Our house has a natural gas fireplace that we haven’t used for years. Early days, when we had toddlers, we read or heard somewhere that natural gas fireplaces are dangerous for young children, who often burn their hands on the heated glass fronts. Cautious dad, I turned off the gas valve and the fireplace became little more than a Christmas ornament for a couple of weeks a year.
This year, after I took down the stockings and removed the rest of the seasonal decor, I wondered if perhaps we should make this thing functional again. I guessed it would be full of dust and children’s toys and so on, so decided to call a pro to have it cleaned and checked out.
Three days later, gas-fireplace repairman arrived and set to work. He quickly disassembled the fireplace and began cleaning and testing the various components. I went upstairs to return to my work, and a few minutes later heard a knocking, which I assumed was gas-fireplace repairman doing whatever it was he needed to do. It wasn’t. He called, “Hey, there’s someone at your door.”
I went down the stairs.
“Looks like tradesmen.” He could see them out the front window.
I opened the door. There were three very large young men dressed head to toe in black. One was lugging a hefty tool kit on a dolly.
The one nearest said, “We’re here to service your fireplace.”
Well this was puzzling. I said, “There’s a guy here from (company name) already servicing it. That’s his truck in the driveway.”
“That company services gas fireplaces.” The disdain in his voice was obvious. “We’re here to service your wood-burning fireplace.”
I said, “This house doesn’t have a wood-burning fireplace.”
The men in black stared at me.
“It doesn’t even have a chimney.”
The two farther back scanned the roof line.
The near one looked at his clipboard. “Isn’t this (house number)?”
“It is, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t call to have someone come service a fireplace that doesn’t exist.”
The silence of utter confusion surrounded us. “Oh, sorry,” said the near one, and they lugged away their hefty tool kit, dejected.
I shut the door and said to gas-fireplace repair man, who had heard the whole exchange, “That was pretty weird. Of all the days for that to happen.”
He said, “Maybe next, someone will show up to service your oil burner.”
Then I figured it out. I went outside and the wood-burning fireplace guys were leaning on their truck, studying a map-book.
I asked, “What street are you looking for?”
“Isn’t this (street name)?”
“No. That’s the next block down. This is (street name).” The two streets have similar names.
Back inside, gas-fireplace repair man had achieved fire, and was testing the warmed, out-flowing air with a carbon monoxide monitor.
“Only one part per million,” he said.
“Good,” I said.
He said, “Those wood-burning guys would be lucky to get away with less than 40.”