Hot water and the wife

A few weeks ago I thought I’d give one of my sons an opportunity to expand his commercial graphic artist abilities and make me a logo. I sent him a picture of a very rough drawing I made of the project I’m working on to see if he could come up with a logo.

The smart-aleck responded as follows:



That’s the last time I ask him to do a logo for me.

Speaking of steam, we’ve had some of that in this house lately.

We’ve lived in the same shack for the last 34 years. The outfit that hammered it together is a good friend of mine and had lived here for two or three years before we took over. Through the entire time of raising six kids in this abode and then breathing a giant sigh of relief in an empty house and continuing to reside here, we have lived with the same water heater. That trusty heater is getting close to it’s 40th birthday. We threw it a going-away party yesteday.

Every decade or so, I’ve had to replace the bottom element in this heater. This little job is not all that fun because the pressured valve going into the heater doesn’t close completely. Each time I pulled the old element out, I got a somewhat significant flow of water out the bunghole until I could get the new element back in and secured.

We used to have a Rainbow vac that worked great for sucking water up but my wife gave it away. Admittedly, it was a little cumbersome and heavy but I bought it because I like the principle it had of sucking air through water instead of a filter. We’d had it for years after I succumbed to a Rainbow vacuum salesman and paid about 50 times as much as what a normal vacuum would cost at Harbor Freight.

For the newcomer to Harbor Freight, this is the place where you buy tools and other items so cheap that you buy four times as many as you need because the price is so good. You also buy that many if you are aware of how long the items will last.

Harbor Freight tools generally break while you are transporting them home. And if you’re lucky, you might get a good five or six minutes of performance out of them before they give up the ghost. When you go shopping at Harbor Freight, you can’t help but focus strictly on the price. When you use the tools, for your mental well-being, focus strictly on the price.

So the two thousand dollar Rainbow vac was gone, thanks to a Craig’s list rendezvous give-away my wife had with a Walla Walla lady in the Costco parking lot. Bottom line, working nowadays on our water heater involves a lot more cleanup with only rags to suck up the bucketloads of water.

So back to the steps of replacing the water heater element.  After pulling the old element out and before jamming the new element in the hole, I have to stick my finger in the heater and try to scrape out the deposits of hard water stone-like deposits. Each time I make this transition, I can see the old element has shorted out from the lime deposits. LSS (Long Story Short), this soaking wet job is never something I look forward to.

Because I hate cold showers and food from dinner-the-night-before caked on my morning breakfast platter, I always made sure I kept the hot water flowing. Thus, a changing of the Element Guard with all it’s pomp and pagentry occurred on a regular basis.

So a couple of days ago, the hot tap water started manifesting itself in a luke-warm fashion. I knew once again it was time to slip the waders on and head for the tank.

After purchasing an element at the hardware store, I went through the process. LSS, the tank had been through the element-changing regimen one too many times and refused to seal. Unfortunately, I was under the mistaken impression that it had sealed and didn’t get back to check on it until several hours after installation and pressurization.

As I made my way to the heater for a final inspection and mop-up (literally), I noticed a wet spot on the downstairs carpet. This mysterious anomaly was soon forgotten when I got to the heater tank and was unpleasantly surprised by a high-pressure stream of H2O coming from around the bottom element.

The rest of the eve was spent shutting off, unpressurizing, loosening, repositioning,  tightening, repressurizing and then like the song says…Back, Jack, do it again. By the end of the night, I gave up and decided a new water heater was in order.

Heading back upstairs to hit the hay since it was after eleven, I noticed the small wet spot in the carpet had been well-nourished during the time I had been working on the heater. It had grown into a large and impressive black hole that normally can only be found in outer space but was now in my basement. The normally light brown carpet was now a large black circle.

The new discovery piled on to my already sky-high dread concerning the water heater. Since the wet spot was 2 rooms away from the leaky but brand new-elementized but soaked tank room, I figured I had a completely new problem on my hands. I decided that during one of the times of turning the water back on and hearing the water pipes shake as they tried to clear the air pockets out of the system, a water line under the house had broken.

I knew that under the carpet was a solid concrete floor. I figured Bill, the former owner/constructor of my home, had laid the water line under the concrete and it was now blowing high-pressure water through a crack in the foundation  and was also probably washing a sink hole in the dirt underneath.

I grabbed a flashlight and threw some sandals on my bare feet. The temperature was a chilly 21 degrees outside but I figured I better conduct a search for  escaping water that sooner or later would have to make it’s way to the surface.

I searched in vain around the house foundation for the new river. I was relieved to see the house had not started dropping down into a sink hole. I was tired but didn’t want to go to bed and wake up in China. So where was that carpet soaking water coming from ?

