The one where the water heater broke - twice.

For years, I was a manager at a large chain bookstore.  One of the most challenging aspects of my job, aside from making those poor employees actually WORK for their pay, was maintaining a 22,000 +/- square foot building.

Something was broken all the time.  All.  The.  Flippin'. Time.

I dealt with repairmen on at least a weekly basis, and usually it was more often than that.

I spoke fluently to them about grease traps, HVAC units, reverse osmosis water filtration systems, R2D2 scanner units, paint colors, stopped up urinals, pounds per square inch of pressure necessary to automatically close a door, breaker boxes, electrical closets, broken slatwall, duct detectors, etc.



I knew my building inside out, and could proactively pinpoint problems and discuss them with the appropriate repair persons in an intelligent, informed, logical manner.

This is a skill that, for some reason, never has and never will translate to my real life.

When something breaks at 154 Hidden Court, I almost always attempt to fix it myself first.  I faithfully Tivo shows on both HGTV and the DIY Network, so I'm more than qualified.  Anyway, when that doesn't work out, I a) panic and b) call RJ.

RJ then calls the appropriate repair person, and takes time off from work to come home to deal with him.

Because I can't.

I just can't.

For whatever reason, when faced with a plumber, a gardener, a carpenter, and electrician on my home turf, I become a bumbling idiot.  No, that's not the right phrase.  It's much more helpless female/Blanche Dubois than that.

 Which brings us to last week.

On Thursday, I got up at my normal butt-crack of dawn and headed into the basement to hop on the treadmill and get my run in.

On the way down the steps, I heard a strange noise.  It sounded like... running water?  Uh-oh.  

The water heater, which lives in the basement, was pumping water out like a faucet on full blast.


I was pretty sure that wasn't supposed to happen.  

I yelled for RJ, but by the time he got downstairs, I had found the shutoff valve and, well, shut it off.  Now there was no more running water, just STANDING water, which is ever so much better, especially at 5am.

Anyway, none of my HGTV shows had covered this particular problem, so RJ called a plumber, who would come at 10am that day.  Unfortunately, he wasn't going to be able to miss work, so I was on Plumber Duty. 


I cleaned up the water and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Most plumbers are on Eastern Plumber Central time, which has no bearing on or resemblance to real live time.  Anyway, 11am came and went, and the plumber finally arrived.  He was a typical plumber looking guy - sort of sandy haired, probably ate too many Doritos in front of NASCAR on the weekends, and totally non-threatening, as plumbers go.

"You got a leaky water heater?" he said.

"Um, yeah, it leaks, well I wouldn't call it LEAK exactly, it more like gushes.  Or pours.  Maybe a I have a POOR water heater.  Ha!  Yeah, that's it." All the time, I'm standing in the doorway, preventing him from entering.

"Well, ma'am, if you can show me where it is..."  

"OH!  OF COURSE!  FOLLOW ME!"  Why was I shouting?  Plumber seemed  to wonder that, too, and took a couple steps back and broke all eye contact with me.  He took a deep breath, then bravely stepped into my house.

At this point, I decided it would be better for all of us if I shut the hell up, so I directed him into the basement with a series of complicated gestures, sort of like flashing gang signs and/or interpretive dance. Brave soul that he was, he followed on...

He glanced at the water heater for .1827 seconds, declared it needed a new overflow tank, and asked to see my regulator.

Well, how FRESH!  He didn't even buy me dinner first.

"Uh, bumble, bumble, uh, I, uh, toil and trouble, uh, I don't know what that is."

"Show me where the water comes into your house."

OH!  That I can do!  

He glanced at THAT for .17493 seconds, and declared we needed to put a water regulator on our house, or all our pipes were going to go Old Faithful.  Soon.

"Uh, I, uh, what?  Uh, let me talk to my husband about it."

He replaced the tank, said it might buy us a little time, warned me to get a regulator put on ASAP, and got the hell out of crazy town.

Whew, glad THAT was over...

The next morning, I stumbled out of bed, headed downstairs to get some weightlifting in, and heard it again.  Yep.  Water gushing out of the water heater.  Turn off.  Clean up.  Rinse.  Repeat.

RJ called the plumber guy again, told him to come put a water regulator in TODAY, and left on his merry little way to go to work.

Lucky bastard.

Anyway, Plumber Guy showed up, and carefully avoiding my gaze, he made his way down to the basement where he installed said water regulator in record time.  

"MA'AM!" he yelled.  "Can you come down here so I can show you what I done?"  Plumbers are not known for excellent grammar.

I made my way down the steps and over to Plumber Guy, who was pointing proudly at a doomehickey thingamajig that was now sticking out from one of the water pipes.  

At this point, he began to explain pounds of water pressure, how to adjust the regulator, etc. with great proficiency.  Also, every sentence he said began with "Now you tell your husband..."  As in, "Now you tell your husband that this is set to 55 pounds of pressure, and you tell your husband that he can adjust it up a little by turning this screw a quarter turn and be sure to tell your husband that this access door I took off can be replaced if he moves the hinges from the top to the side..."  

I snapped out of my self-induced coma for a minute.  Hey!  I hung that door!  Oh well,  he seemed so earnest that I didn't correct him.

And then finally, finally, he was gone.

I poured myself a stiff drink, never mind that it was before noon, then I sat on the couch for the rest of the day, staring off into space.  It was really all I could manage to get done.

Plumbing is hard work, you know.

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