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Loose Ends: Happiness is a masked man, running water

Frozen pipes. Need I say more?

During the frigid weather last month I was more concerned about my car starting than anything else.

"She" lives outside these days and takes forever to warm up. My biggest fear is that she won't start some day.

Yes, my car is a she, and she's got more than a few miles on her (just like her owner), and it's her and me against the elements.

Even knowing the car has a new battery doesn't stop my worrying and hoping I won't have to deal with a cold dead car some morning.

She has new tires this year, too, so she should be good to go no matter what. That car has been treated to more new things this year than I.

I have packed the backseat with a sleeping bag and flashlight in case of emergency for me. And for the car I try to make sure the gas tank stays full. "Heet" gets added to the gas, and a can of de-icer for her windshield.

What more can I do? She's fed, newly shod, watered, and bedded down the best I can provide.

And with two jobs I need to be where I'm expected, so there's not a lot of wiggle room.

The car didn't give me one bit of trouble during the sub-zero weather.

But the house sure did.

My winter mornings start with downing a few cups of coffee, reading a bit of the daily paper and sneaking outside in my warmest jammies and robe (praying all the time the neighbors aren't watching) so I can start her -- the car -- up before leaving for work each morning.

Work clothes go on just before I leave the house -- coffee and the newspaper come first in my world.

Sunday morning I woke and went to start the coffee, and -- darn, darn, darn -- no water.

I knew the signs from many years of living in an old house with old plumbing, but didn't know how to handle it at this place. So I called around, and was referred to a fellow named "Russ" who lives in the neighborhood and knows about frozen pipes.

He was kind enough to assure me he'd be able to thaw my pipes but I was third on his list. In the meantime he suggested I make sure all faucets were turned on. OK. Did all that. Now what?

Do you think I'd be bright enough to keep some bottled water around in case of emergencies? Nope, not a drop of plain old water in the house.

Brushing my teeth with ginger ale didn't sound appealing so ... into my trusty car I jumped. She started right up like the good car she is, and I drove out to the Journal with every carafe, jug and pitcher I could find.

After filling them with water I contemplated taking a shower in the Journal's bath-and-a-half in the warehouse (Brrrrr, no thanks. It's very cold in the back of the building).

I made it home in time to find Russ just finishing setting a turbo-heater near the frozen pipes.

Russ was dressed for the weather with a big brown overcoat and coveralls on and a face mask covering his head. He's a big guy, made bigger by his clothes, but confident and cordial under the circumstances -- standing in the yard with wind and sleet blowing.

He said he'd be back in a while to check on the pipes and see if there was any damage under my house.

Back he came a few hours later, water was again running through the lines and all was well. I wrote him a check (made out to Russ .... as I had no clue what his last name was) and assumed that would be the end of it.

But the pipes were unhappy again. This time I discovered it at five on a Monday morning, and I hated calling so early, but it had to be done.

Again we went through the routine. Evidently the pipes weren't totally thawed and needed to "drip" a bit through a faucet inside the house due to the extreme cold.

Again he's got his face mask on, wearing his big brown overcoat and coveralls.

Again I write a check to Russ .... (I thought about writing "Good Guy" after his name, because he sure is.)

I still have no clue what he looks like or who he is. It's kind of eerie. I could see him every day and have no idea. But I've added him to my list of very important people to know -- under "R" for Russ and "P" for Pipe Thawing.

And, so far, so good. When water runs through the pipes, all is right in my world.

Reach Pat Hunter at or call 425-1561.