This day – the day before Thanksgiving – has been a day of noises.
The day dawned with the creakings and crackings and, regrettably, crashings of loftier-than-cathedral pines as they thrashed through the heavens on a frenzied, snow-driven wind. The casualties were reasonably light; even still, we mourn the loss – or at least the partial loss – of the noble sentinel behind the chapel. The courtyard would seem to be such a sheltered place, but Sister Snow Storm quickly turned it into a wind tunnel. The twirling, swirling dizziness of Brother Wind soon overwhelmed our dignified Sister Tree (one of my favorites), compelling her to unburden her most weary branch onto Mother Earth’s soothing blanket of snow.
The day continued with the sounds of merriment as Jackie, Marge, and I enjoyed a bit of irony. Namely, Brother Fiberglass Owl, ensconced on the steps of the courtyard to drive away the pigeons, weathered the storm sturdily, without so much as a scratch. This, in spite of the fact that he spent much of the summer toppling off of his concrete perch in response to the slightest of breezes or (I suspect) the heckling of one or more of the resident pigeons.
The day entered afternoon to the sound of an alarm in the basement that two of us heard, but dutifully ignored. Make a note of this. The unheeded alarm will play an important role later in this day of noises.
The day rounded the corner into evening with the silence of a House settling for its holiday nap – a silence punctuated only by Fr. Bob’s ringing of the chapel bell to call our community to evening prayer.
The silence deepened as evening drew on – a silence made more profound by an encroaching chill. We wondered vaguely why the radiators seemed to be losing their warmth.
By 10 pm, no longer able to ignore the cold, Patrick and I ventured into the heart of the House – the Boiler Room. Confronted with a steady churning noise, we could be fairly certain that the circulating pumps were still circulating. What, then, had gone wrong within this maze of pipes, valves, and other thingamabobs?
We turned our attention first to the control panels on the front of each boiler. Here we found a hint as to the problem in the form of a red indicator light beside the words “low water.” Each of our three boilers was, according to its self-diagnostic panel, suffering from “low water.”
Clearly, this was bad. It is, after all, difficult for a boiler to boil without sufficient water. No wonder the boilers had stopped producing heat.
Worse yet, there didn’t seem to be any way of popping open the top of a boiler and simply adding water from the tap. In our efforts to determine how we could add water to our non-boiling boilers, we began looking for a valve of some sort that may have accidentally gotten turned off, thereby shutting down the water supply to our trusty boilers. Eventually – and probably after the night had turned halfway back to day – we might have stumbled upon the correct valve. But this poorly informed search seemed like a tedious way to spend the last few moments of our night before sleep.
Advice was needed.
A phone call was in order.
Naturally, I called my Dad, instead of Bob. (A fair amount of logic informed this decision; namely, I suspected that my Dad was more likely than Bob – our Building and Grounds Supervisor – to be awake at 10 pm!) Awake he was, as was he full of the advice born of experience with a boiler system similar to the system that steams away in our basement.
Two flashlights and fifteen minutes later, my Dad – via the magic of the telephone – Patrick, and I managed to clear the “low water” error messages, restart the boilers, and restore heat to all radiators – great and small – throughout the House. (It turns out that the boilers automatically refill themselves when the water gets too low. This is quite convenient and considerate of the boilers.)
The day drew to a close with the noise of jubilation as Fr. Bob learned that heat was once again to be had.
And the unheeded alarm that heralded this day’s afternoon?
It was trying to tell us that the boilers were running out of water and were about to shut down.