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Hot Water is Good

November 5, 2017

Last Sunday, when I was making supper, I noticed that the hot water from the tap was not hot, but just warm.  Something was wrong.  I went down the basement to look at my hot water heater.  Water was dripping out the bottom, and running across the floor to the floor drain.  Fortunately, the stream of water missed all the furniture in the basement.  I shut off the cold water feed to the water heater, and mopped up the floor.  The red button on the gas controller had already popped up, meaning that the pilot light had gone out.

The sink was full of dirty dishes.  I had intended to put them in the dishwasher after supper.  That was no longer possible, with no hot water.  I had intended to have a shower the next morning.  That was also no longer possible.  There was no way I was going to have a cold shower.  The very thought made me shiver.  I was going to call the local plumbing and heating company in the morning to get a new water heater, but I didn’t know what they would say.  I was filled with anxiety.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night.

What am I going to do?  I thought about living conditions in the north of England, that I had read about in The Road to Wigan Pier, by George Orwell.  The houses there had a single water tap, cold water only, over the kitchen sink.  People living there had to heat water on the stove for washing dishes or for filling the bathtub.  I could do that too, although I had an electric kettle instead.  How long would I have to live like that?

The next morning, I had breakfast with plastic utensils and the one plate I had left.  At 8:00 am, I called the plumbing and heating company.  I told them that I needed a new hot water heater.  The person I spoke to said that she was very sorry, but they couldn’t do it today.  I said “How about tomorrow?”, trying to be cooperative.  She asked me if I could hold the phone for a second.  She would be right back.  Five minutes later, she told me that they had shuffled things around, and that somebody would be there with a new water heater within the hour.  I was very grateful.

I’d been through this process before.  I had partially drained the tank.  I had a hot water tap left open all night to relieve the pressure.  The gas was off.  The furniture was out of the way.  There was a ring at my front door.  It was the first person from the plumbing and heating company.  The second showed up a few minutes later.  It took them less than an hour to install my new tank and haul the old one away.  They did an excellent job of installation.  I was very pleased.  When they left, the new tank was heating water.  I was happy to pay them.

I went out for lunch, but when I returned the hot water was hot.  This was wonderful.  I loaded all the dishes in the dishwasher, and started it running.  I had a shower.  Pretty soon, my life was back to normal.  I’d grown so used to hot water that I expected it to be there all of the time.  One little interruption was quite disruptive.  I was amazed by how dependant on hot water I had become.  I learned gratitude for the small comforts of life.

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