Let The Air Begin
Clark G Curtis



Is it just me, or does everybody enjoy the first click of the furnace in the fall and that musty smell that emanates from every portal in the house??? Okay, so there arenít many of us.

If not the furnace, then, I know you must enjoy warming your feet under the blanket with a hair dryer on a cold winter night or the first thing in the morning before you head off to work or school during the cold winter months.....So, I guess the glassy-eyed stare that only comes after electric shock treatment means neither of these experiences make your top ten list for those little extras in life. The ones that we can all get along without, but life wouldn't be the same if we hadn't experienced them?

Well, I'm here to let you know what you've been missing.

It all goes back to when I was a child. If my mother were still with us, I would ask her if I started getting goose bumps over the thought of forced air furnaces and hair dryers before, or after, I fell out of the crib and landed on my head. But since she isn't here, we'll assume this fetish occurred shortly after the womb.

I really can't put my finger on it, but as far back as I can remember I knew fall was finally here when the gas furnace kicked in for the first time. I don't know how to describe the smell, other than it was like warm air being forced through a box of dirt. It was music to the nostrils. Life just wouldn't have been the same had my dad actually changed the furnace filter more than once every ten years.

The only negative thing about this experience is that it also meant summer was over. So even though you liked the aroma of dirt being blown about the house, you still wanted to put it off as long as possible, so you could hang on to what was left of summer.

Therefore, I would go to all means, short of disconnecting the thermostat, to keep my mother from letting the air fly for the first time of the year. After all, once the dirt flies, the furnace air never smells the same for the rest of the winter. Goose bumps only occur when the initial burst of must hits clean air.

So once the begging and pleading finally wore thin, it was time for the annual fall concert, and my mother considering permanent psychological help for me complete with padded room, silver plated toilet and an ample supply of reading material. Asking her to delay the inevitable was one thing, but asking that I be present when it finally did occur, definitely had her looking under the "p's" in the yellow pages.

But regardless, once the indoor ambient temperature finally dropped to 80 degrees, with a comfort level of 81, it was time for the band to begin.

You must understand, my mother liked it toasty during the winter. She also owned stock in the Public Service Company.

That aside, it was time for one of life's little pleasures. As soon as the furnace kicked in, it was time to sit back and cherish those initial moments of inhaling the silt being blown about the house. The couch (the one that Smokey, our cat, had gouged numerous holes in while trying to hide her Catnip) seemed to be the perfect spot to sit back and enjoy. And enjoy I did.

The leaves were turning outside. You knew the temperature had just dropped below 80 degrees in the house for the first time since May, because the furnace just kicked in and the smell that was being forced through the home was beyond compare.

Life was good.. So good that before the furnace clicked off (which would be very soon because it was only 78 degrees outside) I moseyed over to the best heating duct in the house and took in one good blast of dirty air. I can sense the chills running up your spine as you think about what youíve been missing.

The fetish with the furnace doesn't end there. I also liked to sit on one of the heating ducts with a blanket wrapped around myself to capture any and all heat trying to make its way into the living room. This was tough at times, because Smokey, who we met before, also liked that same heating duct. But, it happened to be right next to the T.V. I was bigger than she was and I think you can figure out the rest.

During the winter months it's safe to say that I spent a lot of quality time with my buttocks parked on the vent next to the 25 inch Zenith. In fact, there was a day, when I could tell you exactly how many pixels there were in that screen.

And so was life for me as a youngster as I celebrated the "rites of fall" and did what every other cold-blooded American would do during the winter months: sit on the furnace duct.

However as you get older, and start developing those rolls that only teenagers can when their mother pumps Dairy Queen milk shakes, Dilly Bars and mashed potatoes into their system on a daily basis, it becomes more difficult to sit on the furnace vent and have any air come close to making it to your face.

I don't think I have to draw a picture here, but let's just say I had a set of buns that would have made Dumbo jealous. And, trying to park that load over a one foot square area made it difficult for anything other than the mole on my buttocks to catch some air. This defeated the whole purpose of pitching a tent and enjoying the indoors.

So, as a result, it was time to get creative. What else puts out hot air, but gives you more control? You're way ahead of me on this one. That's right, a hair dryer.

Yeah, I had the same fall thing for hair dryers that I did for gas furnaces. There was just something about sitting on the couch with a glass of milk on a Saturday night, watching Have Gun Will Travel, and blow drying my buzz cut after my weekly bath.

I tried to get my ma to let me blow dry my hair in the middle of July in Indiana. I almost had her convinced, but pop stepped in to say that wasn't necessary. I think the combination of the hair dryer in July and playing with the neighbor girl's Barbie doll was a bit too much for him to handle.

However, as soon as the weather started getting cooler, and the gas furnace kicked in, I knew there wouldn't be any arguments over the hair dryer. Ma knew you would catch your death of pneumonia if it was under 70 degrees outside and your buzz cut complete with a ski jump and butch wax was left to air dry. And thus began another one of those little pleasures that could only happen once the leaves started to turn.

And continue it did. To my pleasure, my mom finally upgraded from the steel hair dryer with the asbestos lined nozzle (wooden handle, on-off switch and hot/cold switch) to the multi-functional, plastic salon version, complete with hose, bonnet and multiple settings.

That hose was like having a furnace right at your fingertips. Get done blow drying your hair, without the bonnet, then stick the hose under the blanket and warm up your belly and toes.

I'm not too proud to say that this practice continued right through high school. The hair was obviously getting longer in the late 60's, and styling was important, be it winter or fall. After all, there were babes to be had. And by now my dad had officially thrown in the towel when it came to figuring out what the hell I was up to or why.

So, each morning during my senior year in high school, it was the same ritual. Get up and shower, sit down on the couch with my bowl of Wheaties on a T.V. tray with a spoon in one hand and the hair dryer hose in the other.

Once drying and breakfast were completed, I'd stick the hose under the blanket with the heat control on medium, so as to not burn the blanket (or my genitals) and catch a couple of more winks before heading off to school. This while my dad finished off the crossword puzzle in the Indianapolis Star while perched in his favorite Lazyboy. Such an enjoyable way to start the day, wouldn't you say?

I no longer sit on furnace vents, even though the urge is still there, but, my, have those hair dryers changed for all seasons.

So, everybody be fore warned. If the mercury drops below 40 degrees in September and you plan on visiting our home, you best bring a sweater. September is a little too soon to be cranking up the thermostat, despite the protests from my wife After all, there could be an Indian summer right around the corner, and we wouldn't want to smell the must before it's time, now, would we? Obviously, there's always a new 1600 watt Conair with multiple settings and heat proof handle to break the chill before we officially let the air begin.




Copyright © 1997 Clark G Curtis
Published on the World Wide Web by "www.storymania.com"