Ten years ago, I invested in a Rinnai tankless hot-water system, and all I can say is I love it. For one thing, it provides hot water only on demand, so I don’t have to pay to keep a whole tank of water heated 24 hours a day. Also, because the water supply isn’t limited to only what’s in the confines of a tank, I am able to get as much hot water as I want, whenever I want it. If I took five showers in one hour, I’d still never run out of hot water. This is perfect for someone who enjoys soaking in a hot bath for two hours and likes to keep replenishing the hot water every 15 minutes.
Anyway, last year, when I had my furnace cleaned, the technician, who apparently had been snooping around in my basement, asked me, “When was the last time you had your Rinnai flushed?”
I just stared at him. “Flushed? Are you talking about the toilet?”
He shook his head. “No, you’re supposed to have your Rinnai system flushed out once a year to prevent mineral build-up, which can ruin it. We run white vinegar through it for about 45 minutes to clean it out.”
I actually thought he was joking, mainly because no one ever had mentioned such a thing to me in the 10 years I’d owned the system.
“I recommend you make an appointment for a cleaning ASAP,” he said. “Otherwise, you could end up needing a whole new system. And I’m sure you don’t want to have to spend that kind of money.”
So I reluctantly made an appointment...a year later. Let’s just say I’ve never been known for being particularly proactive.
Last week, the technician called and said he would be over that Wednesday “between 10 AM and 1 PM.”
Foolishly believing him, I got up at 8:00 that morning, cleaned the house, showered, dressed, and put the dogs outside in the cold, mainly because if they were in the house when the guy arrived, not only wouldn’t they allow him inside, they would go into their “protect and defend” mode and stay by me, no matter what. Usually, I would gate them in their room, the laundry room, but unfortunately, that’s where the basement door is located, and I didn’t want the guy to end up being stripped of his pants.
So then came the waiting, as I sat stiffly on the sofa – not wanting to mess up anything in the house – or on myself. That meant not having anything to eat or drink, and not even daring to go to the bathroom, for fear he’d show up just as I sat down on the throne.
The technician finally arrived...at 4:30 PM.
By then, I was so aggravated, I wanted to shout at him that he’d wasted my entire day, which, at my age is the equivalent of about 20 years. I wanted to shout at him that I was hungry enough to nibble on the birdseed I’d put in my bird feeder. I wanted to tell him the ASPCA probably was on its way over because my poor dogs had been outside in the cold all day (the fact they were chasing each other around the yard and rolling in the snow didn’t matter).
But all I did was smile at him through gritted teeth.
An hour later, he emerged from the basement and said, “You win the award for the most gunked-up system I’ve ever seen. You’re lucky it was still working.”
I wasn’t exactly thrilled with being the recipient of that particular award.
The minute he left, I let the dogs in, fed them, and then took off my makeup, tied my hair back in a ponytail, removed my bra (a.k.a the torture device), put on my comfy sweatpants and hoodie, and then headed out to the kitchen to get something to eat. I grabbed my teapot and went to fill it.
There was no water.
I rushed down to the basement where the shut-offs are, and everything looked fine. Then I stared at the Rinnai – it had knobs, handles and buttons – none of which I dared to touch. So I called the company that had sent the technician. They closed at 5:00. It was 5:45.
The answering service took down the information and said someone would call me back.
An hour later, I received a call...from a technician other than the one who’d just been at my house.
“Face-time me from the basement and I’ll walk you through what to do,” he said to me.
“Um...I still have a flip phone and my computer is attached to a cable in the wall,” I said.
“Oh...I see.” His tone of voice told me he thought he was talking to Wilma Flintstone.
“Well, can you at least stay on the phone while you go down to the basement?” he asked. probably thinking I was talking to him on one of those old-fashioned wall phones.
“I can do that.”
I went downstairs and he asked me if I saw the yellow knobs on the front of the Rinnai. I saw them. He told me to turn them to the right. I did. He then told me to go back upstairs and check to see if the water was back on. I checked. Not even air came out of the faucets.
“Well, turn the yellow knobs back to where they were, then,” he said, “and I’ll call you back.”
A half-hour later, he called back and instructed me to turn the same knobs again, as if they suddenly had transformed into something that would work. I did as he said. Still no water.
“I’m on my way,” he said, sighing. “I should be there around 8:15.”
So I got dressed again – put on my bra and makeup again, combed my hair and put the poor dogs outside once again.
This guy at least showed up on time. He went down to the basement and flipped two yellow paddle-like levers. The water came back on.
“They shouldn’t make everything yellow!” I complained. “It would make things a lot easier for clueless people like me.”
“Well, you’re all set now,” he said, then added, “And I won’t charge you anything for this visit,” as if he were doing me a big favor.
I wanted to shout, “Charge me? It’s YOUR company’s fault! And furthermore, I’m starving, my dogs are freezing and I’m probably constipated for life!”
But once again, I just smiled through gritted teeth.
Earlier, while I’d been waiting for him to arrive, I wrote a post on Facebook, venting my frustration about having no water, being hungry, and feeling like the world’s worst dog mother. The problem was, I accidentally posted it on my neighborhood-watch site, reserved for non-personal posts that usually affect the entire neighborhood (e.g. – “There is a fallen tree across the main road, so seek an alternate route,” or “A bear has just been spotted in number 35’s driveway! Guard your children and pets!”).
Only when I started to receive offers of bottled water and hot soup from people whose names weren’t familiar to me did I realize I hadn’t posted my rant on my usual friends’ page. One guy even wrote that he currently was passing by a Subway shop and would stop and pick up a sandwich for me if I wanted one. Embarrassed, I quickly deleted my post with no further explanation.
So my neighbors probably think I’ve died of either dehydration or starvation by now.
But at least my Rinnai system is sparkling clean and churning out plenty of hot water.
And knowing me, it probably will take me another 10 years or so before I get around to having it cleaned again.
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