What an adventure winter in Wisconsin can be! This winter, we had almost no snow through November, December or January. Most days, except for a few days around Christmas, the temperatures were almost balmy. It hardly seemed like winter at all.
Then last Thursday, we got our first significant snowfall, 7-8 inches of wet, heavy snow. As the snow fell steadily throughout the day, JustBob spent the day in the JustBobcat plowing, and Tracy made several trips outside to shovel the snow away from the entrances. Both made one last effort Thursday evening just so a group coming for a meeting on Thursday night would feel welcome in our Solanus Center.
Thursday’s snowfall was followed on the weekend by a genuine cold snap: the high on Saturday and Monday barely climbed above zero; and Sunday’s high was a frigid -6. Overnight lows were in the negative teens, even as low as 20 below Sunday night. Wind chills made frigid temperatures even more dangerous outside.
We had guests Friday night, but luckily they left on Saturday evening, so Tracy and Marge were the only ones who woke up Sunday morning with icicles on their noses. Tracy, resourceful as he is, started a fire in the fireplace in the Community Room to stay warm. Marge, who likes it a bit cooler anyway, was undeterred by the cozy 55 degree temperature in her room; she just put on a sweater and went ahead with filing her tax returns as she planned. The sun came out and helped warm the building a few degrees, so neither of them realized it was not just the frigid temperature outside that was the issue.
It wasn’t until Marge ventured down to the dining room late Sunday afternoon that she realized something was not right. The chapel, which had been almost too warm all winter, was cold. So were the front offices….and the dining room and kitchen. Even the radiators that had been working were quite cold. So, as the unofficial assistant to the Maintenance staff of one, Marge went down to check out the boilers. Murphy’s Law was proven correct again: two of our three boilers decided to take a day off on a weekend in the midst of the worst cold snap of the winter.
Marge immediately called JustBob by phone but reached only his voicemail. Within an hour, JustBob returned the call and relayed troubleshooting instructions to Marge who relayed them to Tracy who restarted the two boilers. One of the boilers was cooperative, the other was not. A couple of space heaters and an electric blanket kept Tracy and Marge comfortable through Sunday night, and JustBob reassured them that the two boilers would keep the building warm enough to avert frozen pipes. Although the obstinate boiler was not intimidated by Marge or Tracy Sunday evening, it finally acquiesced to their persistence and went back to work on Monday morning, likely knowing JustBob would soon arrive anyway. By Monday afternoon, with all three boilers back at work, temperatures slowly began to creep upward and radiators finally felt warm to the touch.
It is this kind of winter adventure that makes you stop and appreciate some of the many things you take for granted every day: snow-shovelers and snow-plowers; a fireplace and firewood; warm clothes; sturdy shelter; the warmth of sunshine; boilers and the people who know how to make them run; telephones to communicate with those people; voicemail; space heaters; and electric blankets.
For all those everyday gifts we too often take for granted, we say Deo Gratias!