man, do I need a hot shower!

For the third time this week…. yes, this week… I am sitting here waiting on a repairman to finish with the water heater.

Everything was working fine until Monday. When the first repairman came. That visit was to replace a part deemed in-need-of-replacement during the summer maintenance visit. It isn’t just that I don’t speak French, I don’t speak water-heater. So in any language, if I’m told that some part needs replaced, I figure it’s a good idea to replace it.

Bath time Monday night was when we realized something had gone very wrong with the guy’s so-called fix. I filled the giant tub and as I was calling Kaitlyn to climb in, I put my hand in and realized the water was cold. Naturally, my first thought was to blame Bill. He did the dishes and often when he does the dishes he drains the hot water tank. The mere act of rinsing the dishes is done with scalding hot water. I thought I’d nagged him enough about this, but Monday night I figured the nagging had worn off and needed to be ramped back up. So I accused him of using all the hot water. Eager to defend himself, he rushed downstairs to the water heater where he identified the real culprit. The thing wasn’t running. So he relit the pilot light, Kaitlyn took a late (but warm) bath, and all was well.

That is… until Tuesday afternoon. When I got in the shower. I’d been running around all morning and then after taking Kaitlyn back to school from lunch, I hopped on the treadmill for a long workout to relieve the morning’s stress. It did the trick, until I stepped under the shower spray. To discover there was no hot water. (Admittedly, my first thought, again, was to blame Bill… thinking he’d for some reason changed the temperature setting on the shower faucet but that wasn’t the case. Why do I keep blaming Bill?) I waited for Bill to come home to re-start the pilot light again. And all was well.

Till Wednesday morning. When Bill woke me up as he was leaving to say that I needed to call the water heater repair people. I think I now know why I kept blaming Bill. Because that is far easier to deal with than the woman who answers the phone at the water heater repair place. She is simply not nice. (Unless she calls you to ask you to change an appointment you’ve had for weeks… then she’s sweet as pie. Or, I suppose, tart.) Anyway, I called and said I needed to make an appointment because my heater isn’t working and that it was working fine until her dude came to the house Monday. She said they wouldn’t come the same day… it’s 20 degrees outside, Madame, no need for heat. So I said I’d very much like to bathe. Then she got huffy that it isn’t my heater that’s broken but my water heater. (It’s the same thing in this house.) I’m a far too regular client, she could have been looking at some computer form that said what kind of heater I have and what had recently been done to it. I know she was looking at something with my address after I gave her my name. Anyway, she rattled off some big long question I didn’t understand. I just paused for a while then realized she couldn’t see my puzzled look so I said “je ne comprends pas.” (I don’t understand) So she just laughed (yes – laughed!) and said something else just as fast. So I repeated “je ne comprends pas.” I finally determined that she wanted me to push the red button on the heater. That is always her solution. But just like one figures out to turn the computer off and back on before calling IT, we have figured out to push the red button before calling this mean woman. I told her my husband had done that and yes, that made it work, but it didn’t stay on. She insisted I do it anyway. So I did. She wanted to know what color the light turned. It was flashing, but I don’t know how to say that. So I just said “jaune, jaune, jaune, jaune, jaune…. ah…. rouge.” (yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow yellow… ah… red) She finally gave in and said someone would be out the same day.

That someone called me twice to ask for directions. I took this immediately as a bad sign. Then while he was here working, he wanted to know if he could go in and out of the house a different way. Why? So I wouldn’t see him carrying shit out of my basement? Just walk the way I showed you; the floor is already dirty so don’t pretend you’re worried about footprints.

Right after he left, I went to check the water heater. Because he seemed fishy. He was obviously a sub-contractor because his truck had a different company name on it. And he didn’t want to look me in the eye to say goodbye. And there was no paperwork for me to sign. So I went to check the water heater which, guess what, wasn’t running.

I called Bill and said that after the lunch two hour is over, he’d have to get a native French speaker to call these idiots and explain to them that this is so not ok. (I’m altering the language to make this family-friendly.) First, Bill had ME go push the damn red button. I fiddled with it and the on/off switch and somehow lit the pilot light. Then smoke started pouring out of the hole where the flame was; I panicked, screamed, frantically scrambled down the ladder and pushed the on/off button so hard I’m surprised I didn’t knock the heater over. At that point, I was scared the entire thing would blow up or something. I was done trying to push the button ourselves. So, after lunch, Bill’s co-worker Pierre called. They told him that a fuel something-er-other had been broken by the fuel delivery people. When Bill sent me that information by text, I nearly lost it. I checked my calendar… the fuel delivery happened 9 days before the initial “maintenance” check… which happened three months ago. Everything worked fine until the visit Monday. The only finger pointing that should be going on here is in the mirror of the water heater company. Finally, they called Pierre back and said they’d be out today. Fine.

Last night, Bill made Kaitlyn take a fast, cold shower. This morning, he enjoyed the same brisk start to his day. I hadn’t even gotten out of my pj’s when the doorbell rang this morning. The repairman spent about an hour here. He came up and looked at the thermostat on the wall, but otherwise I didn’t see him. He didn’t ask for any funny routes through the house or need any tools (they often come then ask me for a ladder, flashlight, one guy asked me for oven cleaner once). When he said he was done I asked him “ca marche?” (it’s working?) He said “oui, ca marche.” Then I stupidly asked him what the problem was. So he told me. I kept nodding my head but I don’t know what he said. Something about something blocking the pilot light so it couldn’t stay lit. Which was the obvious problem but he’d already done better than the others by identifying the problem. And he had paperwork for me to sign. What he did is scribbled on the bottom… Google translates it as this: “Removal of electrode’s son behind the cell. (son should be wire, it’s the same word) (a word I can’t read the scribble) permanently red. (must be the light) Manufacturer must replace. (unreadable scribbles) Always put on another aquastat.” Well, that’s clear as mud. Ok, so I still don’t know what he did but he at least did something. After he left but before he’d pulled out of the driveway, I ran to the basement to check the water heater. He’d done something no repairman sent to the house has done in a year: he put the top back on the thing. So I couldn’t see the infamous red light/button or the pilot. So I put my ear to it and thought I heard the hissing of a flaming pilot light.

It’s been nearly 30 minutes since he left… dare I go turn on the water to see what comes out? YES! WE HAVE HOT WATER!

One Response to “man, do I need a hot shower!”

  1. D.A.D. says:

    I always tell people when they ask how you like France that dealing with repair people for water heaters, furnaces, cars, stoves so forth is the most trying thing you face. Reading all this reminds me of just how horrid the experience must be, to communicate with folks about technical things on top of the language barrier. Wow wow wow.

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