Strange things happen around here.
Some can be explained, others not – but all too often the explanations are stranger than the events.
Take our thermostat.
After we moved into our new house, my wife and I began squabbling over the room temperature. In the winter, it was too cold and in the summer too hot.
I accused her of fiddling with the thermostat and of course she denied it. Then she had the gall to accuse me of doing the same.
“Thermostats don’t set themselves,” I told her, only to hear the same words tossed back against me a week later.
Then one day while going through the bills, she had an epiphany.
“Look at this,” she said, handing me the quarterly water-softener bill.
“What?” I asked.
“Right there,” she said, pointing to a line midway down the page. It read: adjusted thermostat.
Since we rent the softener, I called the company who owns it. “What is this item labeled adjusted thermostat on my bill?”
“Let me check,” the voice on the other end of the line said.
A moment later, she came back. “That,” she said, “is ServicePlus.”
“What is ServicePlus? And did we order it?”
“You don’t order ServicePlus, it is just something that we provide.”
“And charge for,” I said.
She didn’t respond.
“You are a water-softener company. What are you doing changing people’s thermostats?”
You know how it is when someone listens to you but not does hear you? That’s what this was. Living down here, I get that a lot. I am a stranger in a strange land and all too often there are things that are understood that I simply do not understand and try as I might, I cannot alter the trajectory of local culture. It will always prevail.
“We find that many of our customers are careless about setting their thermostats. We care even if they do not. It is why we call it ServicePlus.”
“How often is this done?”
“Caleb comes out once a month,” she said.
I had the phone on speaker and my wife began to nod knowingly. “Caleb O’Leary,” she half whispered.
“You know this guy?”
Of course she did. Everyone knows everyone around here – but me.
“He’s a little odd,” she said, “but really sweet.”
Still, I wanted to get to the bottom of it. “When was the last time he was here?”
I could hear fingernails clicking against the keyboard on the other end of the line.
“He was at your house on the 13th of last month.”
“I don’t remember an appointment on that date.”
“With ServicePlus, no appointment is necessary.”
“So how did Caleb get in?”
The question confused her for a minute. “Oh,” she said, “you are the guy who locks his doors.”
I am. It is a city habit I have retained.
“So how did he get in?” I repeated.
My wife, who continued to pay bills, paused for a moment then reached over to another pile of papers and shuffled through them.
“Ah, here it is,” she said, underlining an item on the water-softener bill and handing it to me.
ServicePlue Oct 6: Locksmith.