Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Pure water torture

We've got a new swear word round our place - “bosch”, and derivatives thereof.


The usual accompaniment to the swearing is a cold, wet, barefoot walk round the side of the house to fiddle with aforementioned heater followed by a sprint back to the bathroom in a rather pointless effort to “save water”.

Like this, but with less smiling.

You see, at some point in the last few months, our water heater has become cursed. There's no two ways about it. One day it was working, the next - it had developed a crushing personality disorder that rendered it all but useless except in the most particular of circumstances.

Some examples of circumstances in which it does NOT like to produce hot water are:

three seconds after you have removed all your clothes and are shivering next to the shower with one hand on the hot tap
three seconds after you have removed all your clothes and are shivering next to the bath with one hand on the hot tap
any point at which you need hot water for an essential purpose and it is a) raining, b) hailing, c) snowing or d) all three

On the other hand, it is virtually guaranteed to instantly produce hot water when a plumber is looking at it. Sadly this is not a cost effective solution to the problem.

It all started when my boyfriend and I went to Melbourne for a weekend. Maybe the water heater got jealous, maybe it felt lonely. Maybe it died of a broken heart. Or valve. Whatever happened, we endured freezing cold prison showers for days after we got back until we could get a plumber out to replace the thing.

“Nah, you can't put a new one there,” the plumber said when he saw the position of the old heater. “That's against new building regulations. Gotta be at least 500 mil from an adjacent overhang and no more than 300 mil vertically from a horizontal protrudance.”

I nodded sagely, as if I understood what he was going on about.

To replace the heater meant putting the new one on the opposite side of the house and running new pipes up through the roof, he said, all at a cost of about $3000.

This, I understood.

Fortunately, the plumber identified the problem with the old heater and got it working again with a few new parts. But he didn't reckon on the curse. Within 24 hours it was back at it, acting all moody and being a bosching nuisance. Until plumber number two turned up, then it worked perfectly.

“It's a bit hard for me to er, fix it if, er, it's working,” he said, before fiddling with a few nozzles, twisting a few wires and going home.

The water heater waited approximately 30 seconds after the plumber's van had left the driveway, then promptly switched off again. I swear I heard it laugh.

Soon the morning shower ritual became like a segment on one of those bad Japanese gameshows where contestants are made to chew cacti or rub chilli powder on their nether regions - a weird russian roulette involving either an arctic waterfall or a scalding hot spray.

The first five minutes of every shower had to be spent with one hand in the freezing downpour, trying to detect a change in temperature as your arm went numb.

(So ingrained is this behaviour now that while visiting my mum's the other day I was actually impressed when hot water came out of her kitchen tap less than two minutes after switching it on. I felt like a medieval peasant out of some bad sci-fi time travel movie. “Arr, what be this magick? This be the devil's work!”)

Weeks of this sort of thing will tend to drive you mad, which is why by the time plumber number three visited us last week, I was beginning to feel slightly deranged.

I think I scared him a bit as I tried to explain the intricacies of the curse on our water heater.

“It works four times out of 10,” I said, “But it works nine times out of 10 if you take the cover off first. And sometimes if you blow on it, but only if you twist that knob at the same time. And it helps if you've already used it once before that day, but not more than three times.”

Sadly he had much the same reaction as plumber number two. And so the bosching water heater continues to not bosching work properly. Bosch it.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on July 17, 2011.


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