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February 19, 2006

The Heat Pump

Tom McLaughlin

Humor by Tom McLaughlin

It went whirr when it went, bop when stopped and laughed when it stood still. I never knew just what it was; and I guess I never will. It is called a heat pump and is the cause of a major drain in my electric bills.

I am a renter now for the first time in many, many years, and I have no control over the repair of mechanical things. My first electric bill came in for December and it was $397 for a small two-bedroom home. I usually keep the temperature dead on 70 degrees, and my inner heat pump exploded when I got the bill. I thought I would have an angina attack as I had never seen a bill that high. It would be different if it had been a cold winter, but it's been like the tropics. I am awaiting a bird of paradise to land on the front lawn.

I reported, nay, went into a rabid fit in the rental agent's office, threatening to move out in the middle of the night like everyone else does around here. Now, I know why. They said they would contact the owners who would contact me. Meanwhile, the meter kept whirring around like the top in the song. I guess that's what it was. Are any of Peter, Paul and Mary still alive? Ah, the days of "Puff the Magic Dragon!" I certainly could use a puff of that ole dragon now!

After threatening to conjure a tidal wave that would destroy Ocean Pines, the owners called and said they would send someone out to repair the pump. Sure enough, up drives a pick up truck with a hand painted sign "Heat Pumps Fixed" on the door. An elderly gentleman got out, listened to the machine, and said, "Yup, this ain't right." And with the certainty of a fresh-out-of-med-school doctor, pronounced it was out of gas. I expected him to tell me to drive to the local "Shore Stop" with a can to fill it up.

Meanwhile, we were all gathered around the heat pump. There was my girlfriend, the owner, his wife, the neighbor, the dog and me. The husband and the neighbor were discussing the problem in technical jargon, while the wife was lecturing me on how to set the thermostat and stated the high electric bill was my fault.

Apparently, she thought I was some rube from the swamps of Pocomoke who had never had indoor heat before. If I had been a rube from the Pocomoke swamp, I would have shot her better than Vice President Dick Cheney would have.

The man got out his torch and without googles, I mean goggles (been on the computer too long) soldered the leak he said was there and filled the thing with gas, Freon, I think it was, and left.

January was the mildest in recent history and flocks of parrots and toucans visited my bird feeder. The electric bill came in yesterday and the bill was $375. I called Choptank Electric and they sent out two men for an energy evaluation of the house. Make no mistake; I would have to pay them the electric bill.

I went outside with them and they unwrapped a rubber sleeve around a pipe on the pump and it was cold. They looked at me knowingly. We then unwrapped the black hose on two of the neighbors and it was hot. I felt I was violating the personal innards of the system. The pipes were too hot to touch. They then went through the house to make sure I was not running an extension cord out the window and providing electricity for the other 15 houses on the court. They gave me a letter and I took it to the rental office.

Before I arrived there, I had to stop and purchase half-off after Valentine' s Day candy and a gift. My girlfriend, who is from Indonesia, was out of town visiting friends and had discovered this celebration. I had been doing my best not to educate her about it and was successful for the past two years, but like the gas in the heat pump, I ran out of luck.

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