Mr. Fixit has left the building — alas, without hot water

I think I was completely upfront with my wife before we got married in telling her that handyman was not part of the package she was getting. If I was not, I’m sure she realized early on that “Mr. Fixit” was not a member of our household.

Her first clue could have been my attempt to finish a basement, including installing a drop ceiling. I accomplished that task — and if the corners were a tad off kilter, and if some ceiling tiles rattled a bit when the door closed, well, it was probably a result of the foundation settling. We enjoyed that basement retreat for several years and the small imperfections simply added a bit of charm to the room.

In the following years, if I started through the house with a hammer, an adjustable wrench, or a screwdriver, Pat learned to head me off with a “What are you doing?” She did encourage me to use the plumber’s helper on occasion, and she never objected when I volunteered to dig holes for her as she put out annual plants each spring and fall.

She often noted that the most useful tool I owned was the Yellow Pages.

So, I felt little compulsion last night to delve into the workings of the water heater, which, as is always the case, chose a weekend to cease performing. Pat did recommend that I go into the attic (why do they install water heaters in attics?) to check the thermostat and see if an earthquake, gust of wind, or galactic tremor had jiggled the controls and reset the thermostat to deep chill instead of scalding hot.

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Getting into the attic space is, in itself, an adventure, requiring removal of boxes stacked in front of the access door, which is inconveniently located in the back of a closet. The entryway is low, resulting in several pump-knots on my head back in December as I retrieved Christmas decorations. This time, I navigated the cramped quarters without mishap, turned on the light, then aimed my best flashlight — another tool Pat encourages me to use — at the water heater controls.

The thermostat was still set on just below boiling. I detected no pilot light burning. The tank was cool to the touch and the collection pan beneath the tank was filled with water. I interpreted that as a bad sign. Last time that happened, I was presented with a $1,300 bill for a new water heater.

One advantage of renting living quarters is that we can call the landlord and hope he can get someone out to repair or replace — I suspect the latter, based on previous experience— the unit on his nickel.

I hope they get it fixed today so Pat will have hot water. I’ll be okay. It’s a travel day and hotels always seem to have an ample supply of skin-tingling hot water.

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