World Series memories, part two

While the Chicago Cubs were becoming champions, life continued happening. I needed to go to work, teach classes some evenings, take part in church services on Sundays, eat, sleep, breathe, and all the rest. In fact, some unusual events took place during the same days that I was watching playoff baseball on television.

One Saturday morning I began to take a shower, and there was no hot water. The water heater was replaced less than two years ago, and I have had to relight the pilot light twice before, so I threw on some clothes and went outside to light it again. (Our water heater is in a closet that can be reached only from outside, probably to reduce the risk of a gas leak into the house.) Although I tried several times, I was not able to light the pilot light. Instead (this being a new heater), I received an error message—a light flashing seven times, which according to a sign on the side of the heater signified a “gas control or valve failure.”

That sent me to the telephone. First I called the gas company, who assured me that the problem was inside the heater and not their responsibility. Then I called a plumber certified to work with gas lines. He said that he could replace the part, but he could not get it from the warehouse until Monday. He also suggested that I contact the manufacturer, since the heater should still be under warranty. After checking the warranty, I called the manufacturer and described the problem. After asking to be sure that the red light was flashing seven times, they said that they could send the part by overnight shipping, but not until Monday, since the warehouse was closed for the weekend. I called the plumber again and he promised to install the part, but he refused to schedule an appointment until I had the actual part at my house.

My family and I were taking fast cold showers. We were heating pots of water on the stove to wash dishes. Mostly, we were waiting for the repair. I stayed home from work on Tuesday. The part was delivered around ten o’clock Tuesday morning. I telephoned the plumber, who said he would try to get to my house that afternoon but might not be able to make it until Wednesday morning. I called him again around four to tell him not to try to make it any more on Tuesday, as I had a class to teach that evening. He finally arrived about noon on Wednesday. It took ten or fifteen minutes to replace the faulty part with the new part, and another fifteen minutes to complete the paperwork.

When I spoke with him on Wednesday, he asked me if I had drained the heater. When I said no, he asked me to do so while he was on his way to the house. I found a hose in the storage shed, attached it to the heater, and opened the valve. When I checked it a few minutes later, water was still coming out of the hose. I was about to go back inside when it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to turn off the valve at the top of the heater that brings water into the heater. Shortly after I did that, the heater finished draining.

Overlapping the drama with the heater was a second drama with a dishwasher. The weekend before the water heater stopped working, I decided that the time had come to replace the family dishwasher, which was no longer getting dishes clean. I checked prices and reviews online, then went to a store at the mall to order the best dishwasher I could afford. I ended up applying for a store credit card to get the benefit of no interest for a good number of months and then scheduled delivery and installation.

The truck came as scheduled, the workers came into the kitchen, and immediately one of them said, “We can’t do this.” The old dishwasher was too far from the sink; they didn’t have the right connectors for our house. They left the new dishwasher in its box in the corner of the dining room and promised to return. After a few days, a phone call to the company verified that they had not scheduled a return visit. Such a visit was scheduled, but not until the Saturday one week after the water heater failed.

Moreover, the day before the water heater failed, our city services failed to pick up the recycling on our street, something they are under contract to do every fourteen days. I waited until Monday, and when they still hadn’t come, I began contacting the company. Twice a day I was in touch with them, sometimes by telephone and sometimes through an online chat. Each of ten such conversations included a sincere apology on the part of the company and a promise to get the truck out to our street as soon as possible. I reminded them that I was one of fifteen customers who had been missed, but the one time that week a truck did come, the workers picked up only the recycling from two houses at the other end of the street. Friday afternoon I was told that they would probably wait until the next scheduled pick-up. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” she sweetly asked.

“I know this isn’t your fault,” I told her politely, but this is getting old. Is there any way I can file a complaint?” There was indeed such a procedure, which I followed. I never heard back from the company about my complaint, but the recycling did get picked up during the day on Wednesday. And they did come back again Friday as scheduled to take what little recycling we had generated in two days.

