I don’t consider myself a particularly superstitious individual. Black cats crossing my path, walking under ladders, throwing hats onto beds—I find most of that a load of old cobblers.
But I do believe that for certain individuals—myself included—bad luck has a tendency to follow them around like that dark cloud that used to appear over the character of Joe Btfsplk, the “jinx” in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip. And this provides the background information for why I haven’t posted anything for the past two days.
Thursday afternoon, I was catching up on doing some laundry—a critical situation at Castle Yesteryear, since I did not at the time have a stitch of clean clothing available save for some shorts I was wearing to keep me from being nude. I was working a bit on this project of Dad’s, waiting for the washer cycle to complete. I then get a phone call from my friend Deb, and as I spoke with her for about 30-45 minutes I noticed that I could still hear the water heater in operation…so I wandered out to the utility room, only to discover that the washer is done. But I can still hear the water heater running—it’s like someone was taking a shower for a long, long time.
I tried shutting the water off, and so I turned the valve to off—but the water is still running. I tried the release valve, and it’s rusted nine ways to Sunday. Deb’s husband suggests that I turn the electricity off to the water heater because by that time I’ve also noticed that it’s leaking a tiny bit underneath the apparatus (I took a towel and put it down there to “mop” up the excess). Since my knowledge of home maintenance is minimal at best, I then called Dad to see if he could suss out the problem. He doesn’t have any idea how to solve the problem. I ask him if this is something I should call the emergency maintenance number about and he responds that if there’s no visual trouble with anything I could probably wait until morning.
Later, at 10:30 pm, I get a knock at my front door and a couple of kids from the neighborhood inform me that the water I hear continually running is coming out of a pipe on the right side of my apartment. Again, I have no idea how to shut the water off—if I’ve moved the shut-off valve to where it can no longer be turned, it seems to me the water should be off. It was then I decided that this was something maintenance should take a look at. I call the emergency number and a voice message tells me to leave my name, number and location along with a brief description of the problem. They conclude by saying that if I have not heard back from anyone in a reasonable amount of time, then I should call the emergency “beeper number” and enter my phone digits so that they can get back to me.
Well, I left a message—and waited for about an hour-and-a-half. No response. So I called the “beeper number.” I know I called that number at least three times between and . Still no response. To hell with this, I say to myself, and I hit the hay. I got precious little sleep in those six hours, however, because as I stated previously—it was like sleeping next to the shower room all night.
About twenty-after-eight, I get a phone call that I unfortunately am not able to pick up on the fourth ring because I’m a little disoriented from the sudden wake-up. I looked at the caller I.D. and saw that someone from the rental office had called—so I dial the number back. I get the machine again, so I leave a short message telling them I’m returning their call.
The phone rings again about five minutes later. I talk with a guy who asks what the situation is and I tell him that the valve on the heater is shot and I can’t turn the water off. Ten minutes later, one of the maintenance guys shows up and I take him into the utility room. He looks at the heater and shakes his head. “That heater is older than I am,” he cracks. He then says to me: “I could fix this—but what you need is a new water heater. I’ll call the boss and have him send somebody over with one.”
The maintenance guy, I have to say, was pretty cool—although I did have to ask him where everybody was last night. He tells me that they’re usually on call until 9:00 pm and that it’s best to leave a message—and when I reply that I not only left a message but tried the “beeper number” he kind of frowns. “When I’m on duty, I make sure to check that constantly—but I wasn’t on duty last night. I honestly can’t tell you who was; he should have responded immediately in this situation.”
So in the final analysis, he guesstimated that I lost about 10,000 gallons of water due to this little mishap (the side of my yard looked as if I was growing rice paddies)—but was nice enough to let me know that all I have to do is go down to the water department and get a form to fill out which should absolve me of having to pay for all of it since the circumstances were beyond my control. (He also said that what the water department won’t take care of the rental office will.) He was also good enough to clean up the utility room floor before he left—though I’m still puzzled as to why he left the box the water heater came in on the front lawn. I briefly thought about smashing a bottle of champagne up against the heater to christen its arrival…but sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone.