Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Feelin' Hot, Hot... Not

In Costa Rica, as a missionary I lived in 5 different places, each with it's own special ....idiosyncrasies.  My first area had no real ceiling and no front or back doors, just creepy, spider-filled rafters over our heads and iron gates between us and the outside world.  Chickens happily stepped through the bars to come in and peck grains of rice I scattered at my feet while I ate my breakfast.  In my second place, there was no way to cook, so I used a hotplate on my bed to scramble eggs which thankfully, I was able to buy two at a time from the little corner market, since we also lacked a fridge.  My third home had an open concept; walls that only went about 8 feet high like tall bathroom stalls opening to the rafters and roof above, which the bats very much appreciated as they made their way across the rafters to our room (okay, it was one bat, but it was the size of a chihuahua. And anyway, hello!  It was a BAT!).  My fourth little place was the most exiting; tarantulas in the yard, poisonous dart frogs to lull you to sleep at night, and cockroaches in the fridge.  It even boasted, a first for me since arriving in the country, a tiny water heating system; an electrical device that was attached to the shower head that instantly heated the mountain water from icy to faintly chilly-warm.  It came with the added thrill of a mild electrical current that ran through the metal shower knobs, giving a tingle that ran up to your elbows every time you turned them, and if you were lucky, a little shock as well.  When I got to my last area, I was awestruck by something I had not experienced since leaving the United States; a hot shower.  Though by then I had long outgrown my wasteful American habit of turning the water on and leaving it on till I was all done.  No, no, in Costa Rica you get wet twice - once to soap up and once to rinse off. The time between is a frenzied lather and scrub, and a hasty shave.  That's okay though, the showers were a favorite hang out for mosquitoes, so you never wanted to loiter too long exposed to the elements.  The only thing worse than a mosquito bite is a mosquito bite in a place you can't scratch in public.

I have, since that time, held a certain reverence for hot showers. It is something that, as Americans, we come to expect and even claim to need.  How many times have you said it in your life; I need a hot shower?  So it was rather a shock when Guy announced two weeks ago that the water heater wasn't working.  We could tinker with it and get it to turn on long enough to heat a tank full, but soon it would be out again.  We called Patrick, our trusted plumber, who upon completing his exam of the unit declared the worst; it was pointless to repair it.  How did he put it?  It would be like "throwing good money after bad" to invest $400 in a 24 year old water heater.  He offered his remedy, which came with a $1200 price tag, where he would install a heater that he purchased through his regular supplier, including his labor and extra parts.  But because we have sent a lot of business his way, he made a second suggestion; we could find a water heater on our own and just pay him for the install. The price was coming down, but still topped $800.  I told him I would talk to Guy.  Patrick said he would try to check around for a price on the bad part, if he could even get it anymore, to just repair the old thing, but he was very busy with jobs.  It may be a few days.

Do you know what? I have become spoiled in a hot-waterly way!  It turns out that dishes really should be washed in hot water.  Diapers too.  It's also nice on a chilly Sacramento morning to NOT step your pale parts into a stream of ice water.  I mean, unless that's your thing.

My dad is 3 hours away, too far to come to the rescue, so I did the only thing I could think of; I called Dan.  He was out in his yard, probably building a gazebo or laying cement or something.  He's like that.  He said he'd be by after the daylight faded and he couldn't see to work anymore.  I love a man who measures time by the setting sun.  I asked him to stay for dinner.

Dan came just after dark, still in his work clothes, and surveyed the damage.  He said most of the job was self-doable (I'm working on my own dictionary, can you tell?) but there would be some welding that he wouldn't be able to pull off.  It looked like a professional would be required afterall.  We called Steph's contractor dad, Don, and asked him to price it for us.  Maybe we would get a lower bid.  Don just laughed in his cheery way and said, "I'll be by Saturday morning with my truck," refusing our offer of payment.  He would take Guy and help him choose the best model for the money, and "pop it in" (even though I don't believe in reincarnation, in my next life I want to be a plumber or an electrician.  Nobody ever has an art emergency.  "Help! Help! I am in dire need of a still life!"  Yah.  Doesn't happen.).  

The next day was Friday.  One more day before the joys of a hot shower would be mine again.  Guy woke me to get the big boys off to school.  "I called for a sub," he said in a miserable voice.  

"Uh-oh," I worried.

To understand what those five words meant, you need to know that at the end of each school year Guy usually still has all his sick days.  When I was hospitalized last year, he had enough sick days built up to take off two months if needed.

Guy doesn't call for a sub.

He slept that day till 4PM, ate a little soup, and then slept some more.  In twenty years of marriage I have never seen Guy so sick.  He got up for a few hours that evening before he fell into bed exhausted that night.  "I have to be well by tomorrow.  Don is coming," he croaked.

"We have been without hot water for 5 days.  We can get by a few more" I said in my most confident-wifey, go-back-to-bed voice.

 In the mean time I got a call from Dan.  He was at the big hardware store pricing water heaters for us (yup, that's Dan.  I challenge anyone even half his age to keep up with him).  He had all the specs.  Of course he did.

While Guy slept, I took a crash course in Mechanical Hydro-Thermal Financing.   It turns out there is an income based program where qualifying homeowners can get a free water heater.  We made $80 too much to qualify -  $80 per year.  That's $1.53 too much income per week, or in my world, about 3 rolls of toilet paper.  So we decided to go for the rebate the gas company offered for qualifying energy-efficient water heaters.  The Energy Factor (EF) needed to be above 0.67.  The water heater we could afford had an EF of 0.62.  That's 0.05 too low, in case you were slow on the math, or the energetic equivalent of one flap of a butterfly wing.  So we stepped up the price scale to a unit that, with the rebate, put it in a tolerable, if not slightly steep, price range.  Mockingly, that particular heater was one half of one tiny inch too big to fit through the doorway to the water heater space.

I began to feel a little picked on.

The nice thing about having had a big change-your-life crisis, as anyone who has had one will attest, is that it leaves daily reminders to chill the heck out.  Things may get bad, but honestly, we are talking about first world problems here.  We have food, we have shelter, we have love and health.  What's a little cold water?  Onward and upward!

(here is where I write "to be continued". 
 Guy puzzled that anyone could write so much
 about a water heater. 
 I told him to go soak his head.)

  To be continued!

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