Hey, anybody could do this …

I like to think of myself as a can-do, take-charge kind of guy, so when it came time to replace the filter in my apartment’s heater-air conditioner unit last week, I felt more than equal to the job.

After all, this is S’lano County, where men are men and women shampoo with Jack Daniels.

Sure, I could have asked the apartment maintenance person to replace the filter, but hands-on guys like me don’t ask other people to do the sissy jobs for them.

After all, how difficult could it be? You open the heater, take out the old filter and put in the new filter.

The filter even has one of those little red “This Side Up” arrows to show the mechanically challenged which way is up. It doesn’t actually say “This Side Up” in case you only speak Urdu, but the little arrow is pretty obvious unless you’re holding the filter upside down, in which case it points in the opposite direction.

(You’re following all of this, right?).

Feeling supremely confident, I opened up the old heating-air conditioning unit and lifted the little metal spring bar to release the old filter. Unfortunately, that little spring bar is really springy and it sprang right up into a mass of wires, striking one uninsulated connection.


The connection broke and one of the little uninsulated wires made contact with the metal wall of the heater enclosure.


That’s when I reminded myself that it’s always good to turn off or disconnect large electrical appliances before working on them.

And things got worse because one of the little uninsulated wires then made contact with the metal wall of the heater enclosure.


The contact completed some sort of electrical connection that caused the heater to begin operating independent of its wall-mounted control unit. Once a slave to my whims, the heater-air conditioner was now its own master.

I had created a monster, and from deep inside the infernal device, I was sure I could hear a sinister “Nyahahahaha!”

An unnerving sound to say the least, particularly when little blue sparks are still dancing around your head.

Of course, I reasoned, all I had to do was remove the loose wire from the metal furnace wall and I’d have everything under control…


And that’s when I remembered, rather lamely, that most modern households have remarkable little devices called circuit breakers that can be used to interrupt electrical power to demonic heater-air conditioner units.

Being the can-do, take-charge kind of guy I am, I located the breaker box behind an old Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar and flipped a switch. Once again, I was the reigning monarch of my one-bedroom apartment.

After that, replacing the heater-air conditioner filter was a piece of cake. And, I discovered, splicing two pieces of electrical wire is considerably easier when there’s no current flowing through them.

Every now and then, though, long after midnight, I’m awakened from a peaceful slumber by what sounds like an eerie “Nyahahahahahaha!”

And that, amigos, can’t be good…

Originally published June 1, 2003

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