Of all the wonderful, thoughtful gifts I received this Christmas, the one I appreciate most is our new hot water tank.
I'll bet you think you appreciate your hot-water tank, but the truth is you are a fool. No one appreciates their hot water tank, at least not until it decides to drop dead just before Christmas.
And that's the thing about hot water tanks -- they are extremely fussy about when they want to give up the ghost. No hot water tank worth its salt is going to die on a typical weekday when you can call in a plumber the very next day.
No, by federal statute, hot water tanks are required to expire on a Friday when the temperature is so bone-chilling cold that, if you had an electric fence, squirrels in your yard would fling themselves into it in a futile effort to stay warm.
This ensures that if you want to call in a plumber on (gasp) a weekend, you will be forced to hand over your life savings along with your first-born male child.
At least that's how my wife explained it to me. When our tank went to the big bungalow in the sky, I suggested we might want to call in a plumber on Saturday due to the fact I am a major weenie and have a pathological aversion to exposing my body to ice-cold water.
My wife, who frequently stops strangers on the street to tell them she is a hardy pioneering woman of Norwegian heritage, explained we could easily survive without hot water for four days and we were not going to call in a plumber on the weekend because money does not grow on trees and what kind of idiot am I anyway.
Normally, the first thing I do when I get up in the morning is grab the newspaper, then lie down in a scalding hot bath and fall back to sleep. But this is not practical when your hot water supply has evaporated.
So for four days we were forced to clean selected parts of our bodies by taking cold showers. No, sorry, cold is the wrong word here. What with our soul-destroying sub-Arctic temperatures, these were icy showers, the sort of soul-destroying showers that would cause even stout-hearted penguins to consider wallowing in their own fishy filth rather than expose their pudgy penguin bodies to that sort of extreme cold.
It is hard, armed only with the English language, to describe the sort of physical and mental anguish a human being experiences when taking a shower in freezing water of this nature, but I will try: It is horrible!
Our main bathroom is equipped with a hand-held shower handle, which means we can choose which portions of our anatomy we want to turn into instant ice cubes.
Typically, I would start with my head, due to the fact that, in the morning, my hair resembles a small woodland creature that has crawled up there and died. The moment the icy water hit my skull, however, I immediately lost the ability to think rationally and my fine-motor skills went out the window.
I attempted -- and I tried this just once -- to wash the rest of my body but as soon as the icy spray hit my chest, it caused my heart to stop and I was only able to restart it by immediately pounding on my ribcage with a bottle of Herbal Essences shampoo.
Anyway, after four days, my hair looked fine, but there was a pungent, eye-watering stench rising from the unwashed portions of my body. Fortunately, that's when the plumbers arrived.
If you have ever been in this position before, you will understand why we greeted these men like rock stars or members of the royal family, assuming celebrities of this stature ventured out in public wearing pants that failed to cover significant portions of their buttocular regions, if you catch my general drift.
In a matter of hours the plumbers had performed a true Christmas miracle, ripping out our dead tank and installing a brand-new one that pumps out scalding hot water.
I can't tell you how good it feels to once again immerse my frigid body in gloriously hot water. In fact, as I tap out these words on my portable computer, I am floating, lobster-like, in a steaming tub.
Yes, I am risking electrocution, but I'll bet that would feel wonderful.