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Hole hunting
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Cindi    Posted 05-05-2004 at 15:47:42       [Reply]  [No Email]
Everybody kept asking me...why's your light bill so high? Our bill was running anywhere from two hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars a month. We thought we found the culprit when we replaced the well water tank. The bladder was leaking and the pump was coming on every five minutes. That had to be the cause.

Well, it was. To a degree. The bill went down, but still seemed too high. It was one of those things that you felt you should do something about, but just didn't know what to do. At least not until the cat was born into the kitchen. Then everything became crystal clear.

One morning I was sitting at the computer and I heard a rattling sound. At first I didn't pay any mind. Living in a mobile home with questionable underpinning, and with all the animals we have, we often hear strange noises under the house. When the rattle became a thump it got my undivided attention. I swiveled around in my chair, trying to pinpoint the sound. It didn't take long to find it. It was coming from the floor vent that supplies the air conditioning to the kitchen.

I watched with a mixture of anxiety and morbid fascination as the vent cover began to move around. It would come up out of the hole and then drop back down again. By this time I had climbed into my chair and was standing, teetering dangerously, on a rolling desk chair. I didn't know what was coming out of that hole, but by now it was apparent that something was.

The third time the vent came up it stayed up, due to a small black paw that was holding it there. That little paw flipped that vent cover over like it was the most natural thing in the world, and following the paw came a black fuzzy leg, and then the rest of Jenny's cat, Salem. It was truly like watching a birth, as he writhed and moaned and hissed and when he saw me staring at him...purred.

"What in the world do you think you're doing?"

I was offended. I don't have much pull around here, but at least I get to say when and if the cat comes in and when he goes out. Now I didn't even have that anymore, as Salem was calling the shots himself. I got even by chunking him none too delicately out the front door. I replaced the vent cover and then I got on the phone to Fred. Told him what happened. We discussed the fact that we had a hole in our a/c venting somewhere and concluded that we had found the source of our high light bill.

"Somebody is going to have to crawl under there and find it and fix it." Fred said.

"Well, let me know when you want to get under there, and I'll try to help as best I can." I said, and then held my breath. I had no plans to go under there. Shudder.

"I can't get under there." He replied.

"Why not?"

"I'm a fat man. I won't fit."

"Well I'm a fat...ummm, lady." I responded desperately.

"Not as fat as me."

Any other time I would have taken that as a compliment. Now it just sounded like a death sentence.

"I don't wanna go under there!" I whined.
"There's spiders and snakes and God knows what all! Besides I'm claustrophobic and it's so small, and...and dark!!"

"Well, we could send Jake."

I got a mental picture of Jake wallowing around under there for five minutes or so and coming out and claiming he could find no hole. No. This had to be done by someone who had more than a passing interest in bringing down that light bill, and since Oliver Hardy wouldn't fit, that left it up to me. Tsk. For once in my life I was disappointed that I wasn't fat enough. About that time the vent cover began to rattle again.

So I donned my old ugly overalls, grabbed a roll of duct tape and the spot light and under the house I went. It was cold, and dank and damp and smelled of mold. Spider webs were strewn hither and yon, but I didn't run into anything alive until I came face to face with Elvis.

"Hey! What are you doing under here?" His eyes wanted to know, tail thumping the ground, stirring up a cloud of dust.

"You need to move. I'm not in the mood for conversation."

"Okay, then."

He backed up, and when he did, I felt it. A blast of frigid air. I crawled a few more feet, the air getting colder and more forceful the further I went. The next thing I found was a writhing mass of dog bodies. Sugar, Girl and William Wallace were all spraddled out, taking advantage of the twelve-inch round hole in the a/c duct. At some point a duct had been removed leaving a hole that had at one time been patched with a piece of useless something-or-other and taped into place. The glue on the tape had failed and the patch had simply fallen off. There was no way to know how long we had been pumping air and heat out onto the ground.

I rapidly ran about fifteen courses of tape over the hole, all the time knowing that the tape would fail again at some point which meant yet another trip under the house with more durable materials that would make a permanent fix. I crawled back out, weaving my way past disappointed dogs, feeling phantom bugs crawling all over me, went back into the house, replaced the vent cover and tossed Salem back out on his ear. Then I let him back in to feed him. I had to reestablish the proper order of things. I was once again in charge of the whole cat going in and out business, which gave me some satisfaction.

I have since replaced the duct tape with a heavy piece of rigid plastic held in place with silicone caulking and I am waiting with bated breath to view the resultant light bill. No more cats have been born into the kitchen so I feel confident that the hole is well and amply sealed. Now the only thing left to do is put Fred on a strict diet, because the next time the light bill goes up, he's the one that's going hole hunting.

DD    Posted 05-05-2004 at 16:55:35       [Reply]  [No Email]
Good story Cindi : ) I got one about just that that I'll share with ya someday.

Smitty    Posted 05-05-2004 at 16:24:31       [Reply]  [No Email]
Cindy, you sure know how to have fun.
Great story!

donna in w.v    Posted 05-05-2004 at 16:18:38       [Reply]  [Send Email]
i truly enjoyed your story . except for the bug part ,i found my self shivering like they were on me. you really have a knack for telling a story. keep writing please cuz i really look forward to reading them.

Katrina    Posted 05-05-2004 at 16:11:45       [Reply]  [No Email]
You see things through a great story-teller's eyes. I would sit and complain about the whole thing but you go at it from a different angle. I appreciate all the stories about everyday living brought into a new light with your wonderful talent. I know you've heard it all before, but when we are immersed in this life, we forget to see the humor until somebody points it out again. Thank you!

Alias    Posted 05-05-2004 at 16:02:30       [Reply]  [No Email]
Cindi, years ago we had a similar situation that tripled our electric bill. Nancy called the power company and put on such a convincing crying act that they discounted the overage and only charged us our average monthly bill. Of course, that was years ago when real caring people tried to help one another. Anyway, it's worth a try. Very good story otherwise...........gfp

Cindi    Posted 05-05-2004 at 18:02:58       [Reply]  [No Email]
Thanks all! Even as horrible as it was to do I can put it on my list of accomplishments.

gfp... this is next week's column subject in the local paper. Maybe somebody at the power company will see it and take pity on us. I'm kind of hoping that the guy who replaced the a/c package two years ago will see it and feel really bad. He has to be the one who did the tape job. He's local and he advertises in the paper so I suspect he will see it. He SHOULD feel bad. He was bound to know that the tape was only temporary.

Tinker    Posted 05-05-2004 at 22:31:28       [Reply]  [No Email]
Hello Cindi, boy can I relate to your story! We too live in a trailer house.
Last winter (30 below) our water froze up. Hubby has bad knees so he couldnt crawl under the house. I had to do it.
We had a water leak under one of the pipes and it drained down to where our water comes up out of the ground. I had to finangle a torpedo heater under there to heat up the ground and with a spoon keep scraping dirt away from the water pipe. It got quite hot under there, but when I crawled out it was a blast of -30 air hitting me. It took all day crawling in and out from under the house.
The one thing that helped was that I had NO clue on what I was looking at and what to do to fix it. I had an idea... I took the digital camera, took pix of the leak, the water line, the ice mountian and a few other noticable problems, came into the house , put them on the computer and had Hubby sit here and tell me what was what and how to fix it.
Worked pretty good. I learned what a heat tape was (dont cut this), what trailer light wires were (dont cut these) and why our ducks were having such a blast under the house last summer. (nice warm water puddle under there).
Thanks for a great story.

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