Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanks Given

What a very weird Thanksgiving holiday that was. Some parts were fantastic, some incredibly frustrating, and some just plain weird.

There wasn't anything much happening at work on Wednesday, so I took my day off and headed down to Jenn and Brian's around mid-morning. The plan... the plan was that Jenn was going to ride with me, and we'd follow Brian to Blacksburg.

All was ready. The dogs were loaded in the car with Brian to drop off at the kennel, Jenn and I were in my car, and I turned it on...

...and the dashboard lit up with all kinds of lights and warnings. Most notably, the "Check Engine" light, which can occasionally be merely ignored, and the "Engine Hazard" light, which... probably should not be.


After some discussion, we decided we'd just all ride up together, and Jenn and Brian would head back home a day early so I could keep my schedule. Brian, who is a Car Guy, promised to check out a diagnostic computer from their local auto repair shop when we got back on Friday so that he could read the error codes and decide whether the car was safe to drive home or if we'd need to call AAA to tow it to the local shop and try to find a rental for the weekend.

Despite being a little fretful about the car, we had a good couple of days. Jenn's Aunt Jeanne and Uncle David are great people, and I got to meet her oft-mentioned cousin, Chris. We went for a hike on Thanksgiving morning (apparently a family tradition) that was quite nice, and then came back and had a really great dinner. We broke for a nap and then came back for dessert, and then wrapped up the day with a game of Cards Against Humanity, and inaugurated a homemade question card: "Thanksgiving is incomplete without _____." It would've been perfect if we could've played "Smallpox blankets" as the answer card. I forget, now, what actually won that one, but the game itself was quite fun.

As re-planned, we came home Friday. I have to admit, the drive was much more pleasant with friends in the car to talk to.

When we pulled into Jenn and Brian's again, I figured I should check my car again before Brian headed out to get the diagnostic computer. I started the car up and... the hazard light was gone. Just the check engine light remained. Which rather underscored my suspicion that the car had been pitching a hissy about an electrical hiccup having to do with plugging my phone into the DC power adapter before turning the car on, and made me decide I could risk driving home before taking it to the shop, at least.

So I turned the car back off and went inside to use the bathroom and let them know about my decision. I promised I'd call if I had any more problems, and then went back out... and this time, when I turned the car on, not even the check engine light came on. Nothing. The dashboard stayed dark, innocent as puppy eyes.

Apparently, the gods had just REALLY wanted us to all drive up to Blacksburg together.

So I came home and picked up the kids and life continued apace.

Saturday morning I started putting up our Christmas decorations, exciting the kids to a fever pitch. And that afternoon, we went down to my parents' for my family Thanksgiving, and that was great. Not really anything to report -- it was a pretty standard family gathering. Penny and Alex were pretty fantastic, playing together most of the time so I actually got to talk to my family a bit. Alex hit Maximum Fun Quotient a few times, but being Alex, cheered up again pretty quickly afterward.

Sunday morning at breakfast, a... noise came from the heater vent. A weird, rattle-y, shuddery noise. You know in Doctor Horrible, when the Freeze Ray fails and Dr. Horrible looks around at it and says, "That's... not a good noise"? It was kind of like that. The kids looked at the vent as if it might explode, and then the heater fan stopped working. I poked at things a bit, but eventually had to turn the whole thing off because a sort of burned-plastic smell was leaking from the vents in other parts of the house.

The rest of the day was better -- we got the Christmas tree up, and Penny befriended a couple of cats wandering the neighborhood who had decided to camp on our deck. (They were obviously not actually homeless, as they were well-fed and in excellent health, but she tried to convince me to keep them anyway, as they were very friendly and happy for her to pet them.) We generally had a nice, low-key kind of day, despite the slowly dropping temperature.

I didn't post yesterday because I was at home in the morning, waiting for the repair guy to come and fix the heater. Fortunately, the problem with the fan took him all of about ten minutes to find and fix. Unfortunately, while he was at it, he noticed a pretty nasty leak in the heater's innards that suggested some ugly things, culminating in the news that I need to have an entirely new unit installed. Shouldn't have surprised me too much, really, because this unit is 14 years old, and these things typically have a life span of 10-15 years, so... yeah. He called around and got some estimates, and the price he eventually quoted me is a lot less than I was afraid it would be... but still a pretty big chunk of cash.

So that's scheduled for Thursday. In the meantime, I've only got the emergency heat setting, which works, but draws a lot more power than the usual setting, so I'm trying to keep it set as low as I can tolerate (around 65), and remembering to turn it down to about 60 when I leave for work in the morning, and being grateful that the house's insulation is actually fairly decent, and hoping that the new unit will be more efficient.

Argh. All my stuff is elderly and starting to fail.

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