This Side Up

Finding the leak, and staying out of hot water



Actually, it was more of a humming sound, but there was no mistake it was water.

I stood in the office men’s room and wondered what it could be. I had already checked the sinks and toilets in the restrooms. Everything looked fine. The water was shut off, too, in the office kitchenette.

Thank God, this was nothing like the water main break at Toll Gate earlier in the morning that has forced closure of the school and the career and tech center this week.

Yet water was running…somewhere.

I looked in the utility room to find the hot water heater going. What I was hearing had to be a leak in the hot water system, or why would the heater keep running and running? That eased my fear a sprinkler head had burst and that somewhere in the building also occupied by Kerry’s Warwick Photo and Ocean State Center for Independent Living (OSCIL) was flooding. I went back to listening. The water was running, but where?

Kerry is open on Saturday. She has a darkroom, but in today’s world of digital printers it’s rarely used. “No,” she said she wasn’t running the water.

OSCIL is closed on Saturday. However, years ago after moving in we traded keys in the event something happened and we had to get into the unit. I rummaged through a drawer where I thought they might be and to my amazement found a keychain with OSCIL taped to it. I figured the mystery would soon be solved.

I was mistaken.

I visited the unit, finding to my dismay the door had two locks. The key turned one lock, yet the door was bolted fast.

That was a good thing, because I remembered recently retired OSCIL executive director Lorna Ricci installed an alarm system some years ago. I peered through the glass door. Alarm system controls were just inside.

I didn’t need that going off.

I retreated to the Beacon offices and found Lorna’s cell phone number. After the fourth ring her husband, Tony, answered. They were at a craft show. I described my dilemma and he said he would call me back with the code to disarm the alarm. Meanwhile, I dug deeper in the drawer hoping to find a key to the interior back door to OSCIL offices. That proved to be in vain, although I came up with a key to what had been an office adjoining OSCIL. OSCIL annexed the space some time ago, but the door was still there.

The key turned the lock, but I was careful not to jiggle the door and set off the alarm.

Tony got back to me with the code and I was ready to go. As soon as the door opened, the alarm went off. I raced inside, ears ringing, and frantically punched in the code. Everything went silent.

I started my check but found no running water. Water wasn’t showering down from the ceiling either. Mystified, I followed instructions and reset the alarm, but before I could reach the exit it went off. I returned to the control panel to shut it off. It’s then that I read the notice I needed to call the alarm company or the police would show up and OSCIL would be charged for a false alarm.

I made the call giving the name OSCIL, the address and the code.

“I need the verbal code,” the man on the other end of the line insisted. I explained my situation and I had no idea of the verbal code. The man was not sympathetic. He needed the code or the cops would be coming. I told him to hang tight. He was going to give me some time, but I didn’t suspect much. Meanwhile, I was no closer to finding the source of the running water.

This was truly Kafkaesque.

Fortunately, Tony was there to answer my call and provide the magic word that would spare me the chagrin of cops racing to the scene.

Perplexed, I returned to the utility room with the intent of shutting down the hot water heater. It was going full blast. I looked at the controls uncertain as to how to turn it off. It’s then that I turned to the nearby slop sink. It was dry, but a section of hose ran from the faucet to the drain. The hose was hot. I had found the culprit.

I cranked down the faucet. The water kept running. Tracing back the pipe, I located the shutoff valve.

Only then did the sound of running water stop. Soon the heater stopped, too.

There was silence, blessed silence.


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