Teri Orr: The furnace and the faucet
It was on a bright cold day last month — a Monday, sunny but the first zero-degree temperatures overnight. I got up and took a shower and it worked fine. I went to brush my teeth and the cold water wouldn’t come on in my old house. So I did what I have done for decades. I made certain to leave the handle “on” so the pipe wouldn’t burst and the water could flow through when it warmed up. Then I went on my rounds — I drove through the bank and there was a bit of a line and I didn’t mind. I was warm in the car and listening to KPCW — catching up on the news. I stopped off at the pharmacy and then grabbed a few things at the market.
I reached the post office in fine spirits and ran into Mayor Andy. We decided with our jackets on and sitting on opposite ends of the red benches outside the post office — we would catch up. The sun was warm on our faces in the crazy intense way it feels when you are warm in your coat and it is freezing but sunny. And we started winding our way down shared concerns and hopes about Our Town. We were at least half an hour into our conversation when former Mayor Brad Olch showed up for his mail and joined us — standing at an appropriate distance — and we picked up some threads and wove together a few more topics.
It was easily an hour of conversation on those sun-filled benches and we enjoyed the in-person, distanced catch up. I drove home feeling slightly human again. Real faces in real time, talking about real topics, important to the future of our community, rooted in decades of thoughtful decision making.
When I opened the front to my home, I knew immediately something was very, very wrong. I heard a rushing-water sound. The faucet I had left open had clearly turned itself on as the day warmed up and did so apparently with such force that it pushed the old metal stopper down in the sink. The water was spilling over the basin and onto the floor. There was no way to know how long it had been going on. There must have been two inches of water on the floor of the bathroom — which is upstairs, above the downstairs bathroom and the living room.
I will spare you the play-by-play except to say the vanities were destroyed in both bathrooms. The walls and ceilings downstairs had to be torn back to the studs. And it was a clear disaster. The insurance folks sent a disaster team within hours of my call and they set up fans to dry what could be dried and dehumidifiers to try and pull the water moisture out of the walls. If you have had those machines set up for days on end, you know they sound a great deal like 747s taking off. They are not conducive to sleep.
The crew that came the next day and days and days and now weeks and months later have all been terrific humans trying to reassemble This Old House. We are apparently still three weeks away from having the vanities arrive and be reinstalled. Which means I didn’t have a bathroom sink and was brushing my teeth in the shower. So they asked — after a month — if I would like a temporary sink and I said yes! And they brought it and fixed it up and left. And I do not complain that they hooked up the hot water to turn on the right and cold water on the left. It just took me a few tries to understand that is what happened.
Last Sunday dawned cold, maybe 4 degrees at my house and maybe 20 inside, it felt like. I got out from under the covers and went to turn up the heat and the furnace did not respond — sometime in the middle of the night it had decided to stop working. I called a few places and finally found a Salt Lake company that would — for a Sunday fee — show up and replace the dead parts. I had no option but to say yes. Amanda, the furnace person, arrived and figured out the situation quickly and arranged for the new motor to be brought to Park City and was done in a few hours. I was grateful for her professionalism and kindness.
So when it came time this holiday to give thanks I could do so easily. I am safe and warm and dry. There are still pictures on the floor that will be rehung when the rest of the bathroom and living room work is done. And of course all the things that lived in the drawers and under the sinks are spread in other rooms — as a cowboy friend used to say, “In a path from hell to breakfast…” And somehow it just all matches this year of bad/sad tidings.
But my family is healthy and our Zoom call to give thanks had all the teenagers in good moods, which is a rare thing in even a non-pandemic world. It was good to see everyone’s faces together — even for a short time, yet sadly not in my living room where we always gather.
And I know I am one of the lucky ones — I am safe and healthy and my family is the same. We have not had to visit hospitals or work in them. Or work in any frontline capacity during this global pandemic. We reach out often and share recipes and television shows to watch. And we send modest help where we can to ease suffering. And I realized — despite wanting so many things to be radically different — we actually are doing the best we can under the circumstances. And sometimes, that is enough to remember any day — even Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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