There are certain joys of home ownership that are unavoidable: clogged sewers, leaking faucets, rotting floor timbers, and the inevitable heating/cooling issues. When you also own a rental property, your potential for joy is maximized. It doesn’t seem to be an additive function, more like an exponential one, because you have dealing with other people as another ingredient to the mix.
Yesterday evening, at 4:45p.m., my phone rang. It was my tenant, calling me from where he works.
“Is Jim there?” he inquired plaintively.
“No, JIm is not here. He is at work. He won’t be home until 8:30. What can I do for you, Tenantman?”
“The airconditioner isn’t working,” he reported.
“Well, you know we have a newborn baby, and it is what, 100º out?” I took a breath to speak, but my tenant continued. “They tried and tried to make it work last night and they couldn’t get it to come on.”
“Of course you need the air conditioner to work. But what do you want me to do about it right now? I mean, even if I called Henderson (the heating and air conditioning people we have a relationship with) there is no way that they are going to be there today. And why are you calling me now? Why didn’t you call me earlier in the day when maybe something could have been done about it?”
“Well, I forgot.”
This is not surprising. Our tenant has a job at the barrel manufacturing company here in our town. On toasty summer days, working in this facility is somewhat akin to working in hell, truly. You know that the inside of whiskey barrels is charred, right? They do that by putting the completed barrel upside down over a propane flame thrower and turning it on for about two minutes. The factory also makes wine barrels, which are toasted. This process adds even more to the hellish conditions in the barrel factory, as this is accomplished by building a nice slow fire of oak chunks in a long pit which has a conveyer belt running above it. The barrels are loaded onto the conveyer belt upside down and travel over the pit, being nicely toasted on their interior once this journey is completed. People spend their day tending this fire pit as it is important that the oak fire be just right for proper toasting to occur. This is how the lovely oaky note comes into your chardonnay, by the way.
But I digress. It is not surprising to me that the heat and smoke conditions may have fried his brain just a trifle. While he was working in a facility that has ambient temperatures approaching a volcanic level, the fact that the house his wife and children were in was an uncomfortable 85 degrees was most probably not high on his list of concerns.
“Well, I’m sorry I can’t do anything about it right now.”
We passed a few words around, I promised to tell Jim about the situation when he got home, suggested that when it cooled off today they should turn on the whole house fan, blah blah blah. Then my client showed up for her massage.
When I took Ruby for her walk, I left a note for Jim. Upon my return, he was across the street at the tenant’s place, assessing the situation.
We passed a pleasant evening, peeling garlic from last year since the new crop of garlic is now hanging in the woodshed to dry.
Visions of spending hundreds of dollars repairing or replacing the ancient air conditioner across the street ran through my mind. Jim consoled me. “It doesn’t have to be expensive, you know”, he told me cheerfully. “It could be something simple.”
Bright and early, we arose, had some coffee and then he went off to Henderson’s to make an appointment for the repairman. When he got home, he went over to the tenants to tell them what was going to happen, and while he was there he spent a little more time investigating the situation.
He came back across the street, and went to the phone.
“Shirley?…. Yes, this is Jim D. I was just over there making an appointment for a repairman?…. Well, you can tear that job order up. The situation has been resolved.” He hung up the phone.
Apparently, there is a master switch in the basement that controls the furnace and air conditioner that had been turned off last fall. No one remembered this fact because the furnace did not get used even once during the winter, the tenants happily heated the house all winter using the fireplace insert we installed last summer. And this is the first time they have tried to use the air conditioner this year.
Indeed, it turned out to be much less expensive to fix the air conditioner than I had imagine. Thank goodness.
Here are a few other close calls I had this morning.
Now, I need to go move my water, address the weeds in the butternut squash bed, and peel more garlic.