Sunday, April 08, 2007

My furnace just beat it

As the For Sale sign in the front yard gently swayed in the new spring breeze a couple of weeks ago, I noticed an unfamiliar scent hanging in the air inside the house. I turned to my wife Kara, who had also noticed it. She put her book down and sniffed the air, trying to figure out whether or not to accuse me of having something to do with it.

One might expect, just a couple of days into spring, that the air would be filled with the promise of new life, something along the lines of jonquils, honeysuckle or scented candles floating around in a flooded basement. But our house was filled with an entirely different, much worse aroma.

“Why does our house smell like an Exxon tanker crashed into it last night?” I asked. The smell of oil was becoming so strong, you could taste it.

“Oh, man. This smells expensive,” Kara said.

Turns out that our furnace, which had been cranking along without issue since the release of the movie “Footloose,” decided that our last springtime in this house would be a perfect time to putter out to a stinky death. Of course, this timing made perfect sense, because Kevin Bacon, who starred in “Footloose,” later on appeared in “Apollo 13” with Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks starred in “The Money Pit,” a movie about why Shelley Long shouldn’t have left “Cheers,” but also about how stuff breaks all the time. Yes, you can make an entire movie about that. You can also write a newspaper column about it every week, if you have nothing better to do.

“It’s the heat exchanger,” the heat doctor said, using a tone that let me know that his patient was terminally ill. “Must be a crack in it. Even if I could fix it, it’d cost about the same as a new furnace.”

If your heat exchanger has never cracked, you might not be aware of this, but the smell of burning oil is nearly indistinguishable from the smell of burning money.

That night, as I lay in bed staring up at the ceiling, alarming thoughts raced through my head. A furnace is no cheap thing to replace, especially as you’re trying to scrimp together everything you have to move into a new place.

“Babe,” I said, gently rousting Kara.

“Mmph, what? I was asleep,” she said.

“Sorry,” I said quietly. “I was just wondering what would happen, you know? I mean, what would happen if Sanjaya won the whole thing?”

“Did you seriously just wake me up to ask me that?” she said.

“But if he wins, will they have to cancel the show?” I asked.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said.

And she was right. You need to have perspective. Some things just can’t be helped by worrying about them, even though you might think, in your heart of hearts, that the chubby guy was a better singer.

Besides, there are much more pertinent issues to worry about, things that are happening in the real world. For instance, did you know that Michael Jackson is pursuing the construction of a fifty-foot-tall Michael Jackson robot that will roam the Las Vegas desert, shooting laser beams out of some unspecified body parts? A buddy of mine sent me the link to that story, and it was actually a real story, not something from the Onion or Fox News.

I’m not sure we, as a society, can fully comprehend the ramifications of having a giant Michael Jackson robot roaming the desert until it actually happens, but one thing I do know: if it ever invites any of my young, impressionable appliances over to play, there’s no way that’s happening. But I do have an old furnace that it might like to meet.

You can send emails and condolences to Mike Todd at


  1. You were really short of ideas today, dude.
    And maybe short of sleep too.

  2. Dude, at the end of the week, gotta go with whatever I've got. Shouldn't you be shooing kids off your lawn or something?

  3. The good news is that the furnace didn't shit the bed four months ago. Make sure Dr. Furnace doesn't double dip on you. Maybe Arthur can think up a clever way to heat your house without a furnace. I wish I was that brilliant.

  4. Doesn't being a happy homeowner rank right up there with having your gums scraped?

    Sorry about the furnace. That totally blows...... smelly fumes throughout the house.

  5. Man all those paranoid people where right. The end of the world is coming, and it will be marked by a giant metal jackson. *shudder* Run for the hills, run for your lives!!!

    We need to just flush the little turd now before he can complete his evil plan.

  6. michael jackson is a true unique soul-- the idea of a giant MJ robot roaming the nevada desert brings chuckles and disgust to face. i work at NBC and all of us over here are digging Triumph the Insult Dog's (of Conan O'Brien show fame) quips on MJ, and other celebs. check out his show at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas @ ; you'll be sure to have a good laugh!

  7. It's Simon's g-damn fault Sanjaya is even there. Do you remember when he told Sanjaya that he sang better than his sister? Now she's all over the internet in Hooter's tanks and orange panties, and he's singin' his way to infamy... I think they're in CAHOOTS with MJ and his robot!

