Xena and Caitlan bought a water heater and brought it home in the tiny car. Gently. I heard all about shopping at Home Depot in high heels. Caitlan wondered, "Why was everyone calling me 'Dorothy?'"
A couple days later while unboxing it I saw the bottom was crumpled, as though the unit had been dropped from a great height. It had been purchased on Caitlan's debit card, so I called her away from spending the day with her boyfriend. She brought him and his van. The box fit much better in that vehicle than in our Geo Metro.
At the store I explained it was damaged. "Not a problem. Go find a replacement and we'll swap it out." We could only find a different model. They didn't have a replacement; this damaged one was the only unit. They couldn't swap it, and I didn't want a different model.
"When will you get the next shipment?' I asked.
They checked. "We can't tell. But there is an identical model at our store down the freeway. Here, let's credit you back this purchase." We drove to the other store, picked out the unit, talked our way into the same great price that Xena had gotten on the first water heater, and went to pay for it. The card got declined, since it takes 24 hours for the reimbursement to process. "Don't you have another way to pay for it?" Not then we didn't!
I dropped into a really crummy mood, but I made sure the kids knew I was very grateful for their help.
More time passed, without hot water in the kitchen.
Our tax refund came in. I rented a truck, drove to the hardware store (no project is complete until I've been at least three times) and bought the unit. I couldn't get them to give me the $90 discount that Xena and Caitlan had managed. On the same excursion I picked up a mattress and box spring from my friend Nika. "How's it going?" she asked.
"Well, I have a funny feeling about the water heater I'm installing tomorrow," I confessed.
The next day, rusted-solid pipe joints yielded to WD-40 and stern words from Xena. We got the old heater out and immediately drove it over to the scrap metal yard and then returned the truck. All day long my wonderful neighbors kept offering to help. "Is it time yet? Do you need help?" The project was so linear that I didn't, but it felt great knowing that if I needed something they would be there for me. I got the new unit in position. I went to hook up the gas and realized I'd left the connector in the other water heater. I drove back to the scrap yard and unscrewed it.
Back home, the cold water pipe (with the shut-off valve) couldn't quite align with the parts I had. I went back to Home Depot and got a longer flexible copper connector. There on the warehouse floor was the damaged unit I'd returned, with the box very definitely the worse for wear! They had also received new identical models! Oh, well.
Back home, everything all connected, I pressurized the system. A few minor leaks appeared. A quarter turn here and there and the pipes seated nicely.
I read the lighting instructions. Cool! It's got a piezo-electric igniter! I fired it up. Nothing. "Continue clicking the igniter until the pilot lights. Do not attempt to light by hand." Fine.
Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
"OH FOR PETE'S SAKE! XENA!" I roared. "IT'S YOUR TURN!"
"THE DAMN THING WON'T LIGHT AND I NEED YOU TO TAKE OVER RIGHT NOW!"
In an extremely reasonable voice she asked, "Isn't there a phone number you can call?"
But I was beyond reasonability. "PROBABLY, BUT IT'S UP TO YOU NOW. I CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS EVEN ONE MORE SECOND!" I stormed away.
God bless her, she let me go. Betsy asked what was up. I felt so much better now that I wasn't in the same room as the water heater. "Oh, I've installed it and it won't light. So I've asked Xena to take over."
"That's pretty great, that she is doing that. Once, not too long ago, it would have been your job and she'd have told you, 'Just march yourself right back down there and take care of it!'"
I've got to agree, this was much better. I'd have burst an aorta if I'd been unable to hand off the project at that moment.
Xena and Nicholas fussed with it for a while and couldn't get it to light either. Xena came back upstairs and I went down to hang out with Nicholas as I was feeling much better. He and I fiddled with it for a few minutes, and it lit!
As far as I know, he and I didn't do anything unique or different. But it lit. Random elements at play, as they have been for some time, in my life and home and family.
So now we have hot water in the back half of the house again. There's been something of a rush on washing dishes. "Oh, it's so nice to wash dishes in warm water!" everyone keeps saying. I predict the novelty will wear off before i even finish typing this post, but it's fun to hear people excited to wash dishes instead of dragging themselves to do it.
A final footnote: Xena has found that the next model larger is now $10 cheaper.