Rescue Me!

“Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

The sign hung over the instrument repairman’s work bench.  He had another sign which hung nearby. It stated tersely, “Good work takes time,” making it apparent that our friend behind the counter had little patience with folks who failed to plan ahead.

I used to admire him.

That was before.

Before I lived enough years to realize that emergencies do indeed occur.  Before I learned that the pride that one feels in being prepared in a world filled with unprepared people can disappear in an instant, dissolving like a sandcastle at full tide.  Before I discovered that the ability to plan is not the same as having twenty-twenty foresight.

“Extreme cold and very low wind chills,” is what the weatherman said a day or two ago.  “Better make sure that your pets are warm and the water pipes can’t freeze.”  I looked over at the Lovely Lady, sitting in our warm den and smiled, perhaps a little too smugly.  She smiled back at me, making me feel more proud than I had before.

The new doghouse arrived in the fall, a long heavily insulated thing, capable of housing the two black monsters in our backyard without crowding at all.  It seemed to make sense to winterize the house, so I had spent most of one afternoon closing up the gaps.  I experimented with a heating method or two before settling on a small space heater (placed safely out of their reach) which had a thermostat that could be set at an appropriate temperature.  It wouldn’t be as warm as being in the house with their owners, but the canines spend most of their time outside anyway, so it was important that there not be such an extreme variance in temperature.  A durable mat on the floor insured that they would be comfy on the coldest of nights.

I had planned.

And the water pipes?  Not to worry.  The only place where I knew the pipes could be exposed to the cold was the kitchen sink.  It stands near the north wall and there is access to the supply line on that wall.  I checked to be sure that there was a thick layer of styrofoam insulation in the cavity of the wall and a heavy block covering it to ensure that no frigid air could even begin to ice up the water inside.  Just in case, I left the cabinet doors open to the warm inside air, a precaution which I was sure was unnecessary.

I was ready!

The smug smile would be wiped completely off within hours.

Late last night, with the temperature outside hovering around zero, I heard the dogs whining.  Outside.  Outside?  Surely they were in their warm house. I had checked the operation of the heater just an hour or so before.  No, they were outside.  I walked out to where they lay atop the snow.  On their durable mat.  Which they had dragged out of the warm house. It was wet and covered with ice, so it couldn’t be used again without a good bit of work.  They would not go back in their house again–not without the mat on the floor–which they had dragged out into the snow and rendered unusable.

I found the remainder of the original roll of matting and carried it out to their house, folding it to fit and tossing it inside to lie on the floor.

The cold pooches scrambled to get inside the warm doghouse, the two of them almost getting stuck as they tried to enter at the same time.  I didn’t see them again until late this morning.

I checked the water in the kitchen early today.  I knew what I would find.  Well?  I had prepared.  It ran just fine, with no sign of a problem.  I allowed myself another smug smile–for just a minute, you understand.  Then I headed for work, leaving the Lovely Lady home since she wasn’t feeling well today.  She sat in front of the warm heater all day.  It ran all day with the outside temperature never rising above ten degrees.  About 4:30 PM, I got a text from her.

“Is there supposed to be a sizzling sound when the heater goes off?”

There wasn’t.

I locked up the music store and headed for the house.  When I arrived, I heard the sizzling sound.  It had nothing to do with the heater, but it couldn’t be heard when the fan was running.  No, it had nothing to do with the heater.  It did, however, have something to do with the wet spot I saw in the carpet along the wall behind the heater.

Pipes.  Broken in the wall.  A wall where I didn’t remember any pipes being located.  I wracked my brain.  Why would there be pipes in a wall of a room which had no sink, no faucet, and no toilet?   This room had been a carport before we remodeled the house.  Before that?  Oh yes–it was coming back to me now.  I remember the former owner talking.  Something about a little beauty parlor in the room.  One chair–one sink–in which to wash hair.

A sink.  Plumbing in the wall.  I called my brother-in-law.

“Hey, do you know where the shut-off is for the plumbing in this wall that we closed in?”

He didn’t.  I explained my problem and then told him that I didn’t want it to be his problem and that I’d figure out what needed to be done.

Disconnecting the heater and pulling it out, I began to cut into the sheet rock behind it.  The first hole I made gave me a clear picture of what was going on.  Feeling around, I could tell that there were actually two pipes which had burst and were spewing water behind the wall.  I turned off the water to the whole house and prepared to go to the hardware store for some supplies.  As I started for the door to go to my car, there was a knock on it.  My brother-in-law stood there, tool kit in hand.

“I thought maybe I could help.”

The job was finished in a few minutes, the water turned back on and the heater re-installed.

All is well in my world once more.

Three things:

1.  Those you care for make stupid decisions.  Care for them anyway.  The dogs needed me to fix things for them.  They would have laid in the yard and frozen.  Yes, they’re that dumb.  It doesn’t matter.

2.  You can’t plan for everything.  Plan anyway.  Deal with the unforeseen problems which will come when they come.

3.  Be grateful for the people in your life who make your problems their problems.  True friends understand that failure to think of every possibility on your part doesn’t excuse them from helping in your emergency.

It’s time for me to quit writing now and return home.  The thermometer outside is standing at zero once more.  I think I better check on the dogs again to make sure they’re not lying out in the yard.

Oh!  I’m going to open the cupboard doors, too.  I hope there are no more hidden pipes in the wall.

If there are, will you come and help?

“A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
(English proverb ~ origin ca. late 1400’s)

“Are you upset little friend?  Have you been lying awake worrying?  Well, don’t worry…I’m here.  The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you.”
(Charlie Brown to Snoopy ~ Charles M. Schulz ~ American cartoonist ~ 1922-2000)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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