into a new home, you always discover the the odd quirks about the
place that you don't notice until you start living there for awhile.
Like the door that sometimes opens by itself, or the light switch
that doesn't do anything, or the guy next door who randomly pounds on
your wall every time you play with the light switch that does
nothing. That sort of thing.
The place where we used
to live was always very dry. The air was somehow devoid of any
moisture for some reason, and over time it began to affect us. The
dust was annoying, and our skin began to get dry and cracked. One
day, I reached over to pet the cat and he suddenly disintegrated into
a pile of dust and bones right there on the floor. When I walked to
the kitchen to grab a broom and dustpan, I noticed that the cat's
water dish was completely empty, which was weird because I was quite
certain I had put water in it a few months before. I figured it must
have all evaporated, and thats when we realized we had a
serious dryness problem.
We decided to to buy a
humidifier in the hopes that it would help get some moisture into our
air, so I schlepped out to the local big-box store to pick one up. It
had been a long time since I had bought a humidifier, and they had
since gotten extremely fancy and high-tech. Humidifiers don't need to
be high-tech, but I am a sucker for gadgets, so I started looking at
the advanced models. My attention was grabbed by one in particular
that looked really sleek and modern, with lots of buttons, an LCD
readout screen and even a little satellite dish that could uplink
real-time air-moisture data to the National Weather Service and warn
you of impending tornados in your bedroom. When it comes to spending
money, there are a few things in life that you just shouldn't don't
do on the cheap plastic surgery is one of them. Standing in
the store that day, I was pretty sure that missile-defense systems
and humidifiers were the other two.
But then I noticed
something else - For $40 more, they had an upgrade model that
featured a remote control. What kind of lazy bastard needs
a remote control for their humidifier?? I thought about
this for a moment. We liked remote controls. Currently in our bedroom
we had separate remote controls for the television, the playstation,
the vcr, the dvd player, the stereo, cd changer and even our electric
blanket. These were all different shapes and sizes and were piled on
my bedside table, falling over and spilling onto the floor most of
the time. They of course required a constantly changing pool of
rechargeable batteries which I had to rotate in and out of stock from
the charger station on a regular schedule to keep them running. Would
one more remote be too much? Of course, if I gained another remote
control, I should probably also pick up another pack of rechargeable
batteries, and then I would need another charger station so I could
keep up with the rotation.....and now that I think of it I should get
another multi-plug adapter because I had no where to plug the new
charging station...and....Arrrgggh! What am I thinking? I don't
need another freakin' remote control!
It's great how technology
make things so simple.
I came to my senses and
talked myself out of getting the remote control version, and got the
regular model instead. I am proud to say it solved our dryness
problem, and we never once got surprised by a tornado inside the
bedroom. Despite appearances.
So when we moved into our
new place, I put the fancy humidifier in the corner of our bedroom
out of habit and plugged it in, but nothing happened. I tried turning
it on, pressing buttons, pouring more water in, tapping the LCD
screen, spinning the little dish on top, flipping the light switch on
and off, but it wouldn't do anything. Great, I thought, The
outlet doesn't work. I soon gave up and we basically forgot about
it. Since we didn't have a dryness problem in our new place, we
really didn't need it anyway.
One difference between
our old place and our new place was that our old place had central
air-conditioning. The place we moved into was built in 1870. Most
houses built in 1870 didn't have central air-conditioning, because
that was before global warming. This wasn't a problem at first, but
after the summer season kicked in we started having a number of
sleepless nights tossing and turning in the heat and humidity. We
figured if we put a fan near our bed at night, it would solve our
The next day I schlepped
out to the local big box store to pick up a fan. It had been a long
time since I had bought a fan, but they hadn't changed very much. I
found a big, quiet-looking one I liked and was about to get it when I
realized something: it had a remote control. What kind of
lazy bastard needs a remote control for their fan?? I
thought about this for a moment. We liked remote controls. I went
through the same thought-process about them spilling onto the floor,
and needing more batteries and a charging station and, aw heck. I
really couldn't justify bringing another remote control into our
Except this one was
different the remote control for this fan was built-in to the
front panel of the assembly. If you wanted to use the remote, you
detached the front control panel and walked around with it. But if
you didn't want to use the remote, you could just leave the
control panel in place and ignore it. I reasoned that I could just
leave the remote docked inside the control panel, and just pretend
that it didn't have a remote control at all.
I brought the new fan
home and plugged it in next to our bed, and set it up so that it was
pointing down onto where we would sleep. I sat on the edge of the bed
and, leaning forward, hit the power button....
.....and the humidifier
came to life.