So all three of these problems were happening at the same time: no hot water for five days, a new dishwasher in its box in the dining room for nine days, and a recycling bin at the curb for twelve days. Was I complaining? In fact, I was not complaining. I figured that, as long as Murphy’s Gremlins were busy at my house, they couldn’t cause any trouble at Wrigley Field. The inconvenience was worth the reward. J.

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Dealing with it

First, it’s Saturday. I always have greater stress and anxiety on Saturdays—I don’t know why. Second, it is a hot and humid summer day. Heat and humidity do not agree with me. Third, the neighborhood is noisy. The cause is not Mrs. Dim (for once!), but an airshow at a nearby airport. Fourth, the family desktop computer stopped working last night. (Murphy’s gremlins work extra hard on Friday nights. They must get overtime pay.) Fifth, I am a day away from being told whether or not a certain job will be offered to me.

Since the computer is not working, even though I have work that must be done, I take my work to the place where I work, even though the work I must get done is not related to my job. I’m not on the clock; I’m just borrowing my work computer. Before I do my work, though, I research troubleshooting for my home computer. The most probable trouble is dust inside the computer. I sprayed some air through the vent last night, but when I will go home I will do a more thorough cleaning.

Sixth, on my way home I stop at Walmart. I want to pick up a few items, including a frozen pizza for Saturday lunch. I go to the self-serve register with my seven items, and the second item I scan—a bag of frozen peas—brings up an error message. My peas are a restricted item. I must set them aside and continue scanning my other items. Something about Walmart makes me anxious, especially on Saturdays. I get the attention of a young girl working for Walmart, and she gets a manager, and the two of them agree that I cannot buy that bag of peas. Restricted means I cannot have it. An experience like that is bound to rattle an easily-rattled person like me. I let them keep their peas. I take the rest of my food, drive home, cook my pizza, and eat it.

After lunch, it is time to tackle the recalcitrant computer. I try three screwdrivers before I have one that fits the little screw that holds the side panel in place. The side panel pops off with a clatter and falls to the floor. I spray every surface I can see inside the computer until the dust is gone. Then I have to restore the side panel and the little screw. My hands are trembling. Sweat is pouring off my forehead and my neck. My arms feel clammy. This is anxiety with six triggers activated.

First I have to find the little screw. It disappeared when the panel clattered and dropped. Finally I find the screw—oddly enough, balanced on its head instead of lying flat on the floor. It requires some fiddling with shaking hands, but I finally get the panel aligned properly. Still, the screw does not want to drop into its place.

I take a break and towel my face and neck with a damp washcloth. I take a deep breath and return to the computer. With a little more effort, I get the screw installed properly. I reattach the power and all the other cables and test the system. I breathe a prayer of thanks as the monitor springs to life.

Since the problem was dust, I take some time to redesign the work station. The tower is three feet higher than it was, sitting next to the monitor rather than near the floor. The family will have to get used to the change, because this is better for the computer.

It is still Saturday. The air show is still happening. Mrs. Dim even joins in briefly with her blower, but it’s all good. My stomach is still swirling and my knees are still weak, but the computer is working again. Everything else will fall into place the way things are meant to be. J.

 

A repair gone amiss

We got through the weekend with the line to the ice-maker and water-dispenser inoperative. Tuesday on my way home from work I stopped by the hardware store and bought the right connector for the water line. (I brought in the section of line that was leaking to be sure to buy the right connector.) Only four dollars and a little bit of work, and the repair would be almost as good as new. Or so I thought.

The men who helped me at the hardware store noticed that my cutting of the line had not been smooth. “You want to make sure to have a clean cut, or the connector will leak,” they warned me. Following their advice, I recut the line, slid it into the connector, and turned the water back on. Success! The connection was not leaking! I was ready to push the refrigerator back into place when I saw another puddle forming. This leak was coming from the adapter—a piece of plumbing that connected the house line to the line that came from the refrigerator, which happened to be different sizes. I shut off the water again and took apart the adapter. I found that the line had corroded right at the adapter. I cut off the corroded end and started to reassemble the adaptor.

