Yuletide Breakage

by wjw on December 24, 2017

Normally we take a certain amount of damage around the holidays.  The tradition of a plumbing emergency on Christmas Eve is well established here, and when it happens we have the joy of trying to get emergency plumbing service here some time before Santa’s scheduled arrival.  Fortunately PHC of Peralta, NM, has always been right here when we needed them.

This year the plumbing problems started a couple weeks early.  I noticed that the water pressure kept fluctuating between high and low, cycling every few seconds.  We live in the country and have a well, so I started running water and went out to the garage, where the plumbing lives, and I could hear the switch clicking on and off every three seconds or so, turning on the well pump.

Which is bad.

It was hard convincing the plumbers that it was a plumbing problem, requiring a plumber, and not a well problem, requiring a well company.  But eventually I convinced them that it was either the pressure tank, the switch, or maybe a sensor, and they agreed to come out.

But it wasn’t a genuine emergency, was it?  I mean, there was no lack of water.  So our friends at PHC, who are overwhelmed at this time of year with burst pipes and other real trouble, made an appointment a week or so out.  When their fellow arrived, the pump was turning on and off every second or so, and he diagnosed a failure in the pressure tank.  (It had a diaphragm that probably ruptured.)

Since the pressure tank predated our purchase of the house, and was more than thirty years old, I wasn’t surprised.

So then it was another four or five days before the new pressure tank arrived, and after we parted with an eyebrow-raising amount of money, we had steady pressure again.

But that wasn’t the real emergency, was it?  It was too far away from Christmas Eve.  So I’m bracing myself for something to blow up in the next few hours.

But there’s been no end of breakage even so.  Kathy took her car to the local Big O for its 30,000-mile checkup, and then a short while later she was driving on I-25 and the brakes slammed on, stopping the car.  She had it towed to Big O, who insisted that nothing was wrong even though nasty noises were coming from the vehicle, so she had it towed to the dealer, where they discovered that Big O had drained the transmission and differential fluid, driven it around, and then refilled with the wrong fluid.

And it turns out that Subaru transmissions and differentials are supposed to be remain sealed for the lifetime of the car, and no service is supposed to be done to them at all.

Installing a brand-new transmission and differential cost a truly eye-croggling amount of money, and we have presented the bill to Big O.  It is fortunate that Big O’s own receipt specifies transmission and differential service, so they can hardly pretend they didn’t do it.

“My boss will take care of you,” the manager said.  I am skeptical, but we’ll see.

My own breakage was considerably less traumatic, and involved a couple tires with low pressure.  One turned out to have three tiny leaks, which were repaired, but the low pressure light stayed on.

Since I live in the country I’m prepared for this sort of thing, and I always carry a battery-powered compressor to refill the tires.  But the battery had died, so I went to a series of filling stations.

Air, as you might guess, is no longer free in America, and for some years we’ve had to plug quarters into a machine in order to get our tires refilled.  But these coin-operated machines have been replaced by credit-card machines, and the credit-card machines don’t work.  CARD TEMPORARILY REFUSED, the machine says.  Whatever that means.  And then twenty minutes later I get a call from Citi saying “Have you attempted to charge $1.25 on your card at this location?”  And I say yes, but by then I’m no longer at the location.

(I have to wonder what the people who own these machines think when they’re returning absolutely no revenue because no cards work on them.  I mean, how can you lose, charging people for air, which you don’t have to pay for, but they do?  These people managed it.)

So obviously the trick was to buy another battery-operated compressor.  I visited all the local auto stores, but no battery-operated compressors were on sale, only those that plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter.  Which I don’t care for, because my tractor, with its fragile tires, doesn’t have a cigarette lighter.  (My tractor has tires that can be punctured by weeds.  What were they thinking?)

I looked online, but there were a bewildering array of compressors, and I couldn’t find one that suited among the hundreds available.  And then the lovely and capable Patricia Rogers saw my online plea and found one for me, available at Wal-Mart.  I checked Wal-Mart’s web page, and found there was actually one within easy driving distance, and $60 later I had full tires.

So we’ve managed to cope with the annual Yuletide Breakage, and all it took was a dump truck full of money.  But now we’re ready for the holiday, in a house with running water and in cars that will take us away.

Unless something blows up tomorrow.  Which after all is part of our Yuletide tradition, so we’re not ruling it out.

Jim Janney December 27, 2017 at 3:22 pm

New Mexico weeds are particularly fierce.

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