Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Lucky Valentine's* Water Heater

Our water heater had spewed water in December, stopped, and started spewing again at the end of January, at which point we disconnected it until it could be fixed (and, as our water heater is upstairs, the spewage had some distressing consequences for the ceilings and our life downstairs).

Last Saturday the friendly retired-maintenance-man father-of-a-work friend had the part we needed. He and the Mister installed it, only to find it the wrong size. After running to the hardware store, they found the correct sized valve did not stop the problem. It was 4:40 on Saturday in a small town where nothing is open on Sunday, but we managed to buy a hot water heater at the hardware store moments before it closed and had it installed by 6:30.

My friend felt that this was incredible unlucky: what we thought to be a $15 and few minute project ended up taking hours and $200 and ten-year-old water heaters aren't supposed to go.

I viewed this as extremely lucky. I never thought we'd actually fix the water problem on the first try and doubted we'd succeed without calling in expensive out of town experts. In a town without a plumber, we found someone willing to help us see the project through and teach us how to do it ourselves. My friend has the hardware store on speed dial and they were willing to stay open to sell us one. We caught the problem before the tank completely cracked and spilled rusty water everywhere. The hardware store had a reasonably priced water heater that fit in stock. My friend even had a great steamer-vac she was willing to let us use to clean up. And now we have hot showers!

This makes for interesting thoughts on the interplay between luck and optimism, and the two different definitions of optimist. My friend is a true optimist by the "one who usually expects a favorable outcome" definition and unlucky things are always happening to her to prevent these favorable outcomes.

On the other hand, I do not expect favorable outcomes, and in respect to what will or could happen in the short term, tend to be pragmatic, if not all out pessimistic. Therefore lucky things are always happening to me. And, as I am an optimist by the "a person disposed to take a favorable view of things" definition, I think that bad things "just happen" and that things that allow me to deal with the bad things are good luck or God. So I end up being a lucky, much-blessed person. And clean these days.

*I'm quite willing to view anything new in mid-February as a Valentine's gift. While I was hoping for a dishwasher, a water heater is almost as romantic.


Irene said...

I guess a new sump pump ranks somewhere below a new water heater on the romance-o-meter, but that's what we got last Wednesday, day before VDay. It rained hard, our old one quit, the basement flooded.

Not fun, but actually it happened at a lucky time - I was home for the day, working on my thesis, and probably within an hour or two after the pump quit, I printed off a few pages. Printer's in the basement, so this made me notice that there was a puddle where our sump pit should be, and I had enough time to move all of my hubby's high-tech toys out of harm's reach.

Prairie Quilter said...

Sounds like good luck to me. And after going 8 days without hot water in December, you are definitely lucky to have a hot water heater that works.

Anonymous said...

Actually 10 years on most water heaters is not bad--they make some now for about $7-800 which are guaranteed for life---sounds to me like you got off pretty lucky on buying the new one. Usually the total bill for a new water heater and installing it will be close to 5-600 dollars. Of course, that would be hardly noticed on the salaries of lofty college professors!!!
Good luck in house ownership!!!

Beth said...

Sounds lucky to me - we had a pre- V-day freezing of the pipes in our kitchen which we thawed (as soon as we noticed that the water didn't turn on) and luckily it only required a new faucet. Of course the reason for the freezing is the un-insulated cement wall by the sink which would requiring moving the granite countertops to move. So we're not going to do that and instead we get to crack the cabinet open on cold nights and enjoy a new faucet. I thought this was lucky since frozen pipes can be much much worse than what we had.

Maria said...

The phrase that comes to mind is "Glück im Unglück," which means something like "Good luck in bad luck." It's often used to describe accidents or other mishaps which you're unlucky enough to have had, but lucky enough to have escaped unharmed. It was the perfection description of the time my brakes didn't work well enough to prevent me from rear-ending a Dr. Pepper truck. Bad luck! But then, I was going very slowly, and I didn't hurt anyone or damage the other vehicle -- and I didn't rear-end a lawyer in a Lexus. Glück im Unglück.

I like the phrase, because it reminds you that very little separates a big misfortune from a small one. You've still had a measure of good luck when something doesn't end as badly as it might have.

Jennifer said...

I'm glad you have your hot water back, and for a reasonable price. For V-day, we turned our heat up to 74! It was my idea and I really enjoyed my nose not being cold.