I ate my wafer...


Claustrophobia Part One

So, last weekend while I was eating lunch with my parents, I happened to glance out the window and see an early 1990's ford minivan slowing to a stop in the ditch with steam pouring out from under the hood. As it turned out, the van had suffered a split heater hose, and the extremely elderly couple driving were on their way home from the hospital. To make a long story short, despite amusing miscommunications caused by hearing loss, my Dad and I repaired the van, sending the couple home with instructions to call us via cell phone if they encountered more problems in the remainder of their 30 mile drive.

The interesting part is that the woman involved bore a striking resemblance to a former neighbor, Mrs. Irene Simpson, who I hadn't thought about in years. Mrs. Simpson lived nearby when I was young, and had virtually no family in the area. In her early 90's, she was quite frail, and lived in a small house completely filled with cats and old person spoor, such as stacks of newspapers and various knick-knacks. One winter, one of her hot water pipes froze, and somehow or other, my Dad and I were called in to fix the problem. Since her house was small, the entire house was heated by a single furnace that sat in her laundry room blasting hot air through the house without the more common ducts and vents. Being that Mrs. Simpson was quite old and frail, she preferred the entire house to be heated into the 80 degree range, so the area immediately surrounding the furnace certainly pushed 95 degrees or more.

Unfortunately, the trapdoor to her crawlspace was located immediately next to the furnace, in front of the hot air vent. As far as crawlspaces go, it was fairly roomy, abet completely filled with fog, with a muddy dirt floor due to the broken pipe. Obviously, the temperature in the crawlspace was below freezing, and the temperature transition was less than pleasant. Anyway, as it turned out, the broken plumbing fixture couldn't be completely shut off, and as I was twelve years old, making me both physically smaller and too young to drive, I got to spend 45 minutes holding my thumb over the offending crack while my father tracked down a replacement part. Unfortunately, the pipe was located such that my head was directly underneath the trapdoor opening, bathed in 90 degree air, while the rest of my body was in 25 degree mud. Approximately, 20 minutes into the experience, Mrs. Simpson shuffled her walker over to the trap door and leaned down. Smiling, she said, "hee hee, you're just like the little dutch boy aren't you, hee hee." She then shuffled back to whatever she was doing, leaving me to my own little claustrophobic, fog-filled, thermally-schizophrenic hell.

With the replacement part in hand, it was an easy repair, and I didn't really suffer any ill effects from the experience. Hilariously, Mrs. Simpson called my Dad eight hours later at 3AM, panicked that she couldn't find "Buddy", and was concerned that the errant cat had somehow slipped into the crawlspace. So, my dad, wearing Carhartt overalls over his PJ's had to go back over at 3:30 AM with a flashlight to check for the cat. The cat turned out to be sleeping the in the laundry piles, but my dad did have to crawl around in the crawlspace mud first.

Mrs. Simpson passed away years ago, I have no idea what happened to Buddy the cat, and the entire situation is mostly just funny in retrospect. Thinking about the situation, I definