So, on Friday I was
surfing the internet performing statistical analysis at my desk when I got a text message from a dear friend and relatively new homeowner. It said “Do you know anything about gas hot water heaters?”
I replied “Some. What’s up?”
“NO HOT WATER!”
“Did the pilot light go out?”
“That’s the little blue light bulb underneath, right? I didn’t think to check this morning before I left for work.”
Oh, sweet Jesus. Seriously?
Now, I knew my friend was freaking out because she’s recently had to replace several appliances in her 1920’s era home. Nobody warned her that home ownership is expensive because when things break, there’s no landlord to call. I reassured her that it was probably an easy fix and told her to text me when she got home and I’d walk her through it.
A while later, I opened Facebook, knowing that my friend probably would have posted something about her hot water heater on there. We have a pretty tight group of girlfriends, and I was hoping someone who worked downtown would have offered to check out her pilot light on their lunch break, sparing her an afternoon of worrying about how she was going to pay for this. Sure enough, she had posted about the situation, and the girls had all piped in.
“Are you sure the pilot light just isn’t out?”
“I can send my husband over tomorrow to see if it’s the pilot light.”
“If you need a hot shower, you are welcome to come over to my place.”
“If it’s the pilot light, the gas company will come and relight it for you. They will charge less if you can wait until Monday.”
“I hope you can get it fixed.”
As I read the little thread, I had mixed reactions. On the one hand, I was heartened to see how my little group of friends rallied around one of it’s members, offering hot showers, husbands, and phone numbers for help. Had my friend suffered a very localized crisis, like a kitchen fire, I knew she was in good hands.
On the other hand, it scared the living hell out of me that of my group of girl friends, I am the only one who knows how to relight a pilot light (and I’ve never even owned a gas appliance). These are not stupid women, either. Among their ranks are a registered nurse, an attorney, a take-no-shit teacher at a last-chance alternative middle school, a law student, and a veterinarian. Yet none of them knew how to relight a pilot light by themselves.
Oh, by the way, my friend’s roommate took a cold shower that morning because the water heater wasn’t working. He didn’t even think to or know how to check the pilot light. Did I mention he’s A FREAKING FIREMAN? Did you not assume that job required at least a basic working knowledge of how gas appliances operate since they can BLOW UP during a fire? I did. Call me crazy.
Anyway, so this little experience made me realize that when an emergency strikes, all my friends are probably going to die. Forget not having an adequate food supply, even the most basic levels of preparedness are beyond the scope of their current imagination.
When I went to my friend’s house to check and relight the pilot light, I asked to borrow a flashlight. She looked at me as if I had asked for a U-joint puller. Seriously? You don’t own a FLASHLIGHT!? I know what she’s getting for Christmas next year.
I showed her how to relight the pilot light herself, but she didn’t pay too much attention. I’m not sure she could do it again if she had to. If she’s not interested in learning that basic skill, there’s not much hope of her learning to survive in a crisis.
It’s gonna be lonely after SHTF.