Superman Prefers a Crescent Wrench

Not long ago I watched a video story about three guys, in a small motor boat, traveling around their home looking for neighbors or animals after devastating storms had flooded the area. It was Louisiana I think, anyway, these fellas were good ole' country boys and they had found a small horse who had been stranded by the deluge. The horse, even though he was tiny, could not fit in their boat with them so they tied pool noodles around his midsection in case he fell overboard and put him in his own John boat which they towed alongside. One of the men moved to that boat and had a bucket of oats with him. The horse was chomping happily away as if he always took his meals floating through a flooded swamp wearing brightly colored pool noodles.

It makes me laugh every time I think about it. Yes, it was funny, but also, these men were pretty ingenious figuring out the best way to rescue this horse. I admire that. Hats off to you guys for helping that little paint and doing it in such a clever way. Perhaps they could create their own business, making life vests for horses from pool noodles. Stranger things have happened, especially if they made them with matching hats.

When I look back on things I have encountered and choose to remember them through my writing, it provides me with wonderful opportunities to polish my abilities to let you experience what I had using words. I love the challenge of that. Most, as I stated, are personal memories while others are news stories or videos I have come across in my journeys. All of them provide me with a treasure trove of things to share, and, hopefully take you on a ride with me.

One of the events in my life I like to write about was that rather large earthquake which rocked Los Angeles in 1994. When the quake hit, it was about 4:30 AM, and of course, all power was immediately severed.

My house was split level. In the front it was 2 stories, with a huge studio upstairs above the garage. That area was tossed the worst. Everything in there went flying. The computer hutch folded up and cracked apart at every joint smashing my computer underneath. All of the paints, solvents and inks I had splashed over the floor and across one of the walls. The furniture danced its way across the room, and blocked the stairwell. I had to climb up and over a couch that had flipped upside down to get into the room. When I got a good look at my studio, in that dim, cold, pearly light just before the sun comes up, I had to turn around and walk away for a while. It was just too much.

The large front windows in my living room had cracked. Thankfully, none of the glass fell out, but all of them had to be replaced. On a somewhat humorous note, the toilet in the master bath had pounded itself part way into the wall. Awesome.

The first floor, except for my bedroom and back hall which remained carpeted, was completely empty. I had been having work done of the house, and, the contractors had moved everything into the garage for storage while they worked on tiling the floors. When I opened the door of the garage and poked my head in to see how everything was doing, I expected to see a furniture, paint and computer hutch tossed salad, just like upstairs, but that was not the case. Yes, things were jumbled around and impossibly heavy things had slid across the floor, but it didn’t seem too bad.

Then again, it was quite dark in there, and, the power was still off. I stood in the door, staring into the gloom, trying to spot something, anything I needed to take care when this odd sound reached my ears. It was weird, almost like a hissing noise. I took a step into the room then stopped and listened again. While I stood there, a tall bar stool was in front of me. I rested my hand on it while I listened then pulled my hand away quickly.

It was wet.

Everything near me I touched was covered with a fine mist.

No, no no, something was wrong here. I knew for a fact, that, in the garage, there were no pipes in the ceiling. I was able to pick my way through all of the stuff stored in there to the big garage door. Here and there, when I was able to put my feet on the floor between things, I could hear some splashing.

This was really bad. Everything I owned was getting wet.

I got to the door, pulled the manual release and pushed it up and open. The sun was not up yet, but there was more than enough light to see what was happening. This was a two car garage, and as I turned to look back inside, I could see what was making that noise, and, where the water was coming from.

The water heater was in there, and, there was some sort of broken connection somewhere, because, it was spewing hot steam and mist into the room. Everything in there was being covered in hot water, some of which, was now running out down the driveway. There was so much stuff between me and the heater, I came close to just screaming at this point. I figured I did not have much time right now for hysterics, so, I got busy dragging everything out of the garage onto the front lawn.

After just a few minutes, and some serious huffing and puffing, I had managed to make a path back to the water heater. I had no idea what to do. There wasn’t any power supply to turn off, because, power was out everywhere. I dragged that bar stool to one side, wiped the mist off of it and sat down to think about what it was I had to do.

Nothing was coming to me.

The time now was nearly 5AM. Still no sunrise. Just cold cold morning light, and my water heater spewing hot water everywhere.

A truck stopped at the end of my driveway. I turned to look who was there, and, just assumed it was a family member or friend coming to check in on one of my neighbors. No, apparently not, because this man walked right up my driveway towards me.

I just stared at him. I mean, what should I do? Did he mean me harm? I didn’t get that impression. Did he mean to rob me? Well, have at it, everything I owned was all there, just grab whatever wet crap you want and go!

He looked at me, and I am assuming, he sensed my exhaustion and frustration because he smiled then pointed at the hot water heater.

“You need to shut that down.”

“I figured that much out, but, I don’t know how.”

“Do you have a crescent wrench?”

I did indeed. It was actually in my little red toolkit I kept by the door. After I dug it out and handed it to this man, he motioned for me to follow him, which I did. He showed me how to use the crescent wrench to shut off the gas going into the water heater, and, how to turn off the water spraying everywhere. I swear, it was like watching a magic act.

He handed the wrench back to me and explained that I should go to all of the neighbor’s houses and do the same with their hot water heaters, otherwise, this is how some of the fires after earthquakes get started.

And then he left. Just like that. I said thank you as he got into his little Toyota truck and off he went. There wasn’t anything on his truck like “Joe’s Plumbing” or “Mr. Magic Fixes Water Heaters While you Watch”…nothing!

The street I lived on ended at the side of a park. It was not quite a dead end, but, you would have to be driving way back by the park to get out, so, there was very little traffic there. Where did this guy come from? I watched him, and, he did not stop anywhere else on my street. Why was he there?

From the road, without any lights on anywhere, you could not see anything inside the garage, and, the water heater was all of the way in the back, against the far wall. He would not have been able to see anything. I didn’t wave him down…I literally was just sitting there with my chin in my hand, staring at the water heater and trying to figure out what to do.

To this day I do not have any sort of theory to explain this weirdness, and, it is weird! I’m not religious. I don’t think he was an angel or a super hero, but yes, something about him and what had just happened was… weird.

Wherever that guy is, I hope he has stopped and helped other people along the way. Somehow, I think he has.

Oh, and yes, I went to six houses that morning and shut off all of the gas water heaters.

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The greatness of a nation and it's moral progress can be judged by the way it's animals are treated - Mahatma Ghandi

©  Briar Lee Mitchell, 2014