“Beware of the dog. But keep an eye on the neighbor, too. He’s kinda weird.” —A sign my neighbors would probably consider displaying
Owning a home or an automobile is deeply rooted in the American way of life often considered as signs of success.
Home ownership can also be an investment, provided one can outwit the sneaky beast—home maintenance. Cars? They are mostly expense although some classics are fun to drive. My dad never considered a car as fun. His philosophy at a time when the classics I own now were still in the new car showrooms was to avoid automobiles with power options. “Just more maintenance to pay for.”
Home maintenance woes greeted me head on Saturday night returning from a road trip car show up in Northeast Texas in my 1955 Ford. Opening the door to the house was like entering an oven. It was hotter inside than the dog day afternoon outside. In fact, the dog decided to stay outside where he had been all day.
In a bit of “lucky dog” fortune, my recently purchased home warranty kicked in a couple of weeks ago. A call about 8:30 Saturday night prompted a scripted response offering little sympathy for my hot house with the message, “a repair contractor will call in 24-48 hours.” Dragging out the fans, I once again pondered the classic question: why do these things always happen weekends or the middle of the night?
Household maintenance issues, day or night, seldom come with any warning and can leave you in hot water, or some times without it. Water heaters, for me, tend to be the sneakiest culprits, more so than climate control systems. You don’t get to simply come home to a sweltering sauna to suffer. It’s a soggy floor or cold shower that is usually your first clue that the water heater has created chaos.
It was water heater chaos that almost got me evicted from the neighborhood one morning a few years ago when thermal shock in the shower at 5:00 a.m. was my first clue that something about the water heater was not so hot. Checking the pilot as my first troubleshooting task was hurriedly executed with a wet head and a towel for attire. Navigating to the garage utility room in the early morning darkness with a flashlight, the steady stream of water coming from under the storeroom door was the beginning of solving the mystery but came very close to being the end of a great relationship with my next-door neighbors.
The exact moment I chose to open the utility room door to turn off the water supply to the heater coincidentally coincided with the same moment my wife chose to push the button to raise the garage door to see what I was doing in the garage with a flashlight at 5:00 a.m. Worse was the fact that the door switch also turned on the garage lights.
Most early mornings, seeing the neighbor’s garage door start up might trigger the thought that said neighbor was headed for work, maybe taking trash cans to the curb, or letting the dogs out. But, on this particular morning, the retired couple next door loading the car for a vacation trip was given a whole different set of factors with which to work when suddenly subjected to the image of the guy next door in his garage dripping wet and wearing a towel.
The apparent shock and silence were broken when I stammered a weak “good morning,” adding something about the water heater being out of commission in a scene totally reminiscent of the classic movie, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
“What are you doing,” my spouse called loudly from the kitchen door.
“Hoping our neighbors can unsee what they just saw,” I said. “You could help with that if you will kindly hit that switch to lower the door.”
Fortunately, no encounters of the close kind with neighbors accompanied arriving home Saturday to a hot hacienda. While a towel dress code might have made the heat more bearable, in a manner of speaking, I’m not sure the neighbors could have endured an encore.
Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune, the Taylor, Texas, Press, the Alpine, Texas, Avalanche.
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