In the olden days, the places I lived in all came with a natural gas forced air heating system. Everything else was electric. Dryers. Hot water heaters. Ranges. Space heaters. It was the Way of the World, for my entire life.
Of course now that has changed, and I can see that I am going to be on different terms with the gas company. It’s going to factor into my life far more than it ever has before.
Our dryer is still electric, but our heating system and the hot water are both driven by a gas-fired boiler. The range —
And here I pause to note that our microwave, supposed to arrive at True Value on Wednesday, appears to remain missing in action. At least it’s not like we ordered it in early June or anything.
— is gas and scares me. And we have a gas fireplace, which finally got put into commission yesterday. This is the New World Order.
Yesterday was another big day of firsts, with mixed results. I have broached the stove a total of two times, I think, but yesterday I went one step further and cooked something in the oven. All right, cooking may be far too generous a term — I was heating up pre-cooked chicken patties. But I did it all by myself, without any assistance from Lynn.
There are basic skills we ought to all know in life, like being able to swim and drive a car. Back in my day I would have added changing a flat tire, but I don’t believe any of the three cars we own even comes with any sort of actual spare. Cooking. Cooking is a basic life skill.
I don’t know that I can say I have mastered this basic skill. I can manage it, under complete duress, but there is really nothing about cooking that I even like, let alone enjoy. I realize there are not only shows but entire channels dedicated to the proposition that cooking is fun, possibly an art form even, but give me 90-second microwave rice any day of the week (as happened last night).
So I haven’t given our range much of a once-over. I’ve managed to put potatoes and green beans from the farmers’ market into a frying pan with some olive oil a couple of times, but I had steered clear of the oven, mindful of Lynn’s frustrations with it. (She seems to love the stove and would like it better if it came with a vent hood, which is part of the microwave — never mind.) But she’s getting it figured out.
On my own, though, without even reading the instruction manual, I figured out how to set the temperature to 400 degrees, and then watched as the pre-heat didn’t tell me how many minutes, but what temperature the oven was currently at. That seems pretty uptown, hm? And more straightforward, ultimately, than the gas fireplace.
Yesterday morning, more or less on schedule, three men arrived from the fireplace place. I’m not sure why this wasn’t a one-person job, but three of them came and took apart three million pieces to get to the glass that was in desperate need of cleaning. I think some of the cleaning was more “streaking,” but it is much better than it was.
And it appears that the gas has been on “pilot” rather than “on” for months, so even if we had tried the fireplace on our own, it wouldn’t have worked. Then they ran through the remote with me, assuring me that everything they were saying was in the instruction manual. We went over how the fan works, but it wasn’t going to come on until the fireplace had been on for at least 10 minutes, to keep from circulating cold air.
Confident in my new instruction, I last night turned the fireplace on for Lynn, even though it was the warmest evening we’ve had in two weeks. I showed her how to turn the fan on, and this time it came on. And then never turned off. Did I mention it was the warmest evening in two weeks?
The fan is supposed to operate at a number of speeds, but it didn’t seem to matter what I pushed on the remote; nothing changed. I went to the instruction manual. It is 60 pages long, and unlike some long manuals, this is not so it can offer instruction in multiple languages. It was all in English, but 90 percent of the manual is installation and parts instruction. “Operation” exists exclusively on page 38, and “troubleshooting” is non-existent.
It does tell me that instructions for the remote are issued separately, but those were not left, because the fireplace guys scooped up everything in the bag other than the one manual and took it with them.
The manual did instruct, which they did not, that the first fire should run a minimum of four hours — something about making sure paint was completely cured that made no sense to me.
As an obedient instruction-manual follower, I left the fireplace on. And the fan, over which I had no control. Did I mention it was warm last night? Well, I can now attest that the fireplace is going to put a fair amount of heat into the entire Good Room. I had to re-open some windows when I turned it off, fan still running, around 11:30.
But somewhere before 3 a.m., when I next woke up, the fan had stopped. I need to call the fireplace people and ask them to explain this to me. I’m not sure why I have been given this remote illusion of control if the fan is going to do whatever it wants.
Wouldn’t it be great if something we were handed worked as instructed? The washing machine that walks and rocks, the breakers that overload, the detectors that detect fire where there isn’t any, the solar on-line read-out I still haven’t been supplied with, an undented, un-arcing microwave? All right, I realize I am asking too much with that last one.
But wouldn’t it have been great if the fireplace that got installed waaaaay back in April not been such a fan of itself that it would do what I want it to and not whatever it wants when it wants?
It occurred to me last night, now that I’m all premiumed up, I could post a video of our fireplace in operation (just like a yule log!), but alas, my low-end Samsung was not up to the task. Besides, I had to devote my energies to figuring out why the fan was doing whatever the heck it wanted. So, still life.