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  9. Tom Hanks starred in the movie "The Burbs" where a mysterious neighbor's furnace is a big part of the plotline.

    Based on that bit of info and that his last name in the movie was Peterson, I'm taking Blake, the beatbox guy, to win it all.

  10. God, I LOVED that movie...

  11. JP -- Yeah, I guess that's a better way to look at things. Still, I'd rather whine.

    Sheri -- Ha! A gum scraping sounds pretty good right about now. And a lot cheaper.

    Burf -- I dunno, dude. Aren't you kinda curious to see where the laser beams come from?

    anon -- For someone who looks a lot like comment spam, you give some pretty quality links. That was some funny stuff. Thanks for stopping by, NBC person.

    melodyann -- I'd reply, but I have to go find those Hooters pictures now.

    Comment deleted -- I bet you were a perfectly fine comment. I'm sorry you felt compelled to delete yourself.

    Buster -- Dang it! That would have been a much better movie choice. I'll have to remember to consult you on these matters.

    melodyann -- Okay, I'm back. Wow, a Google of "Sanjaya's Sister" turns up some entertaining sites. Thanks for the tip.

  12. ...quietly tiptoeing in....

    It's not 'my wife Kara', but, 'my wife, Kara'

    Ahh. I've held that in too long.



  13. Janelle,

    Good to see you again! I thought the same thing when I first started writing the column, but I use the phrase "my wife Kara" so much that the extra commas would have added about three hours to the average person's reading time (assuming, conservatively, an hour per comma).

    But then look what I found on the internets:

    "Note: Short or one word appositives are not set off with commas such as my friend Bill or my sister Maresa."

    (From Rule #7 on this page:

    I will now refer you to Ash from Army of Darkness for further discussion of this particular grammatical issue:

    "Alright . . . who wants some? Who's next, huh? How bout it? Who wants some? Huh? Who wants to have a little?"

    Rock on,

    Your friend Mike

    Funny, funny, funny....

    i prefer to believe that anything goes in grammar... dang it

  15. Ah, but wait. Restrictive appositives do NOT use commas, while NON-restrictives must have commas. Think of this as practice... Just wait till your kids are in school and your child's teacher says things like, "No English words end in 'i'". To which I boldly said (to myself) khaki! cacti! ski! I may have shouted it at the wall, but I stood my ground and you will too. :)

    You could have written an entire column by now instead of indulging me, and I thank you.

  16. Dang! How come dumb people never argue with me? And also, this is way too polite for an internet argument. Isn't it about time we started insulting each others' favorite presidents?

    For any grammar geeks out there, here's a link that proves, well, Janelle's right and I'm wrong:

    Now I have to decide whether or not to use that comma after I've purposefully avoided it for two years, just 'cause I don't like the way it reads. The solution, I think, is to just never mention Kara again. Or to get a second wife, so that they can be restrictive appositives together. That sounds hot.

  17. Interesting comments.

    I hate to bring this up, but what are your thoughts on "serial commas"?

    ham, chips, and eggs
    ham, chips and eggs
    (who has chips with eggs? ha.)

    I use them all the time. Less confusing.

  18. I'd like to thank the academy...

    The British have chips with eggs, right? That example brought to mind the "Eats, shoots, and leaves" joke/book. I can still hear my 2nd grade teacher say it was up to us whether to use that last comma.

    I really need to get her out of my house.

    And we all HAVE to be polite or Les Moonves will fire us.

    Oh, one more thing, Mike, after that last comment I'd refer to Kara as 'my darling bride' in your next column. Just sayin'. :)

  19. janelle,
    I knew that of course, just making a joke. Good book example by the way. I heard Mike was giving a us a bonus post if we reached 20 comments. Right comma Mike?

  20. We did it! The big two-oh. That's counting 17 of my own comments, plus Buster's deleted one from three days ago. Still, getting my ass kicked grammatically seems to be good for business. I'll try to be dumb more often. Shouldn't be a problem.

    The serial comma thing blew my F'ing mind when I started writing this column. It was the first time I'd ever been told to take the last comma out. I suppose that after this exchange with Janelle, I now know where I can put that comma.

  21. “...the smell of burning oil is nearly indistinguishable from the smell of burning money.”—This statement made me laugh, Mike! Haha! Indeed, it can be alarming if you learn that you're about to replace one of the most important and expensive fixture in your home. However, if you think that something needs replacement, just go with it, especially when your health and safety is at stake.

    Darryl Iorio