Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Saved from indoor Siberia by The Big Bazoo!

Hardships endured by our ancestors included fetching well water, shoeing the family horse and having to be vigilant for hostile native Americans on the midnight dash to the outhouse.

A hardship for our children involves having to leave the room to charge the phone when all the living room outlets are occupied.

So it was a modern sort of hardship last week on one of the coldest nights of the year the furnace went cold. A fuse had blown. The lights in the whole house were flickering, pipes were in danger of freezing and, gulp, none of the TVs were functioning.

It was like we’d become marooned in an orbiting Apollo 13.

I shined a flashlight on the fuse box, thus exhausting the sum of my furnace repair expertise. When that didn’t work, I said a prayer. 


In Latrobe when prayers don’t fix the furnace, there’s only one thing left to do.

Call The Big Bazoo!

One of the things I enjoyed about doing the Arnold Palmer book about why he never left Latrobe (to be published everywhere May 15) was it allowed me to celebrate in print why so many, Palmer especially, love living here.

It’s full to busting with larger than life people, real characters.And few are larger or livelier than The Big Bazoo. He’s a semi-retired electrician who lives on a street named for him,  Bazoo Way. That tells you plenty. We don’t name our streets after villains.

People know him as Bazzy or Bazoo and I once heard his wife, Mrs. Felbaum, call him Barry.

We’ve golfed and drank together many times. He’s just a lot of boisterous fun. And competent. He’s one of those small town guys you call in the middle of the night when you need someone who’ll come over when it’s minus 7 degrees out.

Really, it was alarming. The pipes were freezing; the fritzing electronics meant fire seemed a legitimate concern. Bazzie rushed over and shut it all down. He’d need to replace two pivotal breakers in the pitch dark basement. 

It was almost two hours of him standing above me on a step stool grunting and exerting over taut cables and me standing directly behind and beneath him holding the flashlight and hoping he hadn’t dined that evening at the local Mexican joint.

By the time the furnace came roaring back to life, the temperature in the house had dropped to 53 degrees, sort of what it was that day in Oymyakon in Siberia about 3,300 miles east of Moscow.

See, when it was 53 in my house it was 53 in Oymyakon, too … 53 below zero!

And that was the high. The low that day was minus 67.

They’re enjoying a bit of a thaw today. The high is minus 29. The record low in this, the coldest inhabited place on earth, is minus 79. 

I keep Oymyakon on my phone’s weather app whenever I feel a need for some bracing perspective. The town of 500 Russians has never recorded an above freezing day between Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day.

Who but an ambitious insulation salesman could endure in such a climate? How does a place so barren ever become a settlement?

Did the leader of some Siberian reindeer wagon train observe the scenery and say, “This feels like as good a place as any to build a new life. Everyone get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we begin constructing the golf course!”

I read an Associated Press story that says eyelashes freeze as soon as you step outside (above) and exposure is — duh — a common cause of death. It says grave diggers need to spend hours out of doors building huge bonfires to get the ground thawed enough to bury the dead, which leads me to believe digging Oymyakon graves is a common cause of death.

The short story left me with a blizzard of questions: Does the town have an ice cream shoppe? Does anyone see any point to attending Groundhog’s Day festivities there? Did the streaker phenomenon ever strike Oymyakon?

And does Oymyakon have a Big Bazoo of its very own?

I’m sure it needs one. Every town does.

You just can’t have ours.

Related …

No comments: