Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Family and Great Inventions

I used to say that the greatest invention of man was Air Conditioning and I still pretty much to this day believe that. (If you have ever lived in the South you will completely agree with me on this too.) I mean, seriously, who wants to actually live in 98 degree weather with a humidity rate of over 90 percent and not beg for some sort of relief. Oh sure, you can hop in a nice cool shower and remove all that dirt, sweat, stickiness and funk from the elegant curves and angles of your body but once you get out of that refreshing oasis of relief you’re right back to where you started. Nasty and not just any kind of nasty. We’re talking about Friday-night-been-on-a-bender-since- my-girl-just-dumped-me-for-Brad-Pitt-Bender! Aw, don’t deny it, you know what I mean.

Dang, sidetracked again.

Last week, on Monday night, I come home from an evening of working at my part time job. Which some of you may know about but for those of you who don’t I am a waiter part time and it aint easy in any sense of the word. (That word being EASY) The restaurant I work for is small and family owned and has been open for over 22 years, 10 of which I have been working there in my current capacity. Over the years I have transferred from my former full time position to my current one with the City in which I work for. The nice thing about the transfer? Grooming Standards. Yes, I got to finally grow my hair out. For which, on occasion I get harassed about. Mostly from guys who are in the early stages of baldness but that has no bearing on this tale other than affording me a cheap shot at all the folks out there in the world who have given me the old cliché “Get a haircut ya Hippy!” To which I reply, “Lose weight ya ugly Nazi!” Which has caused me on more than one occasion to get into either a verbal disagreement, fisticuffs and/or police escorts? Sometimes all three.


For the job as a waiter I have to keep my hair pulled back in a pony-tail and I usually use some type of glue to assist me in that endeavor, ok, it’s really hair gel but it feels like glue and once that stuff hardens it is like I am wearing a DOT certified motorcycle helmet. I’m serious, you could hit me in the head with a baseball bat and I would be protected. (WARNING: I DO HIT BACK!) I don’t like to wear this stuff but it is a necessary evil for my job and it keeps my hair from falling in my face and the patron’s food. This is a good thing because there is nothing quite as nasty as someone else’s hair in your food. (Unless you’re a Zombie, they seem to not be so particular about dining etiquette.) Now, when I get home I like to take a shower and remove all the gel and seafood nastiness smell from my body which means a nice HOT shower. By HOT I mean SCALDING HOT. I get that from my days in the Navy as do most former military personnel who have spent months and years taking cold showers with the barest trickle of water spitting forth from a handheld nozzle in a shoebox sized shower stall. We as a whole like our showers hot. How hot? Hot enough to cook a 20 pound Maine lobster in.

So, imagine my surprise when I get home and go upstairs for my nightly ritual only to discover that once I get into the shower there was no hot water. No big deal I say to myself. I have taken cold showers before and I am sure I will do so in the future so I deal with it and get cleaned up. No worries. I mean after all there are two other people in the house and I know they had taken showers before me so it only makes sense that I may need to suffer a bit. No big deal.

Afterwards, I come downstairs and sit down next to my betrothed and inform her of the lack of heated elegance in my life to which she replied; “Our daughter took a hot shower earlier.”

“Ok” I say “Please informs her in the morning to not take so long in there.”

The next morning guess what? No hot water. Great. I go down to our basement and check the water heater and it is stone cold. I try to ignite the gas burner but no luck. I am running late for work so I tell my family the bad news and let them know that I will look at it when I get home. Twenty minutes after I get to work I get a phone call from the wife that her father stopped by and lit off the heater. YAY! Problem solved.

Um, No.

That evening another cold shower. And not just for me. I got to share the cold water with the entire clan. Good news is that my water bill will be lower this month. I tried once again to light off the water heater and it refused to obey my ever increasing vocal coaxing and manual manipulations of the ignition switch. Unbeknownst to me, my wife had gone onto Facebook and posted on her site the issues we were having in the hopes that someone out there in the “Blue Nowhere” knew how to either fix the problem or at least be kind enough to send a tanker truck of hot water over to our house so we could have some sense of modern convince.

