Friday, November 16, 2007


Because fair is fair, turnabout is fairplay and all that, I bring you this story.

Yesterday I was doing my morning ablutions, and this particular day included using the hair clippers in the main bathroom. A little more fluffing about the house and I was ready to take my shower. There was no hot water. I tried running the taps to convince the continuous flow hot water heater to start up, but that failed, as it did at every other tap I tried (what's that I hear you muttering about the definition of insanity? Bah! I was just checking everything to narrow the problem).

After checking the taps, the next thing was to go to check the gas bottles (LPG) and the heater itself. I went outside in a pair of sweatpants and a towel draped over my shoulders so I didn't risk inflicting the ghastly vision of myself on the neighbours (who weren't there, anyway). The bottles were full (as they should have been, since they were just refilled). The gas heater looked normal. I flicked the power switch, just in case, tried all the taps again, still nothing.

I tried the kitchen tap, which is on its own gas heater, and that worked fine, so there was no problem with the gas. I also checked the circuit breaker to make sure that nothing was tripped.

So, having checked out everything I could think of, I rang the authorised service agent for the water heater. They were fully booked-out for the day, and probably Friday as well. When I told them we had no hot water, we went onto the “priority” list.

The guy arrived around 3.30 that afternoon, checked the heater and determined there was no power going to it (electricity is used to light the gas to heat the water as it's used; very energy-efficient, but it does need power). He told me to ring the power company to make sure there was no load management in the area (in which they send a signal to shut off electric water heaters to reduce electricity demand). The gas man thought that our gas heater might be hooked up to the power for the old electric hot water heater, and so, might be turned off. Turns out, there was no load management, so the gas man said I'd need to ring an electrician to find the fault.

Back on the phone. The first electrician couldn't come until the morning. The second couldn't come, but recommended another. He couldn't come, but recommended I try still another. At first, I wasn't impressed with him, if I'm honest, because after I explained the problem he was saying he didn't think it was a problem an electrician would work on, so I explained it a couple more times until he got it.

Then he asked, “Is there a power point in your bathroom?” (a power point is a called something like a “wall outlet” in America). There is. “Is it working?” I said I thought so, but I'd go check. As I walked, he explained that very often the electricity for water heaters is connected to the bathroom.

When I got there and looked, I immediately saw that the little blue breaker switch for the GFI circuit was tripped. I reset it, turned on the tap and the hot water returned. I told him he was the first person to mention that, he chuckled and said, “no charge!”

Apparently, the GFI breaker for the bathroom is the one in the power point; there's nothing in the main panel as there used to be. Because this has never happened before, I had no idea the electric ignition for the hot water heater was controlled by that breaker, but it makes sense because there's water there, after all. I also learned that the power for the en suite (“master bathroom” in Americanese) is also controlled by that GFI breaker. I hadn't noticed because I didn't use any power in there (the lights, of course, are on their own circuit).

Thinking back, I remember doing something very unusual for me: I unplugged the clippers while they were still running (normally, I switch them off, then switch off the power point and unplug the clippers). I have no idea why I did that, but it must have been enough to trip the breaker and I didn't notice or hear it (thinking back, again, I wonder if I did hear it pop, but it didn't register; or, is that just beating myself up?).

So, the whole thing was my fault. The cause was my own stupidity. I, too, do stupid things.

Since I spend so much time and so many words making fun of Bush and the neo-cons or the far right christianists, I thought it was only fair to make fun of myself. Clearly, nobody's perfect. C'est la vie.

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