Tis the Season…

I haven’t posted during the holidays.

Any decent misanthrope knows this is the time to lay low and let the rest of the peoples have their warmth and cheer and family time.  

Although I try to avoid the clichéd “Bah Humbug!” I’m still in the “heart two sizes too small” category. I’m a cynic.  I’m always looking for the catch, the fine print.

Then WHAM! My Christmas miracle sneaks up like a ninja and there I am, wrapped in joy and wonder and gratitude.

But I’m starting in the middle. Let me back up…

For anyone who doesn’t know, I sustained a spinal cord injury seven years ago. It changed my life and my lifestyle. I had to completely re-invent myself. And while I’m not textbook destitute, there’s more ramen, tuna and peanut butter in the cabinet than most college dorm rooms. If something – anything – breaks, I’m screwed.

Being a person with a disability is expensive. Much of what I need, from filling up my gas tank to changing light bulbs to picking up the dog poop I pay others to do for me.  Not out of laziness, out of paralysis. 

In September, my 22-year old air conditioner gave up the ghost. In most cases this would be uncomfortable. With a spinal cord injury and the loss of one’s ability to thermo-regulate, this can be deadly. Real quick. Spinal cord injury takes away more than just one’s voluntary functions it also takes the autonomic functions like the ability to sweat or shiver.  

But, air conditioners cost money. Lots of it. And I simply don’t have it. So, I set the worry aside for a bit. I need to have AC by May but until then… well…it’s not May yet.

I continue to look for work. I search for something forgotten that I can sell. I continue to look for a roommate to help with some of the household expenses. If I can’t come up with the cash before it gets hot here in Arizona, I’ll have to give up my home and move to a nursing home.

I just spent a couple of months in a nursing home when I fell last February and broke 43 bones in my legs and feet. I vowed I would die before I would ever go back to such a facility forever. So, I need AC by May.

My neighbors, Edna and Fran have been worrying about this more than I have.

Recently, Edna saw a little notice in the newspaper. (Yeah, the hard copy that shows up on the driveway each day, people still read them!) She called Fran and together they conspired to take care of my air conditioner problem.

Hobaica Services, a local company that does heating and cooling as well as wine cellars and solar hot water systems founded a program called BEGIN- Business Entities Getting Involved in our Neighborhood. This is their third Christmas season where they provide new units to as many as eight needy households.  

Fran and Edna contacted Hobaica and somehow convinced them to donate one of those units to me. I have a whole new view on these two. They’re more than my sweet and loveable neighbor ladies, they are steely negotiators. Who knew?

Last week, Paul Hobaica called me out of the blue. Just as I was about to hang up on this presumed telemarketer, he mentioned Edna and Fran and facts about me. This was no random call. I was confused. He had to repeat himself and use small words. Hobaica was donating one of their units to me.

Me?

ME!

I probed for the catch. There are no free lunches. Surely, no one just gives away air conditioners. If it’s too good to be true… This is exactly how senior citizens get lulled into cons. They still believe in small-town Americana, apple pie, good deeds and honest neighbors. I am far too experienced (ok, cynical) for that. I probed some more.

He was patient and kind. The truth of it hit hard and I began to shake. And cry.

Hobaica Services, Edna and Fran had just saved my life. I can’t live without air conditioning; I would have to go to nursing home. I won’t go back to a nursing home. Period.

Days later, another Hobaica, this time Mike came by to take a look at my unit. There it sat, old and rusted. He climbed into the attic to look over the rest of the system and came down with pictures of the rusted out catch pan. It should never hold water so the malfunction in my attic had been long-term and caused some real damage.

Everything would need to be replaced. Not just the broken condenser out back but the air handler and furnace in the attic. He showed me the pictures of the failing equipment in my attic.

So.

Here it is.

The catch.

Sure I can have a new condenser but I have to buy all the rest of the system. Right?  “We’ll replace that too.” Mike finished without missing a beat. 

I could not have possibly heard him correctly. “What’s the fee?” I asked. I have really, really big dogs. I bet they can beat him to the door. I’m already figuring out how to explain the scam to Edna and Fran.

“There’s no fee.” He looks at me like I’ve just grown antlers out of the middle of my forehead. “We told you we’re going to take care of you. We can’t replace the outside unit and leave the rest. We’ll take care of it.”

Again, the tears. I can stay in my home. I don’t have to kill myself by May. Wow. Just… wow.

Today, a work crew from Hobaica showed up as scheduled and installed my new unit. Three incredibly professional young men started unloading tools and equipment. I recognized much of the stuff they were neatly laying out.

