7.15 Codename: Thermostat
A few weeks ago, I hosted the storytelling event, Stories We Don’t Tell, at my place. I don’t have many people over and wanted to make it as welcoming and comfortable as possible. For some reason, my place is fairly well insulated and I rarely need to turn the heat on in the winter or the air conditioner in the summer.
But there were people coming over! They needed to be comfortable! The day of the event, I tried to turn on the thermostat, but all I got was a blank screen. I have zero talent in being handy around the house, but actually managed to unscrew the thermostat from the wall. There was no battery, it seemed to be powered by a series of wires. All of the wires were different colours, similar to when you’d see the hero in a movie uncover a bomb attached to a clock counting down the seconds. There was no bomb. I was pretty sure there was no bomb.
I looked at the brand of the thermostat: Unisax. I was pretty sure they ran into all kinds of people mistaking them for something else. The website had little information, mostly smiling families standing beside their functioning thermostats or industrial-sized air conditioners or the many other products they seemed to sell. There was no way to contact them.
I went down to the building manager’s office. He was now a she. The man who had been the manager since I moved in was gone. A cheerful and smiley woman who spoke in a British accent sat in his chair.
“How can I help you?” She asked, in an excited tone.
“Where’s the building manager?” I asked.
“He’s away,” she said.
“Like, away on vacation?”
“No, just away,” she said through smiling teeth.
“Well, I wanted to ask about-“
“Right. How did you know?”
“We’ve been having trouble with those lately,” she said as she wrote a number on a yellow sticky.
“Unisax. Yes. Is there someone there who I should talk with specifically?”
“Nope, just call that number and they’ll stitch you up!”
Upstairs, I called the number. A man answered, “Yeah, this is Jerod.” I told him my problem.
“Yeah, we don’t do repairs, this is sales. Talk to Mike in maintenance.” He gave me Mike’s number.
I called Mike, he answered and I told him my problem. “Write this number down,” he said. “You want to call John. John is a guy in your neighbourhood who drives around with parts and tools and other stuff.”
I called John and told him my problem. “One of my guys named Jim has an appointment in your building tonight. Write down this number.”
“Are you guys actually unisex?” I asked.
“Hey, whoa, whoa,” John sounded offended.
“Sorry, I meant Unisax.”
“Yeah,” he said, ignoring my question. “Just call Jim, he’ll stitch you up.”
Jim couldn’t stitch me up. He told me that he didn’t have the right parts and provided me with an address where I could buy them.
“But you need to go there tonight at 8:00 pm,” Jim said as he walked out the door.
That evening, I drove the thirty minutes to a nondescript industrial-looking building down near Lakeshore West. I stepped up to the door, but it was locked, so I knocked. A slit in the door opened and a pair of eyes peered at me.
“Code word,” the eyes said.
In a screenplay, the word ‘BEAT’ is used to indicate a pause during a dialogue or action scene. That word would be used at that moment, along with the word ‘HOLD’.
BEAT. HOLD ON PAUL.
“Thermostat?” I said. He slammed the slit closed, unlocked a few locks and opened the door. When I stepped inside, someone hit me over the head and knocked me out.
I woke up in my place to a nicely air conditioned room, the temperature not too cold, yet keeping the hot summer humidity at bay. The thermostat was set at a breezy 23.5 degrees. What I didn’t know at the time, and wouldn’t discover until many months later, was about the camera planted inside the thermostat. That’s a completely different story for another time.