Sinclaire Sparkman: The hunt for heat

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated Jan 5, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Winter came in full force this New Year’s Day with temperatures dropping below 10 degrees for multiple nights. Normally we just turn up our thermostats and cozy under a blanket when winter brings its chill, but this kind of cold was a little more than we bargained for here in Tennessee. 

I live in an older house with no central heating unit, so when it gets cold outside it is up to layers, blankets and space heaters to stay warm. And I’m also one of those weird people that doesn’t mind the cold too much. I actually look forward to the time when the Earth tilts away from the sun to provide a respite from the heat, but I still found myself going through great lengths to stave off the shivers this past week. I’ve heard that if it comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb, so maybe we’ll have another 74 degree Christmas Day in 2018, but at least it has only been the temperature and we’re spared for now the inevitable snowfall that throws the South into chaos. Though we did see some flurries on Thursday and I may have spied a few on Christmas Eve, we have yet to have anything worth rushing to the store to stock up on milk and bread. 

There was one thing in short supply this past week though, space heaters. 

I returned home on New Year’s Eve just before midnight. My friends and I huddled by one of the two compact heaters provided by my landlord as we brought in the New Year. The other heater attempted to keep the bedroom warm. It had been cold the night before, and my normal comforter just wasn’t enough to keep the cold from creeping under the covers. My old sleeping bad lain across the top though made it nice and cozy. It’s not one of those newfangled bags with the hood that squishes down to the size of a loaf of bread. This sleeping bag has three layers of awesome warmth and spread out nicely over the top of my comforter. 

Coupled with two layers of pajamas, I made it through the night just fine. But I forgot to do an important thing, leave the faucets dripping and open the sink cabinets. So I woke up to New Year’s Day to frozen pipes and subfreezing temperatures. At least the toilet still flushed and I had enough extra water to make coffee, life’s little miracles. 

When my guests finally took their leave Monday, I had a mission to find an extra space heater and jugs of water. I knew the pipes probably wouldn’t thaw out until the temperature warmed up a bit, and Wednesday seemed pretty far away. So I went to the Walmart to see what I could find. 

My first stop was the space heater section. The shelves had a spattering of choices of radiators and compact heaters available, but only a few remained. At this point, I figured I could at least make it through one day just using some bottled water to wash hands and such, and I didn’t really want to drop the money on something I figured I’d only need for a short time. So I placed the nice $35 radiator back on the shelf and headed over to find some water. 

I entered the water aisle to find a small child crawling on the shelf in order to get the last jug of water from the very top, to the chagrin of her mother. 

“I can get it,” the child cried as her mother begged her to get down from there. They left with the last supply of gallon jug water to be found in the store. I ended up buying spring water from a gas station down the road, but it looked like the attendant had just opened the box. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one in Lebanon with frozen pipes. 

That night was the coldest night we’ve had here in a long time. I’m pretty sure it reached 0 degrees by sunrise, and even with three pajama layers, six layers of blankets and a cuddly cat, I was still shivering. 

The next day after work, which for me is around 10 p.m., I returned to Walmart to purchase the radiator. Unfortunately, everyone and their mother was feeling the same cold, and I found absolutely nothing in the heater aisle except for the displays and a handful of tiny, useless desktop heaters. The space heaters had been picked clean along with most of the blankets. 

With few stores open at that late hour, I returned home to shiver through the night and try again tomorrow. I had work in Nashville on Wednesday morning, so I stopped at a Walmart along the way and found the same bare heater aisle. I checked at the Lowe’s in Mt. Juliet and struck out again. The only space heater they had was a $400 fireplace I had no space or skills to install. 

In one last-ditch effort, I checked the Walmart in Mt. Juliet. Wonder of wonders there was one brand of electric heater still available…for $70. At that moment I sure kicked myself for not purchasing that $35 radiator. Luckily, that $70 heater had earned itself some bad reviews, and I ended up going with a slim version for $30. 

I tell you what, though, that thing is awesome. It sits on my kitchen table and blasts heat through the kitchen. It even turns from left to right to warm the whole room. 

Forecasters say we should be out from under this cold front by Sunday, but I’m sure old man winter isn’t through with us yet. 

At least now I have all the space heaters my house will ever need.  

Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at [email protected]

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