Today is our tenth day without a furnace.

Well, technically, we have a furnace. Actually, we have two – the broken one that I go to the basement to kick and cuss at every now and then because I’m tired of being cold and the new one we’ve purchased that’s sitting in some shop twenty miles away just waiting to be installed next week.

Meanwhile, our electric meter is spinning like a record thanks to the extra heaters and we’re shelling out $20 a day in small propane tanks to keep the fireplace going and the house a crisp 64 degrees, which won’t kill us, but makes everyone living here wish they were dead.

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t have an extra $20 per day in my budget, let alone the spare cash sitting around to cover the cost of a new furnace and the new propane service being installed and yadda yadda yadda even more things about this furnance debacle that’s sucking up my greenbacks. (P.S. If you do have an extra $20 per day in your budget, shoot me an e-mail and TEACH ME HOW YOU DO THAT. Or just play a fun game of find-the-donation-button on Leslie’s site. KIDDING! [hint: it isn’t on this page] Except that I’m KIDDING! REALLY! Or mostly. No, I’m totally kidding.)

So, we’ve had to do some juggling, bill-wise.

I woke up this morning anxious because I knew I had to face the music and make a call to the bank about our car payment. As of today, it was late, and that has never happened before. I’d spent the night dreaming about the repo man (in my dreams, he wears a metal suit covered in spikes) and devising a plan for how I could hide the car until I could pay up, because how would we ever earn the money to pay if Dave can’t get to work? And how late do you have to be before they come and take it away, anyhow? Could it be today?

I paced around the phone for about ten minutes, practicing what I would say. Finally, I picked it up, dialed the number and bounced on Julia’s trampoline to use up my nervous energy. Otherwise, I probably would have burst into tears or yelled obscenities into the phone when they answered. What can I say? I’m fragile. It doesn’t take much to disrupt my homeostasis.

So, ring ring ring. A gentleman answers.

“Hello, Sir. My name is Leslie Grimmett. (big breath) My husband David and I have an auto loan with you and it is late. I’d like to make arrangements to rectify my mistake.”

“Are you within your grace period?”

“I don’t even know. I’ve never been late, you can check on that if you want, because I’ve never been late, so I don’t even know about my grace period because my game plan has always been to pay on time so I’d never have to know things like what my grace period is.”

“Did you receive a phone call from us?”

“No. I’m calling you first,” and in a small voice I added, “I didn’t want you to get mad.”

“Okay. Hold on. Let me transfer you to the correct department.”

Music plays and I’m on hold. I bounce and say “shit” twenty six times.

A woman answers.

I repeat, “Hello. My name is Leslie Grimmett. (big breath) My husband David and I have an auto loan with you and (even bigger breath) it is late. I’d like to make arrangements to rectify my mistake.”

“Okay, what is your loan number.”

I give the loan number.

“And what is the issue again, Leslie?”

“Well, my payment is late and I don’t know what my grace period is, but it’s late, because our furnace died and we had to get a new one and it just threw our finances all out of whack and I’ve never, never been late which you can probably see in your records there and we really need our car and I can bring my payments up to date by February 15th if that will be okay, but I just need you to know that this isn’t a habit of ours, being late, and-”

“Leslie?” the woman interrupts.

“Yes?” I reply, meekly.

“Your payment isn’t late.”

“What?”

“You made your January payment in December.”

“Huh?”

“Sweetie,” she says laughing, “you’ve been a month ahead on your bill for over a year now. You’ve never been late. Your next payment is due at the end of February.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m positive. You have nothing to worry about.”

I cry.

“But thank you for being so conscientious!”

I am still crying.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes. *sniff* So I just need to make my next payment and everything is okay?”

“Yes.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. Make your next payment by your February due date and you are fine.”

“Oh, thank you. THANK YOU! You have no idea what this means to me! Thank you! Thank you!”

“Well, thank you.”

“THANK YOU!”

“Okay, I’m going to hang up now. Thank you.”

“Thank you!”

I may have even whispered, “I love you,” but I think she’d hung up by then. Then, I danced around the kitchen and contemplated making that lady up a batch of buckeyes to show my gratitude, but then I thought she probably wouldn’t eat them because I came off a little nutty and she’d be concerned that I poisoned them or something. (I mean, once when I was in the working world, I had a sort of creepy employee bring me a dinner he made for me to the office. I told him I’d eat it later, and threw it away after he left so as not to hurt his feelings, because what if he poisoned it? And my mom said, “His feelings will still be hurt, because if he poisoned it and you don’t eat it, he’ll know.” So I get why she wouldn’t want my buckeyes.)

Anyhoo! I’m feeling pretty good about how dumb I am because apparently, it pays.