Even though it was late, I called Bill, the builder of the 40 year-old house. Racking his brain for something that happened decades ago, he was pretty sure there wasn’t a water line under the house in that location. I felt a bit better even though I had no hot bath to luxuriate in.

The next morning I decided to head for town and get a new water heater. A guy named Dirk had been writing me from Belgium, wanting a couple of YankATanks. The shipping charges were going to be over two grand alone plus customs and unit charges. The total bill was $5500 dollars. He said he had wired me the money but my bank hadn’t gotten anything.

I hate making trips to town so I decided I would kill two birdies by grabbing a water heater and sending the 270 lbs of YankATanks to Belgium even though I had no proof of payment. I knew if I had to go to Belgium to collect my money, I would probably end up in jail on some trumped-up charge like breaking Dirk’s kneecaps or stealing Dirk’s hubcaps.

I left Michele to go through our complete inventory of dry towels and mop up the black hole madness. By this time I realized that the leaking pipe under the floor was extinct. The water had seeped from the water heater room, under the walls and carpet and finally appeared in a location that made the water-witching diagnosis difficult.

This was a good thing! At least our problems hadn’t multiplied.

The trip to town went well. I delivered the units to Fed Ex at the airport and bought the heater. The three people at Fed Ex treated me well. I think it was because I had paid for their month’s paycheck with my Belgianese shipment.

This story is getting too long. I’m going to wrap it up with a few succinct sentences.

I got the new heater home and started dismantling the old one. It was still water logged, weighing in at a little over 500 lbs. Unfortunately, the water was scalding hot, thanks to the new element I had installed the night before. There was no place to drain it so after I disconnected the piping and contained the leaky valve, I started leaning it over and trying to catch the outflow with a bucket.

Naturally, I needed some help to manage the bucket while I handled the quarter-ton tank. I looked high and low through the house but the only person I could find was Michele. This was a plus and a minus. A plus because I love her and couldn’t live without her. A minus because she is not adept at handling a five-gallon bucket full of scalding water.

As I would tip the tank and groan under the massive weight, she would use phrases like “This stinking water is so stinking hot!” and “I can’t stinking get the stinking bucket where you stinking want it!” I heard not one swear word through the 2-hour ordeal but I heard a fair number of “stinking’s.”

As the stinking tank got tilted lower and lower and we dumped stinking bucket after stinking bucket of stinking hot water into the stinking toilet, our patience with the other partner started stinking. At each step of lowering the tank, she really struggled trying to follow my heavy-laden and exasperated because of the hot pipes instructions. Let’s just say Michele has a stinking hard time following my mechanical instructions.

Finally, we reached the point where we could stand back and say “Mission stinking accomplished!”

That is until I pressured up the system and walked into the bathroom to turn the hot water on in the bathtub. Right about then, I heard Old Faithful down the hall. I ran down the hall, to the doorway and quickly sized up the situation. An awesome plume of water was rocketing up from the top of the new tank and then cascading down. I sacrificed my dry clothing and dove through the falls to shut the valve down. “Stinking” was not one of the chosen adjectives I picked.

I had neglected to screw in the stinking pressure relief valve.

The next morning I took a hot bath. I then got on the computer and informed my Belgian friend that I had not gotten his wire transfer. I didn’t tell him I had already shipped his units. He wrote back and sent me a picture of the copy of the wire transfer. This brought relief and concern. He had paid me but not near enough. The bill was around $5500 and he sent me $4482.81.



Why the guy hadn’t sent the entire amount was beyond me. He was taking a chance by sending a chunk of change, hoping I would send him YankATanks. I was taking a chance sending him YAT’s that hadn’t been paid for. If either of us were of the character of some of the character’s I’ve dealt with in the past, our goose would have been characterized as cooked.

But I still had a problem. I was short a thousand bucks and my YankATanks were on the plane, never to return. What was I to do? The only thing I could think of was maybe I could do like Roger Daltry thought about doing in the last verse of the song Summertime Blues. “Gonna take my problem to the United Nations.” 

I had my doubts however. The UN usually causes more problems than it solves.

So I started penning a missive back to the Belgian discounter named Dirk, asking him why he had shorted our agreement. Just before I pressed “Send”, Michele asked “Are you sure that he sent you American dollars?”

Once again I had jumped the gun. It’s an old habit of mine. Dirk had sent me Euro’s. He had paid in full. I hurriedly looked for the “Unsend” button. It’s been an hour now and I’m still looking. Dirk is a man of his word.

Can anyone tell me where the stinking “Unsend” button is?



  1. To bad you don’t know someone with a YankATank that you could have borrowed to wrench that hot water heater out of the basement. 🙂

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