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Provence: Day Zero

July 15, 2013

Had a wi-fi problem the first couple of days, so I’m a little behind. Here is the first entry…

We were scheduled to leave for France in 24 hours, and I was in the midst of packing, cleaning the house, and sorting out the last-minute details. It was then I noticed the puddle.

We had a few days of heavy rain (including a tornado just a few miles away), so a small amount of water on the basement floor wasn’t anything new or alarming. However, all of the water had dried up except for this one little spot. Most concerning was its location: right underneath the oil tank.

I leaned over to run my finger through the puddle, hoping to find nothing but dampness. No such luck–it was oil. I reached up to the valve, and it to was covered with oil. That’s a good sign, I thought. A leaky valve is a simple, quick job, probably not too expensive. I’ll call the oil company and see if they can come out today or tomorrow morning.

About an hour later, Mike from the oil company was at our door. Mike knows us pretty well. He installed our furnace, replaced one of our registers, and changed that valve only a few months ago. Part of me believes that Mike is the only person who actually works for this company, so I wasn’t surprised when he showed up.

I of course shared with him my superb diagnosis of the problem, because he clearly needs my help to figure out what it is he does for a living. Hopefully, he took it for what it actually was—not an act of condescension, but a gesture of optimism.

Either way, he spent less than five minutes to determine the real problem: the oil is not leaking from the valve. It’s leaking from the tank on to the valve. And the floor.

Oh. Right. What can you do?

“You need a new oil tank.”

Um…I’m leaving for France at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow. How are you going to install a new oil tank before then?

“Well, we can leave it for two weeks, and take care of it when you get back.”

Hmm. I’m thinking that Melissa—the young woman who will be housesitting for us—probably wants hot water for the next couple of weeks. Not an option.

A quick glance at our furnace, and its connections—all of which were installed by Mike—and he says “Take me two hours. I’ll be done before you leave.”

So while Valerie and I spent the morning before our trip finishing packing, eating any leftover perishable food (mashed potatoes with sliced cucumber and cheese? Sounds great!) , Mike and his assistant worked in our basement. A little more than two hours (and a little less than $2000 later) it was done.

As Rick Steves says: always reserve your museum tickets in advance, and be sure to engage in an expensive capital improvement the morning you fly to Europe. Keep on travelling!

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