Simcha’s Guide to Weatherization

If, by chance, you should happen to wake up in the middle of the night and you realize you can see your breath, you may be out of heating oil.

This may surprise you, since it was only a few weeks ago that you also woke up in the middle of the night and realized you could see your breath. Yes, it’s been cold, but that is an awfully fast time to burn through that much oil.  And you were so looking forward to paying the mortgage this month!

So what you do is to pick your way carefully through the basement to check the oil tank, to make sure it’s actually empty.  Maybe it’s only that some rogue vole or porcupine woke from hibernation, stumbled into your basement, leaned tragically against the “emergency off” switch, and died.  One can hope!

While you are down there, try looking around the rest of the basement to see if anything else seems amiss.  If you see something that, in terms of heating ducts being where they should be, looks about as fine as this:

then think to yourself, “Gee, look at that.”  Then go back upstairs, make some coffee and some cream of wheat, take the kids to school, go to an appointment or two, entertain a visitor, write some emails, make lunch, do a little laundry, and then have a seat for a minute.

At this point, you should think to yourself, “Wait a minute.”

Then think to yourself, “Wha?”

Then ask yourself, “Who the HUH?”  Again, this is what you saw a few hours ago:

I'm no expert, but...

Go back down to the basement, and see if you can figure out what the hell happened here.  With some examination, you may find that the heating duct has been so fabulously, extravagantly weatherized, it’s now much too heavy for the bittle little twist of rusted wire that was supporting it, and that while one end is still connected to the furnace, the other end, which is supposed to be heating the living room, is lolling on the basement floor like a comatose python.  Yay, easy to fix!

Also, it may occur to you at this point that, if there is an 8-inch pipe bellowing hot air into the basement all month


then that might possibly explain why you ran through that oil so quickly.  Ah so!  See how smart you are getting?  It must be the exhilarating effect of all that blood rushing to your brain from trotting up and down the stairs so many times in a single day.

From here on in, the story gets less interesting.  Pretending not to notice the pathetic little nest made by some enterprising mouse, who had clearly found a balmy but short-lived paradise inside your duct


you just thread some wire coat hangers onto the pipe, screw a few sturdy screws into the ceiling, and hang the thing back up.

It is advisable, at this point, to email your husband several times about your accomplishment, and then when he gets home, ask him if he can go downstairs to “make sure you did it right.”  Husbands: this is the part where you’re supposed to go, “Wow, GEE, nice job with those hangers!  YOU did that with those soft, pretty little hands of yours, did you?  You realize you have saved us over $75,000 in heating bills this afternoon alone!  I also really appreciate you doing this job yourself, rather than making me go down into the basement to do it!” Then, ladies, you can let him come up out of the basement.

Stay tuned next week, when I will be offering a guide on how to keep your marriage strong and healthy by treating your husband like a real man and making him deal with that scrabbling mousy sound you keep hearing in the floor.

  • Deirdre Mundy

    Heh. We had a sump-pump back up a few weeks ago (needed the intake screen cleaned. I looked at the gunk covered gross thing and thought “we have an intake screen?”)

    and I fixed it myself, except for the last bit about hooking everything back up (because I always do that wrong and then water sprays all over the basement!)

    Contrary to the weirdo protestant marriage manuals, apparently my husband would rather I NOT save gross but easy tasks for him. Or clean but easy ones, like tightening screws on a doorknob! APPARENTLY being met at the door with a list of crisises that he needs to fix RIGHT NOW does NOT make him feel manly. Just tired.

    So yeah— it was really gross and I had to keep lying to myself and saying “That was not the carapace of a long-dead beetle. It was just plastic. That is NOT a cricket leg. it is a toy. yes, a toy.

    But I will not dispose of mice in glue traps. That is a man-job.

    Of course, I also wear pants sometimes and say things like “Medieval Catholic women worked hard! Unless they were royalty.” :P

  • Tiffany

    Ack! How horrible! And how wonderful that it was an easy fix!

    I was just thinking the other day – for who knows what reason – about horror movies (or maybe just suspenseful movies, but they’re all kinda the same to me). I thought, the scariest scenes aren’t when something horrifying is about to happen and you (as a character in a movie) don’t know what to do about it, but when something horrifying has already happened and you are made aware after the fact – when it’s too late to do anything about it. I’m guessing that’s how you felt when you saw, in retrospect, where all that heat and money had gone. <>

  • Bob

    My solution: you just can’t beat a red union suit for warmth or (apparently) comic effect.

  • Karen

    It is stories like this that make me devoutly grateful that we do not have a basement. Of course, this means that if the water heater leaks it will leak onto my family room carpet, since the “utility room” is a closet just off the kitchen, but at least I do not have a basement for mice to nest in. Or for heating ducts to fall down unnoticed!

  • onlyslightlyunhinged

    See now, I try to be a clever blogger, but even if I could write as well as you – which I can’t – it’s the little touches like finding a photo of a fan-dancing mouse that make this blog one of a kind.

  • Ima

    I recognize that mouse! She was the one who made a nest and winter storehouse in our stove insulation, with that big pile of peanuts in the shell. How did she get to your house? Were there peanuts?

    • The Jerk

      Do you mean the mouse you had arrested?

  • Anon

    I had a dream that you were married to Fred Savage from the Wonder Years.

  • Maureen

    Are our husbands brothers?! I empathize with your household-repair dilemma. It all sounds quite familiar.

    (Oh, and I, too, recognize that mouse. She is the same one who once ate perfect holes through the many loaves of Portugese Sweet Bread that I had baked for Christmas gifts. That little rascal really travels!)

    Thanks for the belly-laughs!

  • priest’s wife

    yup- sometimes we just gotten do it- like me gorilla-gluing a baseboard down. Smashing cardboard from Christmas? A man’s job

  • Another Julie

    Wow. And I’m proud of myself when I plunge the toilet without getting too much “clean” “water” on the inexplicably carpeted bathroom floor.

  • The Broken-hearted Mother

    Love your writing, Simcha. (Also, thank you for the Mouse House link. Too cute. Well, not TOO cute, but just cute.)

  • MamaMidwife

    I come here for the great pictures and amazing real-life tales.

    Bummer about the money. Propane, oil, whatever anyone uses, is *not* cheap. Our propane only heats our water. We use wood for the house. Of course, that means if you don’t want to see your breath, you have to keep getting up all night to keep the fire going. Bleh.

    But – no one can make it sound as entertaining as you.

    I keep hearing reference to some “pants vs skirts” thing here in the comments. I may have to go on a real computer and check your archives.

  • Pingback: i can haz point? « I have to sit down