Adventures in home ownership

I’ve had a pretty productive week so far. Monday I finished the first draft of my updated resume and distributed it to the friends who have generously agreed to review it. On Tuesday I ran a bunch of errands, got some work done around the house, and did some research into other careers I might want to consider beyond the training realm (not sure how far I want to branch out yet, but it’s a good exercise that I should have completed a long time ago). Tomorrow will be pretty full, with a meeting about a freelance gig in the morning, followed by lunch and dinner plans – a whole day out in the suburbs. What a treat! Tomorrow will also include some of the mounds of paperwork to send back to my previous employer. Nothing huge going on, but I’m grateful to have enough on my schedule to have some routine to my week so far.

Having said that, I decided that today would be a day off. I have a few other things percolating that will need attention later in the week, and…well, look. I might as well enjoy some of the enforced time off, right? So the grand plan for the day was to sleep in (haha, yeah right), make breakfast, go to the library, maybe do some writing, and then see just how much television I can enjoy in one afternoon. Exciting goals, I know.

Given this ambitious plan, the discovery at around 7:30am that there was a foul and mysterious odor1 emanating from the laundry room in the basement did not amuse. Some discussion over coffee revealed that the odor was most likely related either to the hot water heater that serves the second floor or the dryer (which was running at the same time). After some more consideration, V and I concluded that the aroma could best be described as “High notes of burning, with a subtle undertone of death.” At least, that’s how it was best described from the back porch on the second floor. In the basement, the death was much more overt. I can only presume this is due to the basement’s closer proximity to the Underworld. Since money is tighter today than it was 10 days ago (and also since V is a good and kind person), we decided to see if we could determine the source of the problem on our own before calling in a professional – if nothing else, so we could figure out who to call. HVAC? Plumbing? Appliance repair? All options seemed possible on this magical day.

Step one, of course, was to determine whether the dryer or the water heater was the culprit. We started by running the dryer for a few minutes and waiting to be overwhelmed by the foul and mysterious odor. This failed to happen, which was both good and bad news – good news because I’m not qualified to do anything to the dryer at all, but bad news because the dryer is still under warranty so if there was something mechanically wrong with it, we would likely not be spending money to fix the problem.

So, on to step two. The best choice here would be to go back upstairs and see if running the hot water enough to make that water heater kick on would do anything interesting, but upstairs seemed rather far away, so V turned on the hot water in her unit and we stood around some more. Again, nothing. We considered that perhaps we had simply gotten used to the foul odor, but that seemed rather unlikely, all things considered.

V futzed with the air ducts above the water heaters, thinking that the first step would be to figure out how to easily disconnect the long piece that ran to all of them so we could better visualize the problem. I believe it was around this point that I saw something that might actually haunt me for a while:

Oh. Dear. Gods.
Yep. That happened.

I calmly pointed out my findings to V, by saying something like, “Um, I, um…I found the problem,” and pointing vaguely at it from several feet away. When this method understandably failed to effectively communicate the horrifying vision, I got close enough to point directly to it.

V and I calmly assessed the situation by retreating to opposite corners of the laundry room and saying, “oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god” in a tone of voice that I’m sure wasn’t elevated or shriek-like in any way. Then we went back up to the second floor to discuss our options.

The initial conversation went something like this:

V: “How much money would it be worth to you to have someone else deal with this?”
J: “One billion dollars.”

Eventually, bravery prevailed, and we decided that we could probably handle the problem ourselves. To be fair…it was logistics more than anything else, as I wasn’t even sure who to call. Not the appliance guy, not the plumber…but would the HVAC company be the right choice, or would we need to involve Animal Control or something ridiculous like that? Discovering the answer to this question (and potentially interacting with the bureaucracy of the great city of Chicago) seemed worse than dealing with…whatever that thing was. That’s probably not a good sign, all things considered.

In any case, the next important step seemed to be to assemble the right tools for the job. These included, of course, a bucket with two heavy plastic bags to, er…catch the interloper, along with…




and finally…

More Gloves

Once armed, the task went fairly quickly. I disconnected the duct leading directly to the water heater, while V made important contributions like, “Instead of doing (insert dumb thing I was about to do), you could do (insert much smarter idea) instead. Then it’s less likely to…um, tumble out unexpectedly.”

Let us all hail the wise and good V, dear readers, for she decreased the ickiness of the day by orders of magnitude.

Honestly, there’s not all that much to say on the matter. We found an appropriate resting place for the creature (a squirrel who I immediately named “oh god, oh god, oh god, that’s so fucking gross!”), then I cleaned the few…um, bits from the hardware, a task made much easier by the fact that V sacrificed a dish brush to the cause.

So, in any case. After we put everything back together, I managed to start my Partial Day of Slacking Off with a trip to the library (it turns out there aren’t a lot of books at my local branch, which I find a little disconcerting) and am about to wear out my welcome at one of the many coffee places that are entirely too cool for me to walk into. My investigation into the maximum amount of television I am capable of enjoying in one afternoon will have to wait for another day. Preferably a day that does not involve squirrels in any way.

1: Bonus points if you catch the reference.2

2: Bonus points are not redeemable for cash or anything else of monetary value…except misplaced nerdy pride, of course, which might be your thing.