The other day we had to have our water heater replaced. We knew it was coming. A repairman came a couple of years ago to fix the gas inlet and he couldn't do it. The problem was that the water heater was so old that his parts didn't fit and he didn't know where to find ones that did. He called in to his company and they didn't know where to get parts either. I said I'd try to find something since I have some contacts in the old appliance realm. I checked with the local hardware store -- which used to have lots of old stuff. Well, no. They'd got rid of most of their old stock, and the parts they have now were the same as the plumber had, and they wouldn't fit. Try a place in town (Albuquerque) they said. A couple of them still have old stock.
So I go into town. At the recommended place. they said yes they had the part I needed (a reverse thread nut) but they only sold it with a complete replacement kit for the firebox. Oh. How much? $108. The part I needed was about $1.35, but what the hey? So I got the kit, called the plumber -- who was shocked I found the parts -- and he came back and put the whole kit in the water heater, and it worked fine, better than ever. But he said at max, the WH would last maybe three more years, and I'd better start saving up for a new one. How much, I asked. He said at least $1,500, probably closer to $1,800 to $2,000.
Well, but that's the way it goes.
So maybe 2.5 years go by, and by golly, the pressure relief valve goes out, water -- hot water -- spraying everywhere, and there's no way to stop it. Nowadays, it wouldn't happen quite that way, but I'll get to that.
You see, this is an old house, and things have been cobbled together, often self-built and repaired over more than 100 years, and so things aren't necessarily well-planned or thought through. For one thing, even though the water heater was installed in 2005, it was an older model, and it wasn't put in properly -- though it was supposedly done by professionals. There was no shut off valve, for example, and there were other issues. So in order to stop the water spraying all over the laundry room, I had to go out to the driveway and dig out the meter box which was buried in gravel. Initially, I couldn't find it. But then I did and dug and scraped until the cover emerged, and I couldn't find the tool to open it. I used to do it with a big screwdriver, but I couldn't find that either. So I called the city (yes, though we live in a rural area, we are technically in a city, and the city provides water to our section.) They sent a guy within 10 minutes and he had to struggle some to get the water off, but he finally did, and we started cleaning up the... mess...
I called the new plumbers we'd been using, asking if they could send somebody. Well, yes. They could but it might not be until late, maybe 5p or even later. Would that be all right?
I said I'd check locally, and if I could get somebody sooner, I would. Fine. I called several local plumbers, and as I expected, the answer was nope, or there was no answer at all or no call back. One didn't even have a phone number listed. What fun.
So I called the other plumber back. I knew they were more expensive, but if they could get somebody out here, that would be cool.
I'd called at 8:00am. At 1:00pm the plumber assigned to us calls, and we discuss what's wrong, and he says welp, he can fix the pressure relief valve ($7-800) or he can replace the whole thing ($2100). What did I think? I said welp, it's old, and we'll have to replace it soon anyway, let's do the whole thing. Can he put a shut off valve on it? Yup. Everything to code, and a very high-end water heater.
Wow. That's more money than we've got on hand, but you do what you gotta.
So after several more conversations about household heating and cooling, how much room he will to work and what size the heater is, he says he'll pick up a water heater and parts and be here in about an hour. Sure enough, he shows right on time, and after checking out the situation gets right to work.
About 3 hours later, the city worker comes out and turns on the water at the meter, and ta da, a fancy new water heater is installed, with a shut off valve, a drip tray, a copper line from the pressure relief valve to the outside, an alarm if it leaks, and all sorts of other things which I wasn't expecting, including the fanciest earthquake restraints I'd ever seen. The water heater works electronically, no pilot light, and there are special instructions for shutting the dang thing off. Not at all like the old one. Steep learning curve for me. But oh well.
He walked me through the basics and pointed out the instruction manual. It's guaranteed 6 years, he said, installation guaranteed for a year. If anything goes wrong, no charge for parts or labor for the first year, then labor only for the next five years. He said it would probably last for 15 to 20 years, but we should think about replacing it before that.
Otherwise, the price complete was indeed $2,100.
We chit-chat a bit while he's preparing the bill, and it turns out he's from South Africa and he came to the US in 2016. Whoa, mercy. Got in just in time. He did an excellent and very thorough job. He asked if we wanted him to clean up the water which was still puddled here and there in the laundry room, and the mud he'd tracked in from outside. I said no, he'd done his part. We'd take care of it.
And so, we thank him profusely and at about 6:00pm, he drives away to his next job, a broken refrigerator water line. Time to start cleaning up.
We now have hot water to clean up with. Everything works except one faucet in the bathroom which now leaks which it didn't before. Hm. Well, I can fix that, eventually.
Now why is this a metaphor for our national condition?
For one thing, the last four years have been a mess and the government is partially -- some would say completely -- broken. There's crap all over the place, and a big part of the project for the Biden regime (yes, they're all regimes now) is repairing what's broken, replacing what doesn't work any more, and cleaning up the mess left by Trump and his fans. No easy task.
Biden and Harris seem ready to start. But there's so much work to do, and whatever gets done is going to be different than we expect. It's going to be more complicated, better in some ways, not so much in others. It'll look good, probably, but it may not last very long. It'll take professionals, not grifters, to get done.
We've known this would happen, would have to happen, sooner or later, and we've been prepping, somewhat, not very well, but still...
What needs doing -- like replacing the water heater -- will take care of a little bit of what ultimately needs to be done. Biden and Harris say they are focused on controlling the virus, rebuilding the economy and fixing broken institutions. OK. That's really a much bigger job than I think they can handle, but what do I know? There is so much that's gone sideways, not just since the advent of Orange Man Bad in the White House, but for a very long time. Fixing it isn't going to happen overnight, and the crew coming in is more like a restoration effort, not a renovation/repair/rehabilitation outfit. But again, we may be in for surprises.
A simple fix of the water heater would have made me happy. We got a deluxe fix. But it's not going to last forever. Nothing does.