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Ghost in my furnace

Posted March 29th, 2011 at 01:25 PM by Sylvano the Wasabus
I shuddered when my furnace stopped a little while ago. Itís an old unit, twenty years old, and I was afraid Iíd have to replace the whole thing- which usually runs about 4 grand Canadian. But itís not something you can put off in the winter, unless you want to freeze to death.

I tried tinkering with it myself for about an hour but I know Iím not a mechanic. I was careful too, because I didnít want to make things worse. I just established that I could not easily fix the thing and it was time to call in the professionals.

We have a small electric heater which we set up and started baking cookies. Itís sort of a tradition when the furnace breaks in the winter- turn on the oven and bake for hours. It warms the house up like nothing else, keeps you moving, and you get cookies too.

The furnace repair place told me they couldnít come for a day. So that night it was baked potatoes and anything else I could make to keep that oven cooking. We spent a cold night under many blankets, fending off the two cranky old cats who didnít like the change in the indoor temperature.

Everyone got off to school the next day and I set down to wait for the repair person.

This is where it gets spooky.

The repair man arrives, and heís a smiley talkative type. And he looks vaguely familiar. He says ďyou donít remember me, do you?Ē Yes, I say, and his name flies out of my mouth: Mark.

He gets to work on the furnace and I sit down in the kitchen and try to figure out who he is. Iíve remembered his name but thatís all.

Slowly, it comes back to me. Itís his smile and his eyes that trigger it- I knew this guy 29 years ago. We were in the armed forces together. I realize now that I was a bit of a precocious ass- too smart for my own good Ė quick with wit and tongue and too slow on realizing the implications.

Mark was in my squad and we hung with the same crew after hours. We started as friends but I did something to offend him- I was never sure what- I think part of it was that maybe he was just too competitive and I won because I wasnít. You know how that goes, donít you? I never realize others are competing with me and it drives them crazy. You canít beat someone whoís not in the race. And if you define yourself by who you beat competitively - well, letís just say you learn to hate the person who isnít competing with you because they donít recognize your superiority and you always feel inferior.

It all came to a very ugly head. We were released into these woods for a leadership training course. It was more an evaluation that a course- they were looking for the potential leaders and of course most of us wanted to be one. I donít remember the other scenarios, only the one where I was in charge- because it turned out so badly.

There were six in my squad with me the designated leader and we were charged with finding a radioactive device that was somewhere in the woods. The hitch was anyone who stood within five feet of the thing would receive a lethal dose of radiation in one minute. (this was just an exercise mind you, there was no real radiation). We had to find the device and transport it to a safe area.

We had mapped out the woods previously in other scenarios so I just divided the map into sections and sent teams of two searching. We found the ďdeviceĒ quickly enough and gathered about twenty feet away from it. And thatís where the trouble occurred.

I suppose it really was my fault. I know I asked for ideas and there was one or two which I thought wouldnít work so I ruled against them. So I started thinking- we werenít on a time limit or anything. The device appeared to be an old car battery or something like that and it looked fairly heavy. It had a hook on the top. I was trying to figure out a way that we could rig a carrying contraption using our belts, some branches and some short rope we had. We sat for about five minutes with just me thinking.

All of a sudden Mark appeared with a big stick and walked up to the device, hooks it and starts carrying it away. The rest of us were just stunned. The stick was obviously not five feet long. We trailed after Mark and I told him to put the device down and get away from it. He became abusive and complained that I was a poor leader and at least what he was doing was better than sitting there and doing nothing like I was doing.

There is a referee on site- in this case a Master Corporal and he stepped in at this point and declared Mark dead from radiation. He also added that the test was now over and that I and the squad had failed. Mark threw the device down and detailed just how big a loser I was. I defended myself saying that it was him, that he had acted independently and not under my leadership and was probably trying to sabotage the exercise.

We started pushing each other and they had to separate us. We didnít shut up though and were brought before the officer of the day where I appealed my failing grade as Mark insisted that it had been my poor leadership that had ruined the exercise. The officer decided that Mark was an idiot and that I failed because I was supposed to be in charge- we both lost. And we were both taken off the list of potential leaders.

After that we tried to stay away from each other and mostly exchanged evil looks and dirty digits. Fate separated us and I left the forces and began a different life.

And now, twenty nine years later, he was fixing my furnace. I certainly felt uneasy- I expected him to tell me that it was shot and Iíd need a new one. I even wondered if heíd sabotage it.

About an hour later he announced it was fixed and shook my hand, I wrote a cheque and he went on his way. That night around 5AM the furnace broke again. The repair was ďguaranteedĒ so I called the company again and they sent Mark back.

He was very talkative again and we discussed the furnace and potential problems and he tried a few unorthodox fixes- heís smart. He ended up talking about his life and where he was today. We shook hands again and he said heíd be back if the repairs didnít stick. So far they have.

I guess Iím surprised that over the years the animosity between us has evaporated. Where did it go? It was actually kind of nice to see him. That thing that happened twenty nine years ago went unmentioned.

Maybe he was friendly because heís still competitive and he probably figures that heís beaten me. He certainly has a better job than I- heís seen my tiny old house and if he doesnít value Scape he wouldnít see anything in my house of value. But I donít think heís won because Iím not competing with him. My family has heat again and thatís all that matters to me.
Total Comments 3


kolakoski's Avatar

We Grow Up and Move On

Well met!

I was extremely unpopular when I was young, and still carry a lot of emotional baggage (although it's fairly well compartmentalized now). I fantasized about going back and kicking the #$%^ing es of those who had tormented me the most back then.

But now I am in a much better place and, although I probably do a modified Billy Jack (I'm still on the small side, in spite of my martial arts training) on them, if I were to meet any of them now, I suspect we'd all laugh about it at this point. The high school jocks are mostly pot-bellied, barca-loungers by now, while I am a 60 (61 on 3/31) year old who is regularly taken for 35; I live in NYC with a wife who is a sexy treasure (even after 20 years together), I sing like a combination of Johnny Hartman & Howard Keel, etc. I let go of my anger towards those individuals long ago, and I suspect that they did the same. (I was a real back then.) Go ahead, say it - I haven't changed that much . It has happened in a lot of contexts - I meet someone from long ago whom I didn't really care for, and just the fact that we knew each other when is enough for being glad.
Posted March 29th, 2011 at 01:59 PM by kolakoski kolakoski is offline
MegaSilver's Avatar
I believe that you may met a new friend that was once your enemy, StW.

Perhaps one of these days you can invited him over for the cookies and Heroscape.

But really, I think you have a chance to settle any problems between you, if any remain on either side, and maybe have a new friend, or at least acquaintence.
Posted March 29th, 2011 at 02:08 PM by MegaSilver MegaSilver is offline
Bolo's Avatar
I'm glad to hear of another (rat) that's not in the race.

Good read.
Posted March 30th, 2011 at 07:30 AM by Bolo Bolo is offline
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