As I trudged through the snow-covered driveway, hatefully kicking the snow aside, my thoughts were centered on all that I had to accomplish in the next 24 hours.  It was the day before Christmas Eve and my employer had graciously dismissed everyone at 2:00 for the holiday break.  I had stopped off at Dick’s on the way home and bought Lisa a nice case for her new shotgun and then made my way over to Best Buy to find a case that she could wear at her waist to hold her cell phone.  I had found both items quickly and managed to get home by 4:00 — there was still time to get dinner started and get some wrapping done before Lisa got home from work around 5:15.

I knocked the snow off my boots as I unlocked the door, knowing full well that sound would send one cat scattering, and another would run to the door to greet me.  As I opened the door I called out “Hey kids! I’m home!”  Sadie, our youngest, bounded down the stairs to greet me, and her nose scanned every snow-touched part of my pants and boots.  In the distance I could hear Idgie in her hasty retreat into our bedroom to hide from whatever terrors she imagines each time the doorbell rings or she hears a thump at the door.  Simba lay on his bed inside his pen, showing some interest in who was coming in but not making any attempt to put a lot of real effort into the investigation.

Simba is diabetic. With diabetes comes neuropathy, weakness in the legs and, in his case, his hind legs.  With that weakness he is unable at times to make it to his litter box and so, he has “accidents.”  Because of the accidents, we felt it necessary to pen him when we aren’t at home.

I let Simba out of his pen, kicked off my boots, and went upstairs to get out of my work clothes and into my more comfortable sweats, ready to enjoy the next 17 days off.  As I changed my clothes, Sadie buzzed by me and jumped onto the bed to play the fingers-under-the-blanket game.  I played with her a few minutes and then went back out to the living area.  I didn’t see Simba immediately and decided to try to find him, lest he be somewhere having an accident.

As I descended the stairs, I called out to him as one would a person who would actually respond.  Thinking he may have gone into the back room to use a litter box back there, I started toward that location.  I took a few steps into the hallway and my brain began to slowly register that something wasn’t quite right.

“Shit!” I exclaimed as I realized that my sock was wet — I had stepped in what seemed to be a puddle.  Yanking the sock off and furious that I hadn’t watched Simba closely enough to prevent him from having an accident, my brain still hadn’t registered that the “puddle” extended the entire length of the hallway and realization slowly seeped in when my brain finally registered that I was standing in warm water and the laminate floor squished and oozed water with each step I took.  At that same moment I realized I could hear water running and the processor in my brain fiddled with that information just a while longer before it reached a solution. The water heater had burst.

I sprang into action, grabbing towels and placing them along the baseboards in the hopes that the water would not penetrate the walls and get into the bedroom that we had just redone.  I called Lisa (who was only 8 half-days into a new job) and frantically screamed into the phone “You have to come home. RIGHT NOW!”  Panicked, I told her that the water was running wide open and before long the whole basement would be flooded.  “Turn off the water at the main,” she calmly said. DUH!  (Yeah, this is precisely why I keep her around.)

I turned off the water at the main and turned my attention to how we were going to get hot water for the holidays.  My heart sank when I realized it was 4:30 on the day before Christmas Eve and the likelihood of finding anyplace open was slim at best.  I grabbed the phone and dialed the number of a local company (Tomeno Home Services) that we had used before.  I knew their number right off the top off my head, not because we call them frequently but because their number was easy to remember.  671-6755.  671 is a Webster prefix and I just sort of remembered that.  But Lisa was born in ’67 and I was born in ’55 and the last 4 digits of the phone number are our dates of birth. Cool, huh?

When the phone was answered on the other end, I have a harried and panicked description of what was happening, lamenting to the person on the other end “What am I going to do with a houseful of people coming tomorrow?”  “Ma’am, I can have someone come over there right away, don’t worry” I was told.  I gave him my address, phone number, email address, and I think he even asked for my mother’s secret soup recipe but I can’t be sure.  He told me someone would be right there and we hung up.  Just mere moments later, a van was backing into my driveway with the logo “1-800-PLUMBER” on the side.  “Damn, that was fast!” I thought to myself.  As it turns out, the guy (Matt) lives right around the corner from me and was just getting home when he got the call.

