Thursday, December 2, 2010

Household emergencies

Did I blog about the time the shower broke in my hand and I ran around the yard in my robe while my father-in-law instructed me not to stick my hands in dark empty holes that may or may not contain black widow spiders?

I feel like the answer is no, but I honestly can't remember.

I looked through my blog archives, and it seems I did not.

So let me back up a little.

A while ago, I was about to step into the shower, when I turned it on and heard the plastic handle crack and then I couldn't turn the water off. Believe it or not, I'm not a total idiot when it comes to household stuff, but like I've said repeatedly before, I don't like to get my hands dirty.

Unfortunately, Captain America wasn't due home from work for about an hour, and I had a faucet that wouldn't turn off, and water is really expensive in California, not to mention the fact that this was really wasteful.

So I did what any resourceful girl would do and called my dad. Who didn't answer the phone. Then I called Uncle Chef, who also didn't answer the phone. Then I called my father-in-law. The reason I held off so long on my father-in-law is that I'm pretty sure he considers me completely useless around the house, and I really didn't want to further that image. But he's also a really nice, patient man, who is surely aware of my other, more redeeming qualities, although I can't think of any examples right now.

[As an aside, "father-in-law" is a lot to type out, but I really hate the abbreviation FIL, and "Captain America's Dad" is even longer, so I'm just going to refer to my father-in-law as Dad for the rest of this post, since my own dad won't come up again in this story.]

So I called up Dad, and explained the situation, telling him that I knew there was a water shut off valve somewhere, but I didn't have any idea what I was looking for.

He patiently explained to me all of the possible locations for such a thing, including the spot out by the street that is covered by a small cement block. He remembered to tell me to get gloves because I'd be reaching my hand into a dark hole that most likely housed a family of black widow spiders. And then, gloves on, nerves steeled for the task, I heaved the cement block out of the way, squatted down to reach into the abyss, only to find that there wasn't actually anything to turn in the hole. There were lots of spots that looked like they should have a handle, or whatever, but none actually had handles.

I thanked Dad, telling him I was now going to call the water company (I figured that since the water company is so busy telling us ways to conserve water, they might be willing to help me stop such a blatant waste of it), and that I'd call him back later if I still needed his help, or to let him know that the crisis had been resolved.

I spoke to a very pleasant lady named Molly, and she contacted a workman or something to come to my house. The caveat was, they shut off all of the water, because their responsibility ends at my house. That was fine, I said, thinking, well, we can shower at the gym, and I'll just go fill up some water bottles and pots so we can brush our teeth, etc, and it'll just be inconvenient until we can get a plumber here. See how reasonable I can be?

In the meantime, Molly walked me through basically the same thing that Dad had, suggesting various location where the water shut off valve at my house might be (as opposed to the one in the scary whole with the spiders that her workman was going to use), and finally, I decided, screw it, I'm going to turn this valve labeled gas at the front of the house, that seems like it should be connected to our water, but is clearly labeled gas. Generally, I don't mess around with our gas, or anything electrical, but I figured, what's the worst that could happen? I could blow up the house, but no one's in it right now, since I'm still running around the yard in my robe, so that would suck. But probably no one would die, or even lose an eye.

So I turned the valve, and the water shut off. Who was the genius who labeled the water valve gas?

I thanked Molly, she cancelled the workman, I called Dad, told him that some idiot labeled the valve gas, but at least I knew where it was, and then Captain America came home, unscrewed the shower thing, took his pliers, turned off the faucet. We turned the water back on, showered in the other bathroom and lived happily ever after.

Until earlier this week when I blew a fuse by having the heater, the space heater, and the Christmas lights all on at one time. This time, I happened to be in the shower, and my first thought was that the entire neighborhood had lost power, but then I looked out of my shower and saw the lights on in the kitchen, and I realized it was just the fuse. I finished my shower, since the water heater was still working, and I don't actually ever see my hair when I'm washing it anyway, and then I went to deal with this.

Captain America finds it mildly amusing that all of my household emergencies originate in the shower. Although to be fair, our shower can't possibly be blamed for this one, since it is decidedly not electrically powered.

So I towel off, put on my pajamas, and walk outside to the fuse box. I flip the fuse. Nothing happens. I unplug the space heater and the Christmas lights and flip the fuse. Nothing happens. I flip all of the fuses. Nothing happens. I call Captain America to give him the heads up. He instructs me to flip the fuses. And unplug stuff.

Remembering back to this water issue and friendly Molly, I decide to call SDG&E. Maybe there's something more that needs to be done, since fuse-flipping clearly isn't working.

I don't know who I spoke with because the person at SDG&E didn't seem to speak English. She had to ask me three times for my address before I worked out that that's what she was asking me. I explained the problem, telling her I had flipped all of the fuses and nothing happened.

"But you have lights on in other parts of your house?" she clarified.

Yes, I explained, but not in the bedroom, and the furnace wasn't working anymore.

(I know, I know, normally no furnace isn't a big deal in San Diego, but earlier this week it was actually in the 30s at night, which, as far as I'm concerned, is cold.)

"Well," mystery-woman-who-doesn't-speak-English said, "SDG&E is only responsible up to your fuse box. You'll have to call and electrician."

That was it. But I persisted, because I have this strange notion that the people who are supposed to be able to help you probably can, and if they're not willing to help you, it's just because they don't want to, or are too lazy, and they don't know who they're dealing with. I can totally outlast your stubbornness with my own stubbornness and impeccable logic and reasoning, since I've already figured out why you're the person who can solve my problem.

"There's nothing you can do for me?" I asked. No, I was told. "Do you have any suggestions for what I should do until the electrician shows up?" No, again. "Do you have a recommended electrician I can call?" No. Great, I thought, anther completely worthless person. Don't we have enough of those?

Captain America came home to me holding my head in my hands, with a lone candle lit on the coffee table as a heat source, tromped around the house a little, accused me of using the microwave, too, which doesn't make any sense, since that's on a different fuse, turned off all of the lights, flipped all of the fuses again, and poof! We had electricity again, and lived happily ever after, until I took anther shower.

So, the score is, the people at the water company: 3, for being friendly, and helpful, and nice, SDG&E: 0, for being totally useless.


  1. GREAT post! Great beginning, in particular! Yes, it drives me BERSERK when I ask the Professor for help and he says, "Just do this obvious thing that a drunk monkey would think of doing!" And then I become VOLCANICALLY ANGRY when the drunk-monkey action works when HE does it! Erm, the Professor, not a drunk monkey. Whatever. All I can say is, kudos. I don't do spiders.

  2. Thanks! The post grew a little longer than I intended, but I guess that happens with most of my stories! I was sort of assuming that the Professor was the drunk monkey ;)

  3. You think you're so smart! (he says, slurring his typing and stumbling around the room) I don't know how to transliterate the ooh ooh aah aah AAH AAH AAAAAAAAHHHHH sound that monkeys make.
    ---Prof. Dr. Drunken Monkey, Esquire

  4. Z! I'm so honored that you commented on my blog! First FB, now blogger! You're on a roll. And on a slightly different note, my running group does this stupid stretch that I call the "look like an orangutan" stretch. I'll show it to you the next time I see you!