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Notes from a Vagabond

The rest of the story . . . .

By Steven Fox

Let’s recap the story so far. My wife wakes me up at 5:30 a.m. letting me know that our water heater pilot light is out and she failed in her initial attempt to light it. We also know that I was not exactly enthusiastic about getting up to fix this problem.The aggravation I was feeling was only exacerbated my failure to repair the problem on my own. It’s Monday morning, no hot water, no way of fixing the problem and my best analysis is that the thingy is broken.

My first call went to my natural gas provider. They could get around to looking at it Wednesday afternoon or Friday morning. Now remember, this is Monday morning. I asked the person on the phone how soon they would be here if there was a gas leak. She said within the hour. I should have told her there was a gas leak. Time for plan B. I was able to get a local heating and cooling company to come within two hours. I could feel the warm shower already. However, you know this would not be a two part column if it was going to be that easy.

A competent young man came to look at the water heater. He tried everything I did and of course it lit. I was not surprised. It only confirmed my faith in my ineptitude. However, that is not the end of the story. After remaining lit for 30 seconds, the water heater shut down. The repairman went about trying all of the easy repairs that would fix the problem, and none of them worked. He then started working the thermostat. He announced that the thermocoupler was broken and he didn’t have a replacement part. He informed me that I had a “special” thermocoupler and he didn’t carry the part, and it might be faster to replace the whole water heater. Funny guy. He then suggested because the water heater was under warranty that I should contact the manufacturer and see what they say. I called the 800 number and that’s when real panic started to set in. I got a recording asking me if I was calling about the lawsuit. Uh oh. What lawsuit? I decided to ignore the recording and just order the part. When I finally got a human on the phone, it turned out I was calling India. I don’t know about you, but I’ve not had the best luck dealing with customer service in India. I give the man on the phone the information requested, and he tells me that the water heater is under warranty and unfortunately the part I need is not in stock and won’t be ever again. They stopped making that part.

By now, the emotional roller coaster I’m on has me completely drained. The hot water is broken, sigh. I found someone to look at it, yay. He found the problem, yay. He doesn’t have the part to fix it, sigh. The water heater is under warranty, yay. The part is no longer being made, sigh. I can’t take much more of this. Will I ever take another hot shower? How am I going to tell my wife?

Customer service then said that even though they don’t make the part I need, I am eligible to get a kit that will fix that problem as part of a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit. He could get it to me in 10-14 days, sigh. Then the helpful young man on the phone saved my marriage. He offered to get it to me overnight for $18. It was probably a scam, but anything that got the part there in less than 10-14 days was a bargain. Sold! And I did get the part the next day. However I wasn’t able to have it installed until Wednesday.

By now, you are probably wondering what the point is. All humour aside, we couldn’t run the dishwasher, do the laundry or even wash our hands with warm water. It was very inconvenient. That’s all it was, an inconvenience. We at least still had clean water. It made me reflect on parts of the world where they don’t have clean running water, much less hot water, and it made me very grateful for what I had. Next time you run short of hot water, think about how it would be if you had no hot water at all.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? You may e-mail Steve Fox at foxissly@gmail.com.