#1 – Fix A Water Heater

I am not good with my hands.

Unless of course it involves writing or I’m naked with a lady. Hell, even when a lady isn’t present I’m still good with my hands.

When I shake hands with someone I often receive a comment about my naturally soft hands. My hands have maintained a tender touch because I’ve never really had a job requiring manual labor. Most of my jobs have made use of my brain, which is fortunate because there is a disconnect when it comes to working with my hands. It really doesn’t make sense given my superb hand-eye coordination and athletic coordination.

Nearly everyone else in my family is good with cars, tools, or household repairs. Trust that I am the brunt of a lot of jokes in my family, since my grandfather Augie was a machine gunner in the Korean War and a mechanic for the Ryan Aeronautical Company for 40 years. My comedian uncle, Rene, knows how to do anything involving construction and cars. In fact, when he was first starting out as a stand-up comedian he laid the tile of the San Diego Improv just to get more stage time from Improv founder Budd Friedman. Even my grandmother Gloria puts me to shame, since she has been a hairdresser for about 50 years.

With people like that in my life it was never a priority for me to learn how to do the things that they already knew how to do. I am also the type of person who learns on the job. When the San Diego Union-Tribune first started paying me to write at 18 years old I had only ever written one article for my school paper. I learned how to be a journalist by getting paid to do it. So, I jokingly blame my Grandfather and Uncle for taking my options to learn common tasks often associated with the male gender.

With that back-story, I went to take a shower the other day and no hot water came out. I had to get going with my day so I didn’t have time to figure out the problem but I assumed it had to do with the water heater. Alas I went out into the world without a shower, which throws off my level of comfort. I usually take a shower to wake me up in the morning and then one at night after a workout. I didn’t get home until really late and didn’t have time to fidget with it then either. I asked my roommate to take a look if he got a chance, but he’s home even less than me, so I knew he couldn’t get around to it before me.

It kind of looks like a punching bag.

I woke up the next day around my customary time between 10am-Noon and smelled like wet garbage because I hadn’t showered in over 40 hours. I most definitely did not want to mess with the water heater, because involving me with anything related to fire and gasoline is just asking for trouble. I once started a fire in a science lab in seventh grade. 2011 Joshua would’ve probably waited for someone else to fix the problem but because of this new endeavor to try 101 new things in 2012 I figured I should start with learning how to fix a water heater. Plus, given the grease in my hair and the skunk living in my arm pit I really didn’t have a choice but to figure out the problem, because it could have been days before my roommate could take a look at it.

This is what I look like without a shower in 40 hours. If only you could scratch & sniff this picture.

I went to the side of the house where the water heater is stored, and opened the closet door. I had no idea what was wrong, but I was immediately unnerved because of warnings like this:

If that was a little brown guy that very well could be me.

Thankfully there are instructions on it that gives a suggestion to restart the pilot light if the water heater isn’t working properly.

I followed the instructions by removing the blue covered protection plate and then turned the nozzle to PILOT while turning the temperature to the lowest level.

I got to the part in the instructions that read if I smelled gas then to let the area air out for 10 minutes. Who determines that 10 minutes is an ample amount of time for gas to dissipate? Images of me blowing up the house suddenly popped into my head, because I only waited 9 minutes and 30 seconds.

I then held on to the RESET button while pressing the IGNITER button multiple times.

The instructions said to get down near the pilot light window to see if the light was ignited by the reset attempts. When I got down there I couldn’t see a flame. The light from the sun pouring into the closet was drowning out any sight of the flame. I figured I did everything right, so I continued with the instructions, which said to turn the nozzle back to the ON positions and then reset the temperature to the desired selections.

I immediately heard the flames kick in, and the images of me blowing up the house returned. I didn’t smell any gas earlier but I waited 10 minutes anyways. I think it was 10 minutes. I hope it was 10 minutes. Instead of running in the opposite direction I went back to the pilot light window and looked through it at an angle to see flames erupting from the bottom. Apparently I can follow instructions.

My victory was short lived, however, because as I supported my rise off the ground I pressed against the uncovered metal portion of the water heater, thus burning my hand. Any happiness from teaching myself a simple household repair was momentarily burned away.

I went back inside to test the water temperature, but it was still cold, so I went back outside to the water heater. I listened carefully and heard some sizzling at the bottom of the machine. I surmised it was condensation that was falling to the bottom of the water heater and that it may take a while for the water temperature to heat back up. The water heater had been off for so long that condensation had developed.

I was happy with my minor household repair. The people in my everyday life were probably happier since I could then take a shower.

What are you doing in my bathroom?

I know this probably sounds ridiculous to most of you who are homeowners or over the age of 21, but let me remind you that I am just a clown who can write, so I consider it quite an accomplishment that I didn’t end up doing the backstroke through flames, like the little guy on that warning label.

Ironically, the water heater broke two days later, through no fault of my handiwork…I think.

If all else fails, go buy a new one.

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