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A familiar chill runs down my spine I'll make a note to weatherstrip that, too


ONE RECENT afternoon, I saw a leaf fall and I started worrying about the furnace. A few nights later, a draft of cold air rushed in from a bedroom window, and I felt guilty that I had not yet removed the air conditioner and weatherstripped that window. Then, at breakfast, I began studying the newspaper advertisements for all-weather tires.

These are symptoms of a malady that overcomes me and many other folks in the fall. I call it the cold-weather-is-going-to-get-me syndrome.

It is common among homeowners, but has been known even to strike renters. Basically, when you have this affliction, you get a knot in your stomach and feel like the fabled, lazy grasshopper who got surprised by cold weather and ended up with his antenna in a sling.

When the ailment seized me the other day, I tried to calm myself. I told myself that I still had plenty of time left. I reminded myself that serious leaf raking, an activity that is a precursor to cold weather, is just starting. But then I noticed that it was getting dark early in the evening. And I heard the wind rattle the windows. And a hard rain came through and stripped a nearby buckeye tree of its leaves. And my stomach tightened.

Once the feeling of fright subsided, I was overcome with the feeling of deja vu. As I looked at the gas furnace, knowing I would soon be vacuuming out its dusty insides and lighting its pilot, I asked myself, "Didn't I just do that?"

And as I struggled with an aluminum storm window that refused to fit in its track, I thought it all seemed very familiar. Hadn't I struggled with the same window last year? And the year before that? And the year before that?

But when you are a home-owner dealing with the cold-weather-is-going-to-get-me syndrome, it doesn't matter that you have "Been there. Done that." What matters is doing it again and again. What matters is getting that storm window fixed before the frost gets on your pumpkin.

That is one of the ways being a property owner changes your outlook. Before I owned a home, I thought the cosmic questions nTC of life were "What is truth?" and "What is the meaning of existence?"

Now, if I had a question-and-answer session with the all-knowing being, I would ask, "Why do the storm-window companies either go out of business or stop making replacement parts?"

Moreover, if I had time for a follow-up question on cosmic truth, I would ask, "Are radial tires really ever marked down or are the so-called 'sales' just a ploy to get you in the store?"

Back in the days when I drove my father's car, tires were not my concern. But now that I am in charge of keeping the family vehicles rolling, this quest for the truth about tires consumes me.

I have found that one way to treat the cold-weather-is-going-to-get-me syndrome is to draw up a plan of action. Rather than trying to batten down every hatch all at once, I batten down a couple of hatches at a time.

So one weekend I will take the air conditioner out of the window, put in the storm door and maybe struggle with storm windows.

Another weekend I might rake leaves, carry the lawn furniture into the basement and struggle with storm windows.

Once we get into the serious "shut-the-door" season, I'll put fresh weatherstripping on the doors. I have done it before, I know I will do it again.

It is a ritual of the season. Speaking of rituals, this weekend I plan to cope with the cold-weather-is-going-to-get-me syndrome by curling up under a blanket and watching the World Series. I figure, no matter how rotten the weather gets, nothing really bad can happen to me or my antenna until after "the summer game" wraps up its year.

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