Things That Go Bump in the Night

There’s nothing like a loud THHH-WUMP! in the dark hours of early morning to remind one of the old Scottish children’s prayer: “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us.” Awakened by the crashing boom outside my bedroom window, I next heard what sounded like roller skates being tossed about in a clothes dryer. Or could it have been ghoulies, ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties rattling their chains?

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My heat pump AFTER I shoveled off the snow, leaving a coating of ice

Curling into a fetal ball in my nice warm bed, I knew what had happened. A roofalanche! Translation: our sudden rise in temperature had begun to melt the heavy load of snow on my metal roof, causing the snow to slide off, landing on my heat pump. “Nothing stops a Trane!” declares the manufacturer’s marketing slogan. A cute play on words until I remembered horrific stories of trains being pounded and trapped by avalanches: from the Wellington disaster of 1910 in Washington state, when an avalanche swept two trains into a canyon, taking ninety-six lives, to as recently as last February, when two Amtrak trains had to back-“trak” because of avalanches in the Sierra Nevada range.

Avalanche training during my two-and-a-half-year residency at Holden Village (annual average snowfall 270 inches) made me deeply respectful of this potentially deadly force of nature. Besides avalanches that occasionally stop just short of the village’s back door, it’s where I learned the term “roofalanche.” Snow sliding from the two- and three-story roofs in the village is a more present menace than bears or cougar who roam the area. Yellow safety tape marks off roofalanche landing areas near buildings, warning pedestrians to tread widely.

Yellow safety tape would not have helped my heat pump. As light dawned, I donned my boots to examine the catastrophe. I called the service company and pointed the phone toward the heat pump. Even though it was buried in snow, the clanging was clearly audible.

“Yup, you’ve got ice in there,” came the diagnosis. The woman on the other end told me how to shut down the heat pump and switch to “emergency heat.” I’d never had a heat pump until this house and still don’t understand how it works. [Note to readers: Do not feel obliged to explain. It’ll only bring on symptoms of MEGO––My Eyes Glaze Over.] She assured me that some people run their furnaces all winter in emergency mode.

That was comforting and I was comfortable for about twenty-four hours, until the furnace stopped. It was Saturday morning and I was darned if I was going to pay an extra charge for a weekend service call. I used a space heater to warm just one room at a time. It’s a small house and, after all, we were experiencing a warming trend following sub-zero temperatures.

Thus I spent the weekend at a cozy fifty-five degrees indoors, counting my blessings: blessed by three or more layers of clothing, blessed by blankets warmed in the clothes dryer, blessed that the power hadn’t gone out so I could run the space heater and clothes dryer, blessed that this event came AFTER sub-zero temperatures, and blessed that—except for an occasional bump in the night—my house is comfortable all year round.

Final blessing: the technician arrived immediately after I called, first thing Monday morning. Thus richly blessed, I felt downright grateful as I paid the bill, especially since he gave me a “senior discount.”

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