I think we can all agree that this is a pretty good system. The tank sits down there in the dark with the spiders, out of sight, and you get all the delicious hot water you want, delivered right to your faucets. Toilets too, if you're weird.
Until the tank decides that you're too wasteful and limits its production. "He'll pay whatever I charge," the tank mutters to itself. "What's he gonna do? Get an electric tank? Buy a diesel? Loser."
Actually, all of my appliances call me a loser. It's something I have lived with for a long time.
When one has to go shopping for something one has to replace every day, such as beer or underwear, it's easy. "Gimme another one of them," you say, pointing at the boxer shorts. "Hey, you're that guy we were all warned about. Can I have your autograph before they kick you out?" the sales clerk says. Easy.
But a water heater is different. The one lurking in my basement has been lurking there for fourteen years. The last time it was replaced, I was just a stupid little kid that would have whined and shit my pants until my dad fixed it or bought a new one.
Now that I'm an adult with responsibilities and armpit hair, I have to take care of my own problems. I have to learn how to shop for things I've never shopped for before.
"But daaaaaAAAAaaaad!" I whined into the phone, shitting my pants. "There's not enough hot water! The dishwasher and the washing machine and I all make funny noises when there's not enough not water!"
"Jesus. Okay, clean yourself up and we'll go to Sears."
Now, as far as I knew, hot water heaters came in two kinds: the big cylindrical tanky ones like mine, and the witch-burning ones I mentioned earlier. Since the latter went out of style decades ago, I figured it would be a matter of going to Sears, standing next to a tank and smiling until a salesman came over and asked me if I wanted to buy it.
"Yes, please," I would say suavely. "Box this one up and have someone bring it 'round back and throw it in the trunk." I would then show the man a picture of myself holding a monkey wrench and flex one of my biceps.
"You're a man who knows what he wants, how he will transport it, and what to do with it when he gets it home," the salesman would say. "I admire that so much that I will give you twenty percent off, and my daughter's phone number."
Then I would take a shower.
As I'm sure you've predicted by now, it didn't work out that well. The salesman had questions. Cryptic ones.
"What size is yours at home?"
Having been ordered by the courts to stop cataloging the contents of my friends' basements years ago, my limited data mentioned nothing about different sizes.
"Um. It's, uh, you know. About like those, only maybe not quite so much like those," I said, pointing at their selection of water heaters.
"Well, if you get one that's too tall, it won't be able to vent properly and your house will fill up with carbon monixide," the salesman said with a serious frowny look on his face.
"That's a risk I'm willing to take," I said. "I'll take that one."
"I can't sell you one that won't fit, even if I wanted to. The plumber would refuse to install it."
"Ah, no problem there. I was going to install it myself. I have a monkey wrench and some electrical tape. Fully prepared."
"Heh. I'm sure you are, but these are a package deal. They come with the installation and the hauling away of the old unit."
"Well! I! Um. Okay bye!" I said, making a strategic dive into a washing machine. My father was a couple departments away, browsing Sears' selection of fine flashlights. I got him on the walkie-talkie. "He wants to know what size I need! Nobody told me they came in different sizes!"
"There, there boy. Don't shit your pants. You hiding in one of the washing machines again? I'll come get you, we'll measure the old one and come back."
"Never mind. I'll just use cold water from now on," I whimpered.
"Don't be a quitter. Remember what I told you what would happen if you was a quitter?"
"You'd sell me to the Mormons. I know."
Well, I'm kind of out of ideas now, so I'm going to end this here. I'm hoping the new water heater will be here in a few days and I can stop whining about things. You know. Because without the washing machine, I'm running out of underwear.