posted Tue, 10 Aug 2004
I am recovering from sticker shock. The furnace guy just told me it will cost $738 to replace the motor and the inpeller (whatever the heck that is) in my radiator heating system. I also have central heat that was installed right before I moved in (along with the central air, which I never use because the attic fan keeps the house cool enough for me), but I don’t like it. The quality of the heat is different. The central heat is dry and patchy – there are spots where it just doesn’t go, which makes sense when you realize that the central heat is dropping from the attic – and heat rises. Whose great idea was that, I wonder. Someone who never had physics or chemistry, I guess.
The radiator heat – the original heating system for the house, I suspect – is far better. Even though it is 82 years old, it runs circles around the younger central heat. Radiator heat is cozy and warm. It wraps itself around you like a soft, fluffy blanket. (Now you understand why I usually don’t use metaphors or similes, whichever that one was.)
Point is that radiator heat is just plain better.
But $738? Man! Barry, the repair guy, said that $500 of that is for the part. I will have to call Tim, the parts guy, tomorrow to check. Harpo had diagnosed the initial problem – the bearings were bad (and that’s what Barry said, too) – and had found a replacement part on the internet. I suspect his idea might have been that he would replace it, but I really don’t want to spend an entire weekend watching while he does all that work.
So I found the local distributor for the part and asked if they could recommend someone to install it. Apparently, the ability to work on old boiler systems is becoming a lost art, much like plastering and masonry. Sad, really – new houses are slapped together with lousy workmanship. Drywall instead of plaster, mismatched edges and cornering, cheap materials. I could go on but I won’t. Instead I will just make a smug reference to my 1922 brick bungalow with plaster walls and hardwood floors. We won’t talk about the tiny closets or the lack of other storage space. Accentuate the positive.
Tim the parts guy came to look at the boiler. I asked if Harpo could install the new motor if his heart was so set, but Tim said that the work would require draining the entire system and that it really required someone who had done this sort of thing before. Even he himself was not qualified, Tim hastened to add. “But you don’t want to pay a plumber $80 an hour to drain this system, either,” he said. “I know some guys who do this nine to five but who pick up extra work in the evenings on their own. That should be cheaper for you.”
That idea hit me in the right place, as the next biggest issue after finding someone who could do the repair at all was finding someone who could do it at a time other than between 8:00 and 5:00, Monday through Friday.
Let me ask you: am I the only person in the US who is not home during regular business hours to let in a repairman? Because it sure doesn’t seem like the service industry has figured out that there might be a market for folks who would rather have repairs done in the evenings or on the weekends so they wouldn’t have to take time off from work to let in the repairman.
If I need anything done at home, I have to cajole the vendor to call me half an hour before they set out for my place instead of giving me the usual, “Sometime between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.” Right. Like I really want to take an entire vacation day to sit at home for a repairman who may or may not show up. At least if I can get him to call me, I can spend some time at work (not that that is a great end in itself, but my vacation days are precious and few).
If I need something done to my car, I have to figure out a way to get to work from the car place and then get back there when the car is ready. I asked a mechanic why his garage wasn’t open on Saturdays. He told me that the parts places are closed on Saturdays. (Even though I know for a fact that Autozone is open on the weekends. Liar.)
I have to believe that somewhere there are mechanics and plumbers and electricians who would rather work evenings and weekends for whatever reason. At the least, shouldn’t there be a business smart enough to figure out that if they would offer their services at REGULAR PRICES in the evening and on Saturdays that they just might differentiate themselves from the competition and get more business?
Perhaps not. When I was still in my marketing job, I had to go to a couple of trade shows every year. We always were issued some hideous polo shirt with the company logo to wear while we were on duty in the booth. (More on booth bimbos at the Poultry Show in a later installment. But here’s a teaser: what on earth do Hooter’s girls have to do with the equipment used for transporting headless, eviscerated, plucked chicken corpses across the factory floor? I’ve never been able to figure it out either, but that’s who the vendor had dancing in front of the booth.)
Invariably, my shirt – a men’s small – would be so big that I would have to cut off the bottom half. I am not a tiny person. This is not like when my friend Leigh, the steel magnolia who is about 5’0” and 90 pounds, put on her company-issued shirt and it fell past her knees. I am 5’5” and 135 pounds. Average size. Even so, if I had stuffed all that extra fabric inside my (yuk) khaki pants, my butt would have looked even bigger than the pants were already making it look. I asked the guy who ordered the shirts why he wouldn’t get me a woman’s shirt. “The vendor doesn’t make women’s sizes,” he told me.
Of course not. We’re in the 21st century. It’s really not that common for women to be in the workplace yet. Indeed, we are such a rarity that there is no need to accommodate us, much less market to us.
Who are these people????? Not everyone has the luxury of not working! Not every house has a stay-at-home mom to go to the post office or to let in the plumber or to sign for a package. No wonder stay-at-home wives are the new trophies in corporate America. If you have one, you never have to worry about this stuff. And the shirt will fit.
The working life: The rat race
2 days ago