The fan came on too, but
I was expecting that. I wasn't expecting the humidifier, which
had sat dormant on the other side of the room for almost 6 months
now. I spun around in surprise to look at it, whirring away like mad
behind me. What the hell?? I
hit the power button on the fan again, and the humidifier turned off.
Hmmmmm. To make sure I wasn't going mad, I brought Saamba into
the bedroom to show her. Her face twisted up all screwy-like with a
I thought that
outlet didn't work... she said.
Neither did I.
I replied. But it seems to work when we plug in a fan over
We exchanged worried
glances. This wasn't good. Reluctantly, I pulled out my cellphone and
called our landlord.
Kevin. Um, I think we might have an electrical problem.
The landlord make a sound
that landlords make when they get news that the 130 year old house
they bought a year ago might have electrical problems. I gave him a
brief description of the situation, and then made a mental note to
tell him to sit down before I make a call like this ever again in the
that's not good. I'll make some calls and see if I can get someone to
come take a look at it.
It was the weekend, of
course, so that wasn't going to happen anytime soon. By this point
Saamba had gotten worried about the prospects of a short-circuit or
an electrical fire, and so we unplugged the fan and a bunch of other
stuff. We then endured a few more sleepless nights of tossing and
turning in the heat and humidity. By early next week the call came
through on my cellphone while I was driving in my car.
Heya. I just spoke to Kevin he said you might have
a problem. I'm gonna come over in a few minutes to take a look at it,
but I'm not sure I understand. Could you explain the problem again?
sure. Well, there is an outlet in our bedroom that doesn't work. We
have a humidifier plugged into it, but it hasn't worked for months.
But we just bought a new fan, and when we pugged the fan into an
outlet on the other side of the room, and turned it on, the
humidifier suddenly got power.
think that maybe there is something wrong. Like there isn't enough
voltage running through the wires, but when I turn on the fan it is
drawing extra current or something and it is just enough to get the
humidifier in other outlet running.
The electrician made a
sound that electricians make when somebody who knows absolutely
nothing about electricity tells them what they think is wrong.
kind of equipment are we talking about here? Is this like... a really
no. Just your typical house fan. Made by Honeywell, I think.
Actually, now that I think of it, the humidifier is made by Honeywell
too....... I paused.
Somewhere, in the back
recesses of my mind, a small light came on. Not the standard light
bulb you see appear above people's heads when they get an idea, but a
much smaller light. Like one of the small lights you might see on a
Christmas tree inside a miniature doll-house. It was a general
sensation that something you just heard was, somehow ....important. I
took my foot off the accelerator and continued to coast down the road
while I thought. Why did that just sound important?
.....they are both
made by the same company......why is that bothering me? I
had a theory slowly forming in the back of my mind, and felt the need
to go home and investigate things further. Is that just a
coincidence? Or does that mean something? It didn't make any
sense, but this nagging feeling was bothering me.
can I call you back in like 15 minutes?
I drove back home and ran
into the bedroom, being sure to plug everything back in. I removed
the front panel controls from the fan and walked across the room,
crouching down in front of the humidifier. I pointed the controls at
it and pressed the power button....
I then rolled around on
the floor for several minutes, laughing like an idiot.
The first rule of
efficiency in modern manufacturing: make everything the same. Despite
the fact that I had purchased a humidifier without the deluxe remote
control feature, they really manufacture only one type and just
market it as different models. The only difference was that for an
extra $40, they would have thrown the remote in the box with it. The
fan we bought was no different being from the same company
they used the same infra-red remote control circuitry, with the same
control codes. The key to this was that, even when the remote control
for the fan was docked inside it's housing on the front panel of the
fan, it was still operating as a remote which sent a tiny light to a
receiver lens above it. When I was pressing buttons on the front of
the fan, it was sending signals up into the air bouncing off
our bedroom ceiling - and hitting the humidifier on the other side of
The great news was we now
had a remote which controlled both the fan and the humidifier, which
means I can be a super-lazy-bastard, and I somehow saved $40 in the
The bad news was having
to call the electrician and explaining what an idiot I am.
We never quite figured
out why we thought that outlet didn't work to begin with, we assume
the power switch was broken but the humidifier switches on
and off just fine when we use the remote. We can even adjust the
speed and humidity levels if you play with the right buttons. Its
like a dream.
Now we can lay in the
comfort of our bed, and have complete control of our environment.
With a turn of the wrist or the press of a button, we can adjust the
lighting levels, heat of our blanket, audio, visuals, speed and
direction of wind and yes, even the moisture levels of the air. And
when we want to check to see if our neighbor is home, we just play
with the light switch that does nothing, and he pounds on the wall.
What kind of lazy
bastard needs a remote control for their neighbor??
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