Monday, November 07, 2005

The Week from Hell

Last week was a doozy! (If you're South African you may think "doozy" think that has something to do with the Dusi Canoe Marathon, but they just sound the same).

I was going to go into the gory details with a long post last week, but I think a bulleted list is better. It's still long and fairly gory - sorry. Here goes:
  • Plumber finally came to install new water heater. Price had already jumped from $1000 initial quote (on the phone) to $2500 (after adding all the stuff required to bring it "to code").
  • Plumber did lots of soldering (pronounced "saw-der-ing" in the US) and found out that blowtorch + fire sprinkler head = BOOM!
  • Fire sprinkler heads dump a LOT of water when they go BOOM! Plus, the fire alarm sounds and you have to call 911 to get the Fire Department out to shut off the sprinkler.
  • Fire Department came out, were very friendly, and shut off the alarm. They actually didn't do much else - the plumber shut off the fire sprinkler and called in water damage restoration folks.
  • New water heater could now be installed in the soggy tranquility following the Fire Department's departure. Only one problem- it's too big to fit in the "closet" in my condo. (By about 2 mm)
  • Plumber: "It's not going to fit. I can't do it... I'll have to call the office... They ordered the wrong heater..."
    Me: "Are there any smaller hydronic water heaters that we could try?"
    Plumber: "Nope, they are all bigger now thanks to the new energy-efficient burners. You won't find a smaller one." (Later proven to be BS when I saw my downstairs neighbour's unit - but then they have a larger closet and easier plumbing too, so they definitely got lucky!)
  • Me: "How about you rotate it this way a little so the side pipes don't get stuck on the wall?"
    Plumber: "Nah, that won't work... Never... It's the laws of physics" (This was favourite quote of his - apparently heat rising is also a law of phsyics!)
    Me: "Let's try"
  • Plumbing proceeds without too much more drama. The fire sprinkler guy comes out to put a new sprinkler head on (after all the soldering is done), and re-pressurizes the system. The water damage restoration folks come out and put fans a dehumidifiers in my unit, and the two below me... Water damage is not too bad - and we're due to get new carpets soon anyway :)
  • Still waiting to hear from the Lowe's carpeting contractor.
  • End of Tuesday...


  • Spent the night in a jet-engine turbine - at least that's what the fans sounded like.
  • I notice a leak from one of the pipes connected to the water heater - way up next to the ceiling and the fire sprinkler head that went BOOM the previous day. Also, my hydronic heating system makes a chunka-chunka-chunka noise when it's turned on - the pump is not happy. Call the plumber - he can come out around lunch time... I head in to work, leave early, meet the plumber, and realize I don't want him to solder and risk the fire sprinkler going off again, so I call the fire sprinkler guy. He can come on Thursday at 2pm. So, we re-schedule for then.
  • Still waiting to hear from the Lowe's carpeting contractor.


  • Another night in the jet turbine. Steerpike is starting to get brave and will actually walk into the lounge within a few feet of one of the fans, but Thandi is still shell-shocked and hides in the bedroom.
  • Plumber comes out at 2pm. Fire-sprinkler guy comes out and shuts off the fire sprinkler system's water. He wraps the sprinkler head in a wet rag (if only we'd thought of that on Tuesday!) Plumber does some soldering, cuts out a flow check valve, solders in some pipe so now my water heater looks a bit like a Frankenheater.
  • Everything gets re-connected. All seems well!
  • We finally get ahold of the carpeting contractor - they can come out on Saturday. In the meantime our old carpet and floor is drying out slowly. (The carpet is dry already, but as we'll see on Saturday, the sub-floor is still damp)


  • Alyssum's car won't start, so I need to get up WAY TOO EARLY and give her a ride to work. (Getting up at 6:30am is probably even earlier than sparrow-fart...)
  • To prepare for Saturday's carpeting fun, we so a few more runs down to our storage unit to get rid of furniture we won't need for the next week or two.
  • I check my bank accounts online around midnight, and notice my credit card is strangely under water... A theme of the week, maybe? Some skelm (crook) in South Africa has helped themselves to $4500 from an ATM using a copy of my credit card! Technically, you wonder how that works... Did they get my credit card info from an online database (hacked a web merchant?), and then make a card? How did they get the PIN? Are they able to program their own?
    Frantic attempts to call my bank prove fruitless - their 24-hour support number is really a 10-hour support number with 14-hour voicemail. Still, their website lets me go "WTF?!" for each unauthorized charge.


  • Call the bank in the morning, explaing the credit card fraud. They cancel my card and let me know there are some more pending charges to watch out for. Later VISA call me and run through the same thing. This will be my 2nd new card due to fraud this year. All this re-affirms by view that the credit card system is fundamentally broken and I'm amazed VISA and the other companies haven't moved to a more secure system yet. "Verified by Visa" sounds good, but no-one is using it yet - how about forcing all online vendors to use it? How about fixing in-store credit purchases so that the clerk can't make a copy of your card number and then party on it?
  • Carpeting went smoothly, and while we had to move everything left in the condo 3 times (once into the lounge, then into the bedrooms, then back), we had stripped out enough stuff that it was not too bad.

Mark surely-nothing-more-can-go-wrong?

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