Nope, that did not happen. What happened was this.

Wednesday morning I receive a phone call from one of my 3 sisters, the second of four offspring of my Mother. Here is a transcript to the best of my recollection:

Me: Hiya Sis!

Sister #2: It’s the GOBBLDY GOOK!

Me: Uh? What?

Sister #2: That’s what’s wrong with your water heater. The Gobbldy Gook is broken.

Me: Uh, sis, I don’t think there is a part called “Gobbldy Gook” Sis. Actually, I am pretty sure of it.

Sister #2: Well we had a problem with our heater a couple years ago and my husband replaced the “Gobbldy Gook” and we have had hot water since.

Me: Ok, well I will look into it and see what I can find out. Thanks for the call. Love you.

Sister #2: Love you to Bro.

Later that day I received an email from my bride with a trouble shooting guide for a water heater. I looked at it. It did not make sense to me. Seriously, I think it was written by Carl Sagan or Albert Einstein and edited by Professor Oppenheimer himself. I tried my best to decipher it and I came to the conclusion after about 10 hours of reading and re-reading the guide that what I needed was a Flux-Capacitor and a 1982 DeLorean to properly fix the heater.

At work I fared just as well with all the advice, everyone had an opinion and advice. Simple stuff, like; “Just get a new one.” To “It’s a gas leak.” I did however have one person say; “It has to be the thermal detonator.” (Ok, you say Thermal-Detonator to anyone in their 40’s and they immediately think of “Return of the Jedi” where Princess Lei literally goes into Jabba’s palace and is carrying a “THERMAL DETONATOR”. I don’t know about you or about the engineers of the world but I don’t think they use thermal detonators to light off a gas heated water heater. Before I left for the day I informed my supervisor that I was going to be taking Thursday off to try and fix my water heater. She was surprised and even a bit encouraging to my future task.

I called Lowes on the way out the door and informed them of my water heater situation and the young lady informed me that usually in most cases like mine it comes down to a bad “Thermo-Coupler” element going bad and that she had them in stock for only 7 bucks. I just needed to make sure the make and model of the heater.

Thursday morning arrives with a quick trip to Lowes and a purchase of a Thermo-Coupler which if you have never seen one is just a simple piece of solid copper with a threaded end and a “Probe” end. That’s it. I took it home and commenced to disassembling the unit in the basement. I followed the instructions and within 20 minutes I was finished. Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeazy. Then I tried to light the thing off. Click, click, click. Just like the instructions said. Nothing happened. Waited and tried again. Nothing happened. Waited and tried again… same result. So I stopped. I am not insane and I knew the result.

Guess what. There is an 800 number on the side of the water tank and I called it. I told the lady on the phone what had occurred over the last few days and the repair I made. She said that maybe it was the “Thermal-Housing Unit” and gave me a number to call and even offered to warranty the part for me. Nice. I called. Guy on the phone said there was no part number for the one the lady gave me. Yay! He then informed me to call the company again. I did. This time a guy answered. I told him what I had been going through. He walked me through the “Light off procedure”. Nothing happened.


On the 5th attempt I hit that little automatic igniter and the whole base of the hot water heater seemed to be engulfed in flames. KAAAAFFFFWWWWOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!

I now have hot water.

I posted on Facebook that we had hot water and I got a phone call from… you guessed it, Sister #2

Me: Hiya Sis.

Sister #2: I told you it was the Gobbldy Gook.

Me: Yeah Sis, your right. Gotta go. Love you.

I now know that not only is air conditioning the greatest invention but also hot water heaters are too. Oh, and if you want advice about water heaters, call the company.


  1. I called it the Gobbly Wobbler not Gobbly Gook! And it was more than 20 years ago and I also told you that it was only $5.00 back then.

  2. Thanks Sister #2. However that was not the point. Glad you read the blog though. Keep coming back for more fun and madness.