Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Curse You, Mercury in Retrograde!

by Gina Ardito

Photo by Efi21
Courtesy of MorgueFile

Whether or not you believe in horoscopes or the zodiac, you've probably heard the term, "Mercury is in retrograde." Usually when something goes wrong: your computer crashed, your car broke down, or you suddenly lost your job. While I can't say I believe that the alignment of stars and planets has any bearing in my life and how I live it, there's something to that whole retrograde thing I can't deny.

Every month I check my forecast, skimming through to see my best dates, my worst dates, and looking for those three fateful words. And guess what? Mercury's in retrograde from April 28 through May 22. I was coasting along okay, thinking maybe I'd skate away unscathed this time around.

But, no. Mercury was just toying with me. It began last week when I woke up one morning and discovered I had no heat or hot water. The oil burner would not turn on, no matter how hard or insistently I pressed the red button. My first thought? I'm out of heating oil. We get an automatic delivery every few weeks, but maybe they missed one? I checked my calendar. Nope. They'd come right on time in early April. I couldn't possibly be out of oil. I called my service company and they agreed it wasn't likely. Still, better safe than sorry. The rep told me to go out and check the level in my tank. I explained to the rep that I'd been told in the past that the way my tank is situated, you can't take an accurate level that way. He told me to do it anyway and talked me through the procedure, which is basically me putting a long stick down in the pipe, and then measuring the oil line. I got back on the phone. "It's about two inches."

"Wow," he replied. "That's low."

Now what? Well, he promised he'd send someone out to fill my tank ASAP. This is a term that means different things to different people. To me, ASAP means, an hour or two. To the oil company, ASAP means before five pm. I wound up losing a day at work, waiting for the guy to show up at three. And guess what? I didn't need oil. And I still had no heat or hot water. Back to the oil company for round two.

This time, when I called, I was told they could send a repairman immediately. Well, immediately is better than ASAP so sign me up. That would be immediately, first thing the next day. <sigh> Okay. If I have to wait another day, what can I do? Fine. Send the repair guy the next day. Luckily, my daughter volunteered to stay home so I didn't lose another day at work. And sure enough, the guy got there first thing: ten am. But hey, a few hundred bucks later, I had heat and hot water again! Yay!

For three whole days. Then the burner conked out again over this past weekend. Let me repeat that: on a weekend. The company's owner was more than happy to put aside his Sunday and come on by to see if he could fix it, provided I signed away the deed to my house and my firstborn male child. Or, I could wait until Monday. We opted to wait. (I think I made the right choice there.) We were scheduled guessed it. First thing in the morning. 

Our Monday first thing in the morning became three in the afternoon. (I made my son stay home this time. He didn't mind the staying home part since he just got home from college and was looking forward to foraging in the pantry while no one was around, but the getting up at seven am for an appointment eight hours later made him a bit surly.) 

The final diagnosis? I need a whole new heating system: tank, burner, lines, water heater. 

The cost? Oh, about $10000.00. (No, that's not a typo. It reads ten thousand dollars.) But look on the bright side! If I buy the burner from them, they'll write off a portion of the five hundred dollar bill they hit me with for the second service call. Be still, my heart.

Next time Mercury is in retrograde, I'm hiding in an underground cave 'til it's over. Maybe mercurial Mercury won't find me there.


  1. Gina, we in the South don't have oil burners--or if someone does, I don't know about them. Thank goodness. Wow, $10,000 for a new one! I hope your new ones keeps you warm and cozy with lots of hot water. Shame on Mercury!!

    1. Ah, Fran, don't remind me I still have a few more years in NY before I can take off for warmer climes. Unless Saturn decides to visit my money house and hand me that winning lottery ticket...

  2. Youch. That's a nightmare. I'm just sorry it wasn't fiction. But hopefully, you can find some positive in that experience by turning it into a story. Hugs.

    1. Thanks, Sofie. I do have a scene where my hero and heroine run out of heating oil in REUNION IN OCTOBER, which causes some strife. Yeah, that's autobiographical (with a fictional flourish).

  3. So sorry. I know all too well how those expensive house breakdowns hurt. Hope the bad house luck turns out to be good luck for REUNION IN OCTOBER and you sell tons of copies. Sending hugs.

  4. Hi Gina--
    Sorry Mercury wasn't kind to you. Hope the new system keeps you writing and working for many years to come.