Finally, a Hot Shower

I never knew a shower could feel so good after being deprived of one for so long. Actually, I always loved a good hot shower -- there's nothing better than a hot shower after a vigorous workout or dance class. Each time I visit my friend in New York, I marvel at the shower power of her East Side apartment, especially on a hot, sticky summer day. NYC water pressure is the best! But I am not in New York, nor am I on a cheap African safari (the expensive ones have hot showers). I am in my own home in Beverly Hills where I have had no hot water in my home for 8 days.

I am past my camping days. I used to love the overnights we went on at camp in New Hampshire when I was a young teen. Some of us rode horses to the campsite and then had them to ride during the days we were there. We constructed all our own facilities -- a lean-to to sleep under and a unique toilet. We found two parallel trees that were a foot and a half apart and we dug a hole between the trees. Then we grafted two horizontal branches to the trees, about a foot apart- one to hold on to and one to sit on. It worked perfectly. We bathed in the nearby lake. Not a hot shower, but refreshing!

In my late teens, I worked on a kibbutz in Israel where I shared bathroom "facilities" with 60 other volunteers. There were two single stalls (outhouses) and we used newspaper as toilet paper. The showers were in a separate area and it was a BYO everything -- shampoo, soap, etc. There was usually a line waiting to use the two shower stalls.

I went to Bennington College, a progressive women's college in Vermont in the late '60s and early '70s. The college had no curfew, and men were allowed in the rooms at all times. Since there were many men around at all times, we shared facilities, and seeing a man's hairy legs in the shower or toilet was the norm at our school and didn't faze me. It may not be unusual now, but it was then.

A good many years later, when my second son was accepted to Berkeley, the university offered a sleepover weekend for accepted students and their parents at the school. Students were paired up with other students and roomed together for the weekend. They followed their own schedules and got a taste of college life. Parents were also paired with other parents and we experienced dorm life and were given some tours. Upon reaching the dorm, I was handed two washcloth size "towels." The shared bathroom facilities were down the hall and that was manageable. The issue arose after showering, when I wanted to exit the stall. I realized that there were men and women using the facilities. I only had my two washcloth-size towels and wasn't quite sure where to put them. It had been a long time since I was a "loose" college student.

Our hot water saga is a long, dirty tale. I will only relate the highlights so as not to bore you. When I called my regular plumber last Friday after noticing we had no hot water, the company informed me he was booked and couldn't come. My mistake -- I didn't cry "emergency." After getting increasingly anxious that I might have a gas leak I called SO CA Gas Co. and they came out within a few hours. They told me that I didn't have a gas leak, but that I needed a plumber.

The next day our plumber came (at time and a half and after the owner of the company told me I should just buy a new unit) and after changing the leads, tried to light the pilot light and it combusted in his face. He refused to do anything else except to show me the burn he had sustained and told me to call GE technical support. I called and was told there were 25 people ahead of me. I held on. Since my hot water unit was only five years old and still under parts warranty, GE technical support uses the plumber's analysis of the problem. I had taken notes and read the GE technical support person what my plumber diagnosed as the problem and they insisted that he call them directly. As I tried to reach the plumber, I also called GE back and spoke to another technician. This technician insisted that he would not send any parts (regardless of the plumber's diagnosis) till I checked to see if the safety valve tripped. He emailed me schematic designs to guide me through the process that involved opening up the unit and checking the part. Needless to say that since a licensed plumber had injured himself on the unit, there was no way I was following schematics to open the unit. Besides, I didn't understand the schematics -- my Ph.D. is in Mathematics Education, not plumbing!

Two other plumbers and two FedEx'ed parts later (and lots of people ahead of me on the tech support line) GE decided that the unit was unfixable and authorized a replacement unit. This was day seven of no hot water. On day eight we got our replacement water heater that was under warranty. I had to pay over $1,000 for the labor involved in the diagnosis and installation, but the hot shower I took today was worth a million bucks!