Well, they'd turned off the circuit to the furnace, but that was it. I wasn't entirely sure that the failure coincided with their departure, either. A day or two earlier, I had turned off the lights in the breezeway, and when I'd gone to turn them back on, nothing. I left it alone for a few hours, and when I next flicked the switch, they came on. But that wasn't working this time. Lut and I went down to the circuit box and flipped off, and back on again, every circuit in the house. No luck in reviving it.
I couldn't see how the HVAC people could've had anything to do with this failure, but I called them anyway; what the heck, the phone call was free.
I made no effort to guilt Randy, the shop owner, into thinking I was convinced they were to blame. "It's these two lights that are on one switch, at the top of the stairs. I don't think it had anything to do with your people, but it happened after you left so I just figured I'd ask."
He agreed that there didn't seem to be any thing they'd done that would have caused this -- or at least, nothing that wouldn't have been fixed by flipping a circuit on again. He thought it might be a problem with the circuit or the switch. "Do you have a fellah living with you who could maybe take a look at it?"
I haven't even owned a house a month, but already I've noticed that contractors uniformly want to explain things to "the man". If Lut is here, they talk to him. If he walks in while I'm talking to someone, they re-direct their conversation to him. Bear in mind that Lut has no real interest in home maintenance -- he didn't even want to live in a house, much less own one. While he's good with computers, he's not particularly mechanically inclined, and as far as I know, he doesn't know anything more about wiring or plumbing or roofing than I do. When contractors look to him, he promptly re-directs them to me: "Her house, her decision, I don't know anything about it". Yet their eyes will still drift back to him. I can just see their minds at work: He's a guy, he'll understand when I tell him about furnaces. And Lut'll stand there, laughing inside. Even one of my friends, when offering advice about the situation with the outlets, started by suggesting that he could walk Lut through the process. I don't really blame people for presuming that Lut will know more about home repair than I do. Mostly, it amuses me. It does get a little annoying, though, when we explain that I am the decisionmaker and they still want to talk to Lut instead.
Anyway, I toldl Randy, "No, I don't, but I've got some books; maybe I'll take a look at it myself."
Randy hastily backpedaled. "Let's not be too hasty. Here, I'll send someone out to have a look, just in case."
We arranged for someone to come out this afternoon, when I could get home early. Don, whom Randy had sent, was already waiting when I arrived; I didn't get home quite early enough. By this time, incidentally, I was quite convinced the problem was in the switch. The night before, when I tried to flip it (it's in the panel next to the kitchen light and I hit it by mistake) I discovered that it was sticking badly and would hardly move. I'd actually meant to tell them "I really don't think this is your fault, don't worry about it, I'll take care of it." But I'd forgotten.
When Don tried the switch, it'd flip, but it was squishy. We were both convinced by now that the problem was with the switch. Don fiddled with it and a gizmo to make sure power was reaching the panel (it was). Randy showed up and helped him out, and they determined that it was on circuit #8, along with the kitchen lights and the stove (but not the microwave or the fridge). Don then replaced the switch and my breezeway lights are working again. Yay! (Though, alas, the switch for the kitchen lights is black and the only switch Don had was white, so they're mismatched now. Oh well.)
But bear in mind that these are furnace and A/C people, not electricians, that they weren't charging me for this, and that the problem had nothing to do with any work they had done. Basically, they were only doing it to be helpful.
And I have a sneaking suspicion that they'd've been a whole lot less likely to do any of it if I'd been a guy. :D