My husband and I have to replace a hot water tank that he swears was originally constructed in 1842. He also believes it was originally housed in Ford’s Theater, making it hold great historical value in addition to the water it is supposed to be heating.
It is well-rusted, contained in its own metal housing, and has recently sprung a leak.
If interested in purchasing… no, you probably won’t want to buy this thing. We didn’t either—it came with the house. The house was purchased in 2004 and was originally constructed in the mid to late 70’s. The hot water tank was purchased prior to that. We believe the previous owners of our home found Old Rusty at a junk shop and thought, “How quaint! I have the perfect place for that! And if it works, we can hook it up to that bathroom downstairs! What a deal!!!!”
So just how does a hot water tank that pre-dates the construction of your home wind up installed in one of its bathrooms? It’s a question we will probably never get answered honestly, but the above scenario seems to fit the current set of circumstances fairly well.
The guy from the hardware store where we are about to purchase our new one came out to have a look. It was necessary, he said, to determine what he might need before the real work of replacing it could begin. All he could do when he saw our ancient and rusted friend was shake his head in dismay. He actually made that clucking sound we routinely read about, but up until then I had only ever been able to imagine how it must sound. Now I know.
According to the fix-it guy, Old Rusty was manufactured in the 60’s, and could have gone up in an explosion some years ago, taking anyone near it up through the roof as it made its explosive exit from its current resting place. That it would have to rocket through three ceilings to reach the roof did not change his opinion of the matter. I imagined myself holding on for dear life as Old Rusty and I made our escape in exploration of worlds as yet unknown, traveling through the sky and past the stars through multiple universes to reach our final destination.
Mr. Fix-it asked if we had ever noticed any sparks from it, or perhaps we might have noticed surges in the electricity elsewhere in the house. Right on the heels of our latest plumbing issues, these were not things about which we wanted to know.
Mr. Fix-it asked if we had already cut the power to it, to which my husband proudly proclaimed, stretching his natural six feet and six inch frame into something more resembling a giraffe, that not only had he cut the power, he had also drained the tank of its stored water. All Mr. Fix-it would have to do is actually switch out the old tank and replace it with the new.
It sounds fairly easy, right? Especially after all the really hard work had been done by my proud husband? Well, let’s just say that things are never as simple as they sound. My husband may have thumped his chest prematurely.
Mr. Fix-it advised that the current construction of our bathroom would require not only the removal of the bathroom’s door, but also the removal of the toilet so there would be enough room to bring Old Rusty out and bring in the new friend we had not yet met.
Mr. Fix-it compiled of list of necessary material and told us that he would take his list back to the hardware store and all we would have to do is to come to the store and pay for the items. Mr. Fix-it would then bring everything we had purchased back to the house and do the work.
This sounded way too simple, and we began to worry, mustering up our righteous indignation long before we arrived at the store.
And we were correct. They didn’t have a clue what we were talking about. It took almost an hour for them to find the list of necessary material because everyone we talked to insisted on checking his own computer first. Individually. Each time. Every time someone new walked behind the counter. My husband had to repeat our name, and spell it, so many times that even the nearby three-year old was spelling it to his mommy while they waited in their own checkout line just a few feet away from us.
Their bewilderment at finding nothing in their computer system almost made us cry, especially since we had just seen the Sandra Bullock movie ’Net’ the night before. You remember the one—it was about a computer hacker who wiped out Bullock’s existence because she had stumbled onto a conspiracy by technological pioneers to… never mind. It was made in the nineties when we were all paranoid about computers and subsequent internet usage, and had very little to do with Old Rusty or the problems we were having at that moment.
It was a decent movie though, and it had us thinking of all sorts of possible plots and conspiracies as we stood there at the counter of the hardware store trying to determine whether we should pay these people for items we weren’t sure we needed based on the say-so of a guy we’d only met once with regard to a hot water tank that was surely about to blow its ancient self to smithereens. We were almost hoping at this point that Old Rusty would take us with him.
My husband finally suggested that they look for the handwritten list. You know, the one that was written in old fashioned ink on the back of an old fashioned and well-used envelope, folded fourteen times, and then stuffed down into the depths of a pocket contained in the workpants of Mr. Fix-it and that now must surely be sporting greasy stains of some unidentified material that probably came from a cheeseburger of similar origin.
Someone looked up, eyes suddenly gleaming, heat from the light bulb over her head making her hair curl slightly before she simply turned and took the three steps necessary to enter the office that housed an actual desk, looked briefly at the desk’s otherwise uncluttered top, and lo and behold—there it was, the only item on an otherwise spotless work area, a ray of light shining on it from the skylight in the ceiling that made the number nine envelope glow in its purity, accompanied only by the sounds of a heavenly chorus, making the discovery that much more magnificent.
With actual list in hand, the hardware store personnel, highly trained though they are, now had to walk all over the store individually pricing each item on the list. This was a feat in itself. One item in aisle 1, check; one item in aisle 43, check; the next item in aisle 4, check; back and forth and so on until all the items had been properly accounted for, and priced, and our daily exercise for the day now complete.
And then FINALLY we were able to pay for our stuff, with a guy who didn’t like his computer and routinely talked to it like an ex-wife, but had to use it anyway to ring us out, despite his obvious wish to smash it with a nearby sledgehammer hanging from an end cap as per the store’s ad that sledgehammers were on sale this week.
I hope Mr. Fix-it shows up tomorrow. And I hope he has no trouble whatsoever replacing Old Rusty. If he does, well, just scroll down. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.
And whether or not we purchased a sledgehammer.
April 22, 2012