Relighting The Pilot

Each time the pilot goes out on the water heater, it falls upon the oldest male (me) to get it relit.  And, tonight was no exception.  If the people who showered earlier in the day would have mentioned the water was not that warm for their showers, I might have been able to avoid the unavoidable “near” shower experience.  Unfortunately, I was well along the path to jumping into the shower before I realized my predicament–get an uncomfortable shower over with or have a warm shower and enjoy it?  I opted for warm.

When the pilot goes out, I say a silent prayer that I will not blow our house or any of its occupants into a million pieces.  It seems relighting the pilot light is so traumatic for me that I need to relearn how to light it every time.  With a “grill lighter”, flashlight, and screwdriver in  hand, I approach the water heater with all due respect.  I reread the directions attached to the side–hanging on every word.  I allow the words to fully marinate my brain as I disconnect the necessary water heater pieces so I can have the best possible access to the pilot.  I look at the hardware–fully capable of releasing the natural gas that could blow me and my fellow house occupants up if not completely respected–and seek any memory of our previous interactions.  As I reread the directions, our past entanglements become slightly less distant memories.  I commit to holding the lighter in the “presumed” pilot area. (without the grill lighter I would be dead.  When the directions say use a “match”, I go into a semi-panic.  I think certainly the spot I have the lighter is wrong.  It must be closer to the edge than I am trying to light.  Certainly I am going to blow myself up.  I shift my prayer to “Please at least protect the downstairs and my family from anything stupid I may do within the next few minutes”….) I push the red button down and watch to see what havoc my lighter creates.  Even after my finger cramps, I still find a way to hold the button down.  When my lighter finger cramps, I hope the 60 seconds have passed.  After releasing the lighter flame, the pilot remains lit; my body remains intact within our attic, and I shift my prayer to “Please keep the pilot lit.  Please, please, please!”

Past “lightings” have involved ripped pants, stretching of patience beyond any previously stretched amounts, and hugging of the water heater as I was certain my last moments were upon me.  The lighting ritual seems to be an annual occurrence.  Sometimes it is the natural gas line freezing shut (pretty rare–when it gets cold, I now wrap the gas meter to discourage this outcome), or as it apparently was today, it was an overly mischievous breeze.  I do not ever want to take this relighting for granted, but my muscle memory seems to be much better than the trauma-wiped actual memory.  A bit of self-hypnosis before again approaching this task might be a good option.  Or, maybe the better option is the gift of a hot water heater blanket to my under-appreciated and only occasional foe.


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