Pilot Light Fright

Let’s Be Frank: The Diary of a Divorced Gay Dad


Those who have followed along in my post-divorce misadventures will remember my stories such as “Lost in Lowe’s” or “Creature of the Night.” They told my tale of woes as I was entering a new world of fending completely for myself, after being with a handy guy for 17 years. I’ve learned that my house is usually my best friend, but sometimes she’s my bitter enemy. On the night of New Year’s Eve, she didn’t hold back and put me in a territory of terror.

5:00 p.m.

- arrive back in town from St. Louis, Missouri

- hastily drop off Briggs at his other dad’s house

6:00 p.m.

- stop by the package store and stock up (plenty of Tito’s)

6:30 p.m.

- shop at Whole Foods, in an attempt to look fancy

7:00 p.m.

- finally get back home to a pig sty

- text friends to confirm they are coming later

- try not to panic

9:00 p.m.

- finished cleaning house

- call Briggs to wish him a Happy New Year

- start having anxiety about what to wear

9:30 p.m.

- take shower

- start hour-long process of selecting an outfit

10:30 p.m.

- suddenly notice house is freezing

- don’t understand

- get really frustrated

- march down to basement and realize the pilot light is out

- have complete mental breakdown

So there I was, with friends coming over in less than a half hour, and staring at this giant alien machine in my cellar. I still have no idea what it’s really called. It was my nightmare coming true. I remembered watching the heat service man re-light it in the past, and it was a lot of drama for him, so I knew I was screwed. There was the 24-hour service number that I dialed, only to be met by an answering machine wishing me a Happy New Year. THANKS BUT HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR WHEN MY HOUSE IS F*CKING ANTARCTICA? I walked all around my house in a frenzy, and started in on that Tito’s I purchased earlier. I quickly came to the conclusion that I would have to take matters into my own hands.

With my fingers rapidly becoming more frozen, I typed into Google “how to light a pilot light,” and was presented with a million different options. Frantically, I found a YouTube video with a very nice old man walking me through a similar pilot light scenario. I must have watched that video 10 times before I got the balls to actually go do it. Two of my friends were already on their way, and the house was getting more uncomfortable by the second. I trusted my old man to guide me through this, and I removed the face of the machine.

Inside, it looked as confusing as human anatomy. There were wires and switches and levers and pipes everywhere. My job was to shut off the gas and power, so I wouldn’t blow up the house and kill myself. I found a random light switch on the machine, flipped that bitch off, and turned the thermostat really low. I located the gas valve, thanks to my old man friend, and turned the lever to off. I waited. I decided to light my lighter in a position that would let me sprint out of the room in case it exploded. Nothing happened. I felt a little bit of success, as I was continuing to stare into the guts of Wall-E.

Next was to find the actual pilot light itself – it was a good foot back into the machine, and in a very precise spot. I can only imagine this is what a straight man must feel like when trying to find the clitoris. I knew that this portion would cause me to have to look directly at it, and therefore I would have no time to turn my head if it ignited and blew up. I practiced doing a quick whiplash turn, and was hoping my reflexes would do their job if this should happen. I inserted the long lighter deep into its belly, and turned that gas valve to “pilot.” What felt like hours passed by, were in reality seconds, but on the third attempt, it lit! Hallelujah, praise Beyoncé, this gay man lit the pilot light.

I raced upstairs, cranked the thermostat to 80, and went back to check my work. It roared. The flames were large and dancing within the machine. I put the cover back on, and knew I saved the night, possibly the year. The doorbell rang shortly after and I answered with an enormous smile on my face. “Are you already that sh*tfaced?” asked one of my friends. “Nope, I’m not even buzzed – but I’m literally the manliest man in the world right now.” And with that smugness, I accomplished yet another seemingly impossible feat. The ball dropped that night, and I think both of mine did as well.

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