Top Ways to Stay Warm without Heat

It’s been exactly 11 days since I’ve had heat due to, to borrow the title from the Lemony Snicket book, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I never did get past the first few chapters of that book because the unfortunate events seemed pretty awfully unfortunate and they happened to kids, my Kryptonite. So I had to admit I’m a big softie weenie and stop reading. I seem to be handling the no heat thing better. For one thing, the temperature in my apartment hasn’t gone below 60, despite lows of 10 degrees off and on during the week. And really, any hard-core New Englander would laugh at me and consider 60 degrees a splurge. In fact, one friend already has laughed at me, and my Mainer brother and sister-in-law will too as soon as they read this. Also, we still have hot water and an electric stove, so from a Yankee standpoint, we’re pretty much living in the lap of luxury.

I have been managing with a space heater that will most likely double my electric bill and extra blankets on the beds and the couch, plus that old adage from every mother on the planet. “I’m cold, put on another sweater!” But I’m really just talking to myself because my son has yet to even put on a long-sleeve shirt, curse his teenage metabolism! The only natural heat source I have is my 2:30 am perimenopausal sweats. Alas, the resulting dampness and chill negates any heat benefit.

The other way we’ve been staying warm is to just go somewhere with heat. That actually works quite well. Also Lucas has found that playing a really intense online game with his friends keeps him warm. I’ve been baking cookies more than usual. Warming a kettle on the biggest burner also seems to help. In fact using all the electric appliances—the dishwasher, the dryer, and the oven—all seem to add a few critical extra degrees. As a result, my house has never been in such good order.

This is all good, but Saturday morning I found a really excellent, free way to stay warm. Because we’ve been wearing layers of clothes, laundry had reached critical. If we’d been on the Enterprise, your captain of choice would have ordered “Red alert!” I put the first batch in, and a short time later I couldn’t hear anything. I should have been hearing happy swishing sounds. I did not hear happy swishing sounds. Instead, an error code blinked silently at me. I grabbed the manual, and when I saw what it was, I swore. Drain hose problem. I’d just had one a few weeks earlier; the sink that the hose drains into got clogged. The super fun part is that the sink is in a utility room that is part of my upstairs neighbor’s apartment, and I don’t have access to it. I had to wait until he got home, and while I cleaned out the sink, I had listen to the same story about his life he’s been telling me since he moved in nearly a year ago. Awesome. However, I knew the blinking error message was not because of the sink. So what else?

I’m not known for my handyman skills, but I’m an English major so I can at least start to imagine what might be wrong. I felt along the hose which starts from my washer and goes about a foot then disappears tantalizingly into a hole in the wall that leads to the forbidden utility room. There was cold air coming from that hole, and when I followed the plastic kinked hose it made a crunching sound, like a  “I’m frozen with a bit of water” crunch. Hmmm. I remembered back to when I was a new, clueless homeowner how much I paid a plumber to run a hairdryer on a frozen pipe for a couple of hours, and I grabbed my hairdryer and went to work. My side of the hose got warmer and more flexible, but the error code persisted. Damn, I was going to have to see if I could get into the utility room. Naturally my neighbor wasn’t home.

I put on my heavy winter coat over my pajamas, pulled on my boots and walked around to the back of the house to the utility room. The good news: it was open! The bad news: it was wide open! And letting in the 20 degree wind into the room. I felt the hose—even more cold and icy crinkly. For the next 20 minutes or so I traipsed back and forth, taking boots off in the house to walk to the back of my apartment to check the error message, boots back on and back around the house. There were at least three round trips involving bringing the hairdryer to the utility room: I got frustrated when the dryer wouldn’t turn on and stood in the cold trying to think of a heat source that didn’t involve electricity or fire. You can’t prove that I tried to use the little flame from the candle lighter before realizing it would be spring before it worked or that I would set the hose on fire. I then trekked back to my apartment bathroom only to realize that the little dastardly blue reset button had been popped up. Being an English major only gets you so far in the handyman world. Once the hose was thawed, there were a couple of more trips to try to reset the washer, until I finally heard the gratifying swish of water into the sink. Cancel red alert.

By then I was sweating and the apartment felt quite comfortable. I felt like a boss for being able to figure it out myself, and the flush of pride easily contributed to an extra degree or two to the room temperature.

So there you have it. A foolproof way to get warm when your heat is off. If it doesn’t get fixed soon, I can only hope for another appliance malfunction.

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