I wimped out the other day, I turned on the heat.
Every year I try to hold out until after Thanksgiving before firing up the furnace. I fell short this year, only by a few days. Nonetheless, I'm embarrassed that I folded.
I regard turning on the heat as a sign of weakness. I certainly don't feel that way about turning on the air-conditioner. As a matter of fact, I rejoice that my house has air conditioning. I regard it as a sign of accomplishment, as proof that we as a species have progressed up from the muck and humidity to Barcaloungers and cool air. I can't wait to turn it on.
But turning on the heat is a different matter. When the furnace kicks into high gear, I can hear the gas meter click away, and I cringe. I envision money flying out of my wallet. Money that could be better spent on other things, like buying better beer.
So I put it off. I play to outbluff the weather, refusing to let a cold snap stampede me into turning on the furnace. Just hold your ground and wear a sweater, I tell the family, it is not winter yet.
Last year I didn't turn on the heat until after Thanksgiving. I remember because I was in Kansas City for the weekend, and I saw a television news report showing snow back in Baltimore. I spent a good portion of the holiday wondering if the pipes in my house had frozen.
I returned home to find that the plumbing had not cracked. The house was not ruined. And I had probably saved $10 off my gas bill by refusing to light the furnace. I had won.
I might not have looked like a conquering hero, as I scurried into the house, dropped my suitcases and quickly lit the furnace pilot light, but I felt like one.
The victory gave something to brag about with the guys. Most guys I know believe in the hierarchy of heating. We believe the most macho kind of heat is from a fire made with wood that you have split yourself.
In addition to being very warm, a fire made of wood means that you aren't giving "them" any of your money.
The "them" in question are the barons of natural gas, heating oil and electricity. The people who send that bill out to you every month. They send it out in an envelope stuffed with 52 pages of tips on howyou can save money on utilities. Here is a money-saving tip for the utilities: Just send the bill, forget the novel. Pass on the savings in printing costs to us.
Ranking right below wood heat in the manly scheme of things is solar heat. If you've got solar heat it means you're a with-it guy, in tune with the universe. It also means your house is cold.
Every solar house I've been in has been chilly, except in the sun room. The same is true for the wood-fired houses. It is cozy around the fire, but it is boot-stomping cold in every other room. That is why guys who believe in wood heat always wear wool shirts.
If you are a guy like me, whose house is set up for the primal warming sources of logs and sunlight, you prove your manhood by holding out.You wait as long as you can before you light the furnace.
As I said, this year I lit up early. There were many factors that figured in my decision. I did it, in part for the good of the kids, the wife and the goldfish.
And there was one other reason. This year, as I was playing chicken with Old Man Winter, I caught a cold.