As Matt pulled out the old water heater, his boss put together an order and picked up what was needed from their distributor and delivered it to our house.  By 7:30 PM we had a new water heater installed, and had running hot water.  Crisis averted. Well, not averted but lessened.  We still had that soggy laminate that needed to be pulled up as well as the underlayment — fortunately the downstairs sits on concrete so we didn’t have to worry about that.  The water damage was contained to the laundry room, the bathroom where the water heater is housed, and the hallway.  Allstate came out the following week and surveyed the situation and stroked me a check for about $200 more than the cost of the water heater to fix what we could.  Great job Tomeno Home Services and Great job Allstate!

But the story doesn’t end there.  Oh no, never where Pat and Lisa are concerned will a story end happily like that.

Last Sunday Lisa spent the day trying to weatherproof and insulate the family room/entryway a bit better.  We had gotten an “estimated” bill from RG&E for (are you sitting down?) Four Hundred Dollars! When I talked with Lisa on the phone about it, and pointed out it was estimated, she suggested we send them an estimated payment.  I love that woman!

So, there she is, insulating and weatherproofing and, the whole time the family room was just damned cold because she had stuff all torn apart and cold air was coming in from everywhere.  Her project done, she cleaned up and put things away and we had a nice relaxing dinner and evening.  It still felt cold in the house but sometimes it takes a while for that old furnace to catch up when we let that much cold air in.

Around 11:00 we were getting ready to turn in for the night and Lisa took Simba down to his pen.  She commented that it was still very cold down there and I suggested that she turn the thermostat up a couple of degrees to warm the house faster.  As I prepared for bed, I heard her call upstairs “Are you even sure the furnace is on?” I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Again.

I trudged down the stairs and into the laundry room where the furnace resides.  Taking off the front plate I saw immediately that the pilot light was out.  Lisa found some matches and we lit the pilot. We tried to turn the switch to heat but the pilot went out.  After several attempts of lighting the pilot and having it go right back out when we moved it to heat we realized the furnace had died.

Now, what you have to understand is that we live in Western New York, just off Lake Ontario.  We have had a lot of snow this year, much more than average.  The forecast for Sunday night was for temperatures below zero.  We got two space heaters out and put one upstairs and one downstairs in the hopes that it would keep the house from totally freezing over.  We adjusted all faucets to deliver a fast drip so the pipes wouldn’t freeze, and then opened unpackaged flannel pajamas to wear to bed in an effort to stay warm.

At some point during the night Sadie came in and burrowed under the covers for warmth.  By the time the alarm went off at 7:00 AM yesterday morning, it was 38 degrees in our bedroom.  Both of us had slept fine and stayed warm, but the house was an iceberg.  I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom, turning on the hot shower to get the room warmed up for Lisa, as she had to work (I had the day off).  In the living room, the thermometer read 52 and downstairs in the family room the thermometer read 50.

The same company that replaced the water heater came to look at the furnace.  The heat exchange is full of cracks and the furnace is just on it’s last legs. The technician replaced the thermocoupler with a warning to make sure we have a CO2 detector and to start thinking about a new furnace — to the tune of $3,995.

Last night, after dinner, we opened the dishwasher to empty it to get it loaded for the next round, only to see that the bottom was full of water — water that apparently cannot be pumped out.

They say these things happen in threes, and I certainly hope this is it because I would have to work part-time for the next 25 years to pay for all the appliances to be replaced!

Finally, here’s something that’s really interesting (besides my **yawn** major appliance issues):  This year we will have 1-1-11, 1-11-11, 11-1-11 and 11-11-11 — now add the last two digits of the year you were born to the age you are turning this year and see what you get.

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