each other.
I said something then that I rarely say in public, and would be best off not repeating here. Then I stumbled back inside and collapsed on the couch, where my wife took in my red face and the steam coming from my ears, and tried to decide whether to dial 911.
And that’s why I’m considering giving up on the whole winterizing thing. What, I can’t build a fire in the bathtub and just hover over it all winter? It probably worked for Fred Markey.
By the way, I’ve got some used duct tape for sale … cheap.