Away From The Entrance


Even a water heater replacement can reveal a few deep lessons.

As a right-handed person, I most often try for the hot water knob on the left when doing dishes or washing, even when I don’t need hot water, the dominant hand otherwise occupied. There’s a lag in the feedback loop, from turning request of the knob to when the freshly hot water surges all through the old house pipes. That it doesn’t come out hot immediately hides what otherwise is probably a misuse of energy, since the unintentional request for heated water still taxes the heater, a few seconds at a time.  Shut the hot water off — or remove the heater entirely — and a pattern of behavior is revealed; the silent lack of water now an emptied signal to reconsider this small unconscious action and unintentional consequences. So much is so easily taken for granted in small multiples. Especially when the signals and indicators — those responses of causality — are delayed in either space and time.

Like how a Disneyland ticket booth is as far away from the entrance turnstiles as possible – an architecture with a maximum distance between the painful costs and convenient pleasures.

When the new water heater was up and running, the water pressure was softer, the low intensity of the faucet turn like a midway point, a hot shower almost not warm enough at all. Something amiss with the new heater seemed like the obvious culprit, being the one new variable that had changed, but tracking it down the cause seemed like an impossible new set of variables.

But the heater wasn’t to blame at all, in fact, in this situation. At least, not directly. In the course of replacing the old heater, the pipes were flushed, and bits of old sediment and rust passed through and were caught in the aerator filters of the shower and faucet heads. Here the logic is reversed — thinking the pressure problem was back at the source, where all of the pressure started, when in reality the problem is right in front of me, the last stop in the long chain of places that might impinge on the pressure.

Like in addressing all seeming insurmountable problems — is it truly a fault in reality, or a fault in my thinking?

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