Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hot Water

Billeted in France, William Alexander Percy writes, he suggested that his orderly see whether warm water could be had across the street. The orderly thought not: That old woman hasn't seen warm water since the last time she cried. If the orderly said so, he spoke in an old tradition. Hume reports of Richard II, imprisoned at Pontefract Castle, that on being told by his guards that there was no warm clean water to wash his face with, he wept, and said that this refuted them.

Thursday  evening, I found that we had no hot water. At first I supposed that a late-afternoon shower might have left the water heater catching up. Later I discovered that the unit was not working at all; the pilot light would not stay lit. A plumber came by Friday morning, and diagnosed a failed ignition unit, which he replaced that afternoon. In all, we were without hot water for about 20 hours.

It seems soft to complain of a lack of hot water. Yet Homer carefully describes a couple of hot baths Odysseus gets, at Circe's house, and in Phaecea, and he presents Odysseus as one who can rough it when he must.

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