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Balancing tough and toasty-warm

Back in the early days of this fall weather season, which I think started in earnest somewhere around Aug. 3, I decided I would tough it out as long as I could. I would save on utility bills, I reasoned, while simultaneously boosting my image as a hardy Minnesotan, tough enough to tolerate indoor air temperatures that plummeted as low as the high 40s.

That might not seem extreme, but let's be honest: I need to jump on any opportunity I can find to describe myself as tough.

It worked for a while. While the weather outside turned cloudy and cold, my furnace remained off. The natural gas bills stayed low and I passed myself off among the most rugged of Minnesotans. I took great pleasure in dropping into casual conversation phrases like, "Yeah, I haven't turned my heat on yet." Or, "You're cold? I was thinking I might crack open the windows tonight." Even, "Cold does not affect me, for I am a Viking!"

That last one mostly just made people look at me funny, though, so I didn't use it more than a half-dozen times.

I was rugged. I was tough. Or, as tough as you can be when you've got every blanket in the house piled on your bed. As rugged as is possible when at least three of those blankets could best be described as "soft and fleecy."

Maybe it wasn't a perfect situation, but it was doing the best I could with what I had.

Not even the best things in life last forever, though, and eventually a desire for basic comfort and an interest in maintaining feeling in my fingertips won out over any remaining desire to keep up my show of cold-weather machismo. I turned on the heat, and waited with bated and slightly visible breath for warm air to wash over me.

And I waited.

And I waited.

Nearly a month later, I'm still waiting. Apparently my furnace isn't nearly as tough as I am. Somewhere during the warm summer months, as it sat dormant, it decided, like Paris Hilton before it, that it enjoyed a life of inactivity.

I have to admit, it's a lot easier to feel like a tough guy going without heat when you believe you have a choice. There's nothing rugged about mechanical failure. There's nothing noble about forgetting to change your furnace filter.

Attempts to repair my malfunctioning furnace have gone less than smoothly in the weeks since I discovered the problem. I was distracted at first by the need to replace the transmission in my car. A space heater in the bedroom will get me through cold nights, but it won't get me home when my car refuses to shift out of park.

I continued to be tough, but I was significantly less excited about the idea. And while publicly I kept up my stoic front, inside I whined a manly, rugged whine and hoped for sunny weather

When I finally got someone to come look at the problem last week, his efforts to restore my climate-controlled comfort were thwarted by a missing piece that couldn't be found anywhere closer than Wisconsin. The part was ordered, and now nearly a week later I'm waiting for it to be installed. If everything goes according to plan my heat will be back by the time I head home for the weekend. All it will have taken is a day of my life and a third of a paycheck.

The important thing is, I'll be warm.

But, you know, a manly, rugged kind kind of warm.