Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My faux fireplace

When I moved into my current apartment a couple of years ago, it was the beginning of November. It was getting cold, but not cold enough to warrant turning on the heater. Two weeks later, it did turn cold (by California standards). I called up the gas company to make sure the heater pilot was turned on. They said it was. When I returned home that evening, I was happy that I could avail of the services of the heater.

Only thing was, I could not find the switch/knob or any other control to turn it on. I was quite confident that the contraption with the vented grill in the living room was the heater. But turning on all the nearby switches did not give the reassuring hum of a heater being started. Finally, I decided the controls must be discretely located in some secret place for aesthetic reasons (bah - what poor planning!) and decided to call up the apartment manager the next day to figure out where exactly this secret place was. I just wore extra sweaters that night.

The next day, the apartment manager told me that the heater controls were located right below the heater. Behind the panel apparently. Huh? What panel? I did not remember seeing any panel during my search of the previous evening. However I thanked her and decided to put aside my research to when I got home.

That evening I got home and stared long and hard at the heater. Where exactly was this panel she was talking about? I tried prying open the unit. No luck. Then I decided to try my luck with the lower half. I tugged at the grill and oooh, the grill came apart.

Upon further examination, I noticed two red knobs inside it - one to turn on the heater and another to control temperature. What the heck!!! Was this how I was supposed to turn on the heater each time I wanted it on? These controls looked like the plumbing controls insides some dark basement of the 40s! Waaah - I should have known better than to rent an apartment in a 30 year old building.

I tentatively turned on the heater. There was a sizzle and a pop - kinda like the sound you get when you turn on a gas-stove. And bang, my heater burst into flames. Not really - but I could see the flames burning bright and merry just above the knobs. Phew - so I could burn my hand too if I wanted to. Great!

The good part was, I at least had some heat now. However, it took me quite some amount of getting used to the heater. The visitors to my apartment had interesting reactions. When my friends A and S came over and I turned on the heater, they saw the flash of the flame and gasped, "Archu, be careful - you are going to set your hair on fire". Others asked me apprehensively if the apartment would burn down.

But me being me, I decided to look at the bright side. I had a "fireplace" thrown in as bonus in the apartment. True, the fireplace looked like it was inside a jail - but hey, I could actually see flames dancing merrily, right?

All this positive thinking however did not quell my fears that I was going to die of carbon monoxide poisoning and/or my apartment burning down. And I never let the heater be on when I am not at home or when I am alseep.

Why this pointless and rambling monologue about my heater? The other night, a slew of three fire trucks came swooping down the road next to my apartment complex to handle some emergency a couple of buildings away. After the initial novelty of gawking at the bright fire-engine lights wore off, I returned to my book and ipod.

A little later, I decided to retire to bed and bent down to turn off the heater. My hand was close to the heater control knob when I realized my ipod was still strapped to my wrist and was now dangerously close to the flames. I retracted my hand to remove the ipod first. As I took off the ipod, I calmly thought "Oh well, if there is a fire, all these fire trucks are right here!"

Looks like I am learning to co-exist with my heater.


Anonymous said...

Nice one.....Ha Ha Ha

Floridora said...

Be VERY,VERY careful that you remember your rule - Don't go to sleep with that thing on. And if you ever get a horrible head ache - get out into fresh air IMMEDIATELY or faster. I think I've written how my wife almost died when I went out to go fishing early in the morning and thinking to be nice, I turned on the heater in our cottage so it would be warm when she woke up. It was defective and spewed Carbon Monoxide. Fortunately, a doctor lived just across the way and I ran for him and he recognized the symptoms and saved her.
Your heater is probably not defective, but you can't be too careful.

Floridora said...

Gosh, three "ands" in one sentence - I must check the air in here.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the heater in my old NYC grad school apartment - very similar, with the knob inside the panel and all. I was also entertained by the music of gas constantly sploshing (there is no other way to describe the sound) through the pipes up and down the apartment floors.

joy said...

looks like had some fun there.

SK said...

Ohh boy, this is funny! :--) Although you should be careful with the heater. I would be scared.
Btw I thought apts in Bay Area didnt have heaters, or was it AC?

Anonymous said...

Oh I remember the heater!

kurrodu said...

I don't have any clue where my heater is. Never thought abt it. May be i shld check it today.

Archana said...

Anon - :-)!

Floridora - thanks a lot for the warning! I will be extra careful now. Man, that must have been one terrifying experience. LOL - your English is still in the "great" category :-)!

Lekhni - welcome aboard :-)! I know the sploshing sound you are talking about. My heater does not splosh that much - but has a disconcerting habit of sounding random taps and metallic clanks even some time after it has shut down!

Joy -:-)!

SK - hehehe - it just needs getting used to, as I found out :-D! Ya, its the ACs which are missing in action usually.

Anon - how will you not :-P!

Kurrodu - as in you have central heating?

Joy said...

Hey I did not know you had another joy in your friend circle. When I read her comment, I was stunned as I knew I had just finished reading this post and where did this comment come from.

Anyways, be careful with heater and all. Never ever ever ever underestimate CA fire.

Take care :)

J said...

heyy be careful, Archana! first 4 para sema fun to read :-) but again, be careful.

vishesh said...

hmm....30 year old building by chennai standards is young :D

Archana said...

Joy - ohh, here you are :-D! I thought the other Joy was you :-)! Sure, will be careful.

J - thanks :-)! Sure will be :-)!

Vishesh - LOL :-)!