“What’s that?” I pointed to the huge bags. “Oh, that’s all the new duct work. We’re going to replace all the ducts to your vents. What you have in place is old and not very efficient. This will work better and save you money in the long run.” And so it was with the new thermostat and the new air return/filter thingie.

EVERY SINGLE part of my HVAC system was replaced. At no cost. Because it was “the right thing to do.”

Who are these people? Do they not know that we live in a world of profit above all else and cutting corners?  They espouse this thing that I used to expect but have forgotten… Business Ethics. They did the job the right way because it was the right thing to do and that’s who they are. They asked for nothing… not one thing in return. Wow. Just…wow.

A local business taking care of their community. They quietly but powerfully proved through their example that there is still honesty and integrity in the world.

The adage that you can judge a soul by how they treat the least among us is so true. I’m relatively invisible. They gain nothing but good will and perhaps good karma by their kindness.

This was charity. There is not a soul on the planet that would have faulted them for only replacing the condenser out back as they originally agreed to do. Or only the condenser and the air handler in the attic. But everything? All brand new? No skimping. No cost cutting.

Business ethics indeed!

The three young men who were here all day doing the actual installation were so polite and professional. I want to adopt them all. Raul, Tom, Richard, if you ever read this, thank you. And, Hobaica Services, you couldn’t have better ambassadors for your company.  

I poked around for more information on the BEGIN program. From Hobaica’s website: We estimate to have installed $49,400 worth of heating and cooling equipment with 136 hours of labor for this year. Projected value of the 3 years is $148,380 with 23 households helped.

In these times, in this economy, businesses are cutting back, not giving in the same ways they have in years past. Not these guys. Asked Paul about that today. He told me with a shrug that continuing to give was the right thing to do.

And here I sit, the biggest, Grinchiest, Scroogeist, bah humbugger wrapped up in my own Christmas miracle. The only thing missing is a little snow and a group of carolers. I bet the dogs can beat them to the door.

And there’s this thing inside me, trying to take root. I think it’s hope. Maybe faith in humanity. I’m still suspicious but cautiously open to the possibility.

The house is quiet now. Just me typing away. The only other sounds are the soft sighs of Pearl and Auburn’s deep sleeping breaths. The new furnace clicks on. Nearly silent, just a whisper of warmth surrounds me. Grateful tears flow.

Thank you Fran.

Thank you Edna.

Thank you Hobaica Services. 

Thank you to all the vendors who donated or discounted the supplies and equipment that now heat my home. 

And without one drop of satire or cynicism; God bless us. Everyone.

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6 thoughts on “Tis the Season…

  1. Another great blog entry Jen. I can relate to much of it. I wanted to add one thing though… You wrote: “Being a person with a disability is expensive. Much of what I need, from filling up my gas tank to changing light bulbs to picking up the dog poop I pay others to do for me. Not out of laziness, out of paralysis.” Although the little things like that do add up, it’s the medical expenses and equipment that are killing me financially. Even with good health insurance, there are lots of co-pays. Every visit to the doctor is $10. Hospital co-pays add up. The co-pay for my most recent manual wheelchair was $600. Co-pay for monthly supplies/prescriptions total about $40/month. Fixes to the the conversion on my wheelchair van are insanely expensive. It’s just crazy how expensive being disabled is. It’s been 33 years for me and though my injury has taken it’s toll on me physically and mentally, it’s the financial burden that hurts the most. Meanwhile, the drunk driver who caused my paralysis has 4 children, a summer home in Washington, a winter home in the tropics, and he travels the world.

  2. Hi Jen,

    I’m so happy that you finally caught a break. This past year has not been very kind to you so getting a new AC unit at no cost is hopefully the first sign of better times ahead. And with all the fixins’ too… duct work etc. You do a lot of community-based volunteer work so this is probably one of those earthly karmic returns. Hobaica Services is one helluva community-minded business. If I lived within their service area I would certainly buy my next AC/heating unit (heatpump) from them. My ol’ heatpump just turned 12 (2 years post-warranty) so it’s probably getting close to replacement time. I even agreed to a $39.95 13 point tune-up from a sales call although I’m on the federal and state “Do not Call” list. I just know that it’s going to need a little help this coming Florida summer.

    I’m trying to cut my expenses so bought one of those MagicJack Plus things. After getting it setup- all seems fine with it. Don’t fall for the $69.99 price though. Keeping your old number costs a one-time extra 20 bucks then an extra $10 a year. Total was $102 which included some kind of 4% federal sales tax or whatever. I should be saving around $60 a month though. Almost a free carton of cigarettes!

    I’m glad you got some well deserved help. I’ll give ya a call soon and we can check out the MagicJack Plus.

    Love you dear,

    Bob.

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