It was a week ago last Friday (It HAD to be a Friday); when, for no apparent reason, I decided to voluntarily do the dishes. I plugged the sink and added detergent and suddenly realized there was no hot water. Great. I went in the basement to find water gushing out of the top of the water heater. I say it HAD to be a Friday because plumbers charge time-and-a-half on Saturdays and double-time on Sundays.
I shut off the gas and tried to shut off the water but, as one might expect, the shut-off valve nearest the water heater was frozen (not from the cold, but from old age). I shut off the whole-house valve at the water meter and drained the water heater tank. I applied WD-40 to the stuck valve and wrestled it loose – too loose – it would just spin and not close. It said plainly right on it: Made in China, so that explains why it’s good for one turn. The wheel on the shut-off valve eventually turned but turned freely and couldn’t quite stem the flow of water altogether. The way the plumbing is laid out in This Old House: In order to stop the water from flowing down the basement floor I’d have to cut off the upstairs water supply or the whole house; so I had to just let it trickle to the basement floor drain via the broken water heater tank. That went on for several days due to inclement weather (bitter cold) and the logistics of finding a contractor and buying a new heater.
During the recent cold snap the COLD tap water was running at a relatively warm 55°F.; which is the average temperature of ground water. But 55°F. won’t melt butter so I resorted to heating water in a good ol’ tea kettle and just letting the laundry pile up.
The Big Day arrived and my other brother who knew a guy who knew a guy showed up with a contractor in tow. We all went to Home Depot where I got a Veteran’s Discount on a new water heater. Helping the contractor wrestle the in-the-box heater over snow and icy sidewalk I stumbled and fell on my ass the very first try. Anyway, we got the heater into the basement and the contractor broke the shut-off valve completely in attempting to close it. I washed my hands of the whole affair (I had errands to run) or so I thought; and left them to finish the installation unsupervised.
When I got back the new water heater was up and running and my brother and the contractor were gone. I asked my other brother (the resident proprietor) about ‘the paperwork’ for the new heater. He said he hadn’t even seen any. I went down to the basement and looked around for the documents. I found the document bundle (User Manual, Warranty, etc.,) sitting atop a cardboard box. Inexplicably they were all wet and downright soggy. Since the suspects were gone I assumed one of them had dropped the documents in the water stream running across the basement floor.
I attempted to dry the stack of wet paperwork in the microwave oven. I’d had previous success in dealing with smelly, damp and moldy old books (mold is a living thing) so I zapped the documents for a bit. They came out steaming and hot so I gingerly set them aside and left them to be dealt with later. I ran some more errands.
Later on, the papers were a bit warped but readable but, darn it, they were still wet around the edges. I put them back in the microwave – a little too long, however. Apparently the microwaves dried out just the center of the pile and drove the moisture to the periphery of the documents, achieving a temperature well above Fahrenheit 451° (it’s a novel) they started to smolder and smoke. I turned off the oven and attempted to remove them. Too hot to handle, I tossed them on the counter. I tried to pat down the papers with my hand to make sure they were out but they smoked even more. I turned them over to examine them and opened the User Manual. The rush of oxygen to the center of the superheated center caused it to burst into flames. With burning embers and black bits of ash floating about through the air and open flames leaping upward I had no choice but to toss the lot into the sink and wet them all down again. From two rooms away my brother asked: “What’s burning?” “Your Warranty”, I replied.
The next time I have to deal with wet documents I’ll need more patience and let them air-dry or just put them in the freezer. Don’t Try This at Home, kids. Try it by somebody else.