The pit and the pendulum

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By: Tom Fletcher, CFP®

When Christmas rolled around this year, I confess I viewed the large wrapped box in the corner of the room that wouldn’t fit under the tree with a good deal of suspicion. Yes, I’m one of those annoying people that literally tells his family not to get him anything for Christmas unless it’s on “the list” (one of these days for a follow up article I’ll write about the trials and tribulations of decluttering a home in the city with small rooms and limited storage).

This past year after attending a handful of suburban gatherings sitting around an outdoor fire during the pandemic, my wife began hinting about getting a fire pit for our courtyard. There’s no question it’s a relaxing way to spend quality time with friends: a glass of wine, casual conversations, the crackling of the fire and the smell of wood burning is pretty alluring to any human on a chilly evening.

The rub, however, with doing an outdoor fire pit in the city is that you can’t do an outdoor fire pit in the city. To clarify,

burning wood outdoors in tight spaces is a no-no due to the high risk of a stray spark starting a house fire with the potential to spread.

There’s a solution for everything nowadays though, and to comply with local restrictions, a gas fire pit will do the trick. By now I think you may be getting just a slight hint of what was in the box in the corner. Now I’m not stupid enough to outright decline a gift from my wife, I did make some subtle suggestions like “where do you think we’ll be able to store this, Honey?” and “do you think we’ll really want to invite our friends over to sit around a gas grill?” Gentle suggestions that fell on deaf ears.

So I took the logical next step. I did nothing. I didn’t open the box, I didn’t do any research on it, I just left it in the corner of our living room hoping my wife would get tired of it and send it back to the manufacturer. That of course didn’t happen. A couple more months elapsed before I finally gave up and researched how to return it to the manufacturer. Too late for a refund. Next I tried re-gifting it to my work colleagues. While they genuinely seemed to appreciate the gesture, each in turn graciously declined. The cruel reality had now sunk in: I was stuck with it.

One chilly night in early April I took the plunge. I unboxed it, hooked up the 12’ gas hose to our outdoor gas coupling and… it was great! Admittedly, the flame was gas grill blue for about 10 minutes, but after it warmed up it was an acceptable warm yellow flame that provided a nice, ambient heat. Will I miss the smell of wood and the fire crackling? Absolutely! But this works very well and is highly recommended. Where we will store it in the off season is anybody’s guess.