Home > Anxiety, Disturbing, Neurosis, Ohio, Silliness, Sleep, Traumatic Childhood, Worry > The Time I Thought My Heater Was Alive

The Time I Thought My Heater Was Alive


When I was young, I attributed human qualities to nearly all inanimate objects. My childhood baby blanket had feelings, as did all my stuffed animals. I felt bad about putting hot things on counters, thinking that the surface must get very annoyed. My entire world was animistic, and I spent a good portion of each day trying to appease all these different objects.

Though there were several demanding items in our house, the harshest mistress was the heating system. We lived in a house with an old-fashioned water heater system, and each room along the route was warmed by hot water passing through a narrow pipe along the baseboard. My and my sister’s rooms were at the very end of a long and torturous route, so the water was usually no more than lukewarm by the time it got to us. As a result, I was freezing all winter without a space heater.

However, despite the chilly water passing through our pipes, the heaters still made an ungodly racket each and every night. Bubbles caught in the the pipe would burst and crack, and with the metal chamber around the pipe, the noise echoed until it sounded like angry gnomes were kicking the wall hundreds of times per night. I was a light sleeper, and all these knocks and bangs would keep me up most of the night.

I didn’t know the mechanism of the sounds, so I figured the heater was keeping me awake in order to punish me. “What do I need to do?” I’d whisper. “How can I make you stop?” After a week or so of sleepless nights, I would get desperate and start talking to the heaters.

I’d kneel down on the floor in my pajamas, and tap on the heater, and speak to it in soothing tones. “There, there,” I’d murmur, “There’s no need to get so upset.”

I eventually somehow got it into my head that the heater was making so much noise because I wasn’t paying enough attention to it during the day. That’s it — it was just lonely! So I’d crouch down and pet the heater each day, stoking it softly up to 100 times, begging it to please please PLEASE be quiet that night.

My tender ministrations were rarely rewarded, and I’d occasionally cry and scream at the heater, telling it that it was an ungrateful bitch. But with every burst of loud clanging, I’d be on my knees, apologizing and petting it, telling it that I didn’t mean it, and to please just settle down.

I frequently slept in the living room where we had a fish tank that provided enough white noise to cover the worst of the banging noises. This whole process repeated itself every winter for a few years, until I finally got it into my head that the heater was not, in fact, sentient.

If I had only discovered ear plugs years ago, this entire psychotic episode might never have happened.

  1. Cher
    January 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm


  2. dashielblades
    February 23, 2012 at 12:21 am

    So good.

    I’m still animistic. Particularly about stuffed animals and my computer. Of course everyone knows computers are sentient. But fruit, too. And veggies. That’s why I feel bad chopping them.

    I have to show you the building next door that’s been boarded up with sheet metal over the windows.

    I imagine the spirits of the walls and the chairs and desks all chatting with each other all night long.

    So creepy.

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