The house line would not fit into the adapter.

For about an hour I struggled with the connection, trying to find some way of getting the line into the adapter. I pressed as hard as I could. I tried various tools. I even softened the plastic of the house line in a flame. That looked as if it was going to work, but when I turned the water on again, the line blew out of the adapter immediately. Of course I turned the water off again and cleaned up the latest puddle.

I took a break to eat supper, then returned to the job. A new puddle had formed while I was eating, even though I had left the line closed. I checked the cutoff valve under the sink, loosened it and tightened it again, but a trickle of water was continuing to flow down the line. By this time, I could hear water hissing through the valve even when it was turned off as hard as I could push it.

I know my limitations. Replacing a leaking shut-off valve is outside of my skill set. I grabbed the phone book and called a local plumbing firm. They warned me that there would be an extra charge for coming after hours, but I agreed to pay the extra charge. Meanwhile, I had a one gallon bucket and a two to three gallon waste basket. I let the line empty into the waste basket, and when the waste basket was full—every fifteen to twenty minutes—I let the line empty into the bucket long enough for me to dump the waste basket’s water down the sink.

More than an hour later, the plumber arrived. I explained the problem to him, and since I was paying him to take care of the cut-off valve, I figured I might as well ask him to connect the line to the refrigerator too. He was not the kind of worker who wanted to visit while he worked (or to be watched), so I used the time to study for my Wednesday morning lecture.

After he had taken care of the valve, the plumber told me that he wanted to replace the entire line from the valve to the adapter with copper line. He wanted me that the old plastic line was going to continue to deteriorate, and the next leak might be in the wall instead of under the refrigerator. Of course I agreed. He had the job done in less than an hour. I haven’t checked the price of copper plumbing by the foot, but I can report that my four dollar repair ended up costing me in the ballpark of four hundred dollars.

On the other hand, we have a working ice maker again, and it is fed by copper line that should not disintegrate for many years to come. J.

 

Weekend repairs; or, flies in the ointment

The weekend was good and I don’t wish to complain… but I will anyhow. There were three flies in the ointment that kept the weekend from being perfect. Murphy’s Gremlins were not interested in leaving the family alone all weekend.

The first of the flies arrived Friday night, as a puddle of water began to flow from under the refrigerator. I pulled the refrigerator away from the wall, expecting to find a leak in the hose that connects to the ice maker. At first I found no such hole, and I began to suspect that the leak was coming from the dishwasher. Since the dishwasher was not running at the time, I put some green food dye in a glass of water and poured it into the dishwasher drain. When the puddle under the refrigerator did not turn green, I rechecked the hose and finally found a small leak. For a short-term solution, I turned off the water line to the icemaker, hoping that we had enough ice to make it through the weekend.

Of course Murphy’s Gremlins act on a Friday night, not in the middle of the week. And of course they choose a weekend when family from out of town is coming to visit. At least I was able to visit with more talented do-it-yourself relatives about the needed repair. From the internet, I had gathered that I needed either to replace the entire hose or to cut the leaking section and attach the two pieces of hose with a connector. My relatives recommended a connector and also suggested that I take the removed section of hose with me to the hardware store to be sure to get the right size connector.

Murphy’s Gremlins visited again Saturday afternoon when the spring on the garage door broke. I’ve reattached broken springs on that door before, but this time the spring managed to break at both ends. A fair amount of trial and error was required to get the entire system working again (and I have several unattractive and painful scrapes and cuts on my hands from the repair), but after about an hour (and with some assistance from my daughter when two hands were not enough), I got the door working again.

Sunday, Murphy’s Gremlins got some help from Mrs. Dim. After returning from church, family members decided to take some pictures of each other in front of the house. One part of the family had flown in from out of town and rented a car at the airport. When we came back from church, they parked in the street, since they would be the first to leave after our cookout. Of course they parked on the very patch of pavement where Mrs. Dim likes to leave her trash bags of cut grass and other lawn maintenance residue. (The city ordinance forbids putting such trash on the pavement-it’s supposed to be left on the lawn within six feet of the pavement. But Mrs. Dim doesn’t want to risk hurting her carefully-tended lawn, so she usually puts her bags on the pavement.)

So, while we were involved in family photographs, Mrs. Dim began dragging her trash bags right to the property line. The first she placed directly on the line; the others were more on my side than her side. (Yes, they were on the grass.) I think my out-of-town family assumed that I exaggerate when I describe Mrs. Dim’s petty and childish behavior. Now they got to see it for themselves. When we were on the other side of the house, I whispered to my sister, “This is SO going on the internet.”

All of these problems were relatively small. No one crashed while traveling, and no one was taken to the hospital from my house.  The weather was virtually ideal, everyone got enough to eat, and we enjoyed each other’s company. It would take a genuine curmudgeon to find any reason to complain about the weekend-but a curmudgeon is exactly what I am. J.

Perspective

My daughter called me last evening, frantic. She was driving to a dance competition in a city three hours away, but her car had stalled on the Interstate and would not start. We explored various options—were other dancers from her school liable to be along before I could get there?—but eventually it was obvious that I would have to meet her at her car and get her to the competition, and also I would have to arrange to get her car towed so it could be repaired.

It was dark by the time I found her and her car. We got her dress and supplies and overnight bag and pillow transferred into my car. I made sure that her car would be towable in the morning. Then we continued on our way. She needed to text several people about her situation, since she had first told them about the car trouble, so she was quietly working on her phone for a while. Then, in a soft voice, she asked me if I had heard about the shootings and bombings in Paris. I told her I had heard preliminary reports before leaving the house, and she proceeded to fill me in with the known details about the terrorist attacks and their victims.

After a while, she looked up and said to me, “I guess having the car break down on the interstate isn’t such a terrible thing, relatively speaking.”

Yes, I was proud of her for that moment of perspective. Canceling my evening plans and driving until nearly midnight suddenly did not seem such a terrible inconvenience either. I can read and watch television other nights. This night we could pray for the families of those murdered, for those in Paris who were injured, who were frightened, and who were in need of the Lord’s gentle care.

Jesus told his followers that wars and rumors of wars (as well as earthquakes, famines, and other troubles) would fill history right up until the time of his Glorious Appearing to inaugurate the new creation and to complete the fullness of his promises, those promises already kept by his sacrifice and his resurrection. Accepting the knowledge that evil will happen is not surrendering to the evil. God’s people should continue to be horrified by every violent crime, by every act of war, and by every way that people hurt other people in this sinful world. Evil does not win so long as we continue to hate evil. While we continue to speak of a God of love, mercy, and forgiveness, we also call upon governments in this world to accomplish their God-given task, “an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). The government, acting as government, does not forgive sinners; it punishes the wicked and the evil and protects its citizens. This truth does not cancel the other truth that the cross of Christ is bigger than all evil combined, rescuing victims of sin and also sinners when they trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

The Bible speaks of Tribulation, not as a count-down to the Last Days, but as a sign of the Last Days that has stood since Jesus died and rose from the dead. Enemies of the Church will attack and persecute Christians. Wicked people will pursue senseless violence for their own evil purposes. Wars and rumors of wars will continue. As citizens of this world, we fight evil with strength; as citizens of God’s Kingdom, we know that the victory over evil has already been won.

Some weeks it seems as though Murphy’s Gremlins have targeted me and my family with special maleficence. Car troubles and appliance troubles have plagued our lives and our family budget unremittingly for more than three straight years now. The awareness that “it could have been worse” seems hollow after frequent repetitions. Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall distinguished between miserable lives and horrible lives, suggesting that those who are merely miserable should be glad that their problems are not horrible. As a Christian, I can say more. Whether I suffer from the petty annoyances of Murphy’s Gremlins or whether I must face true evil in its ugliest form, I know that Christ has made me more than a conqueror by winning the battle and the war against evil. I know that nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Thank you, dear daughter, for that moment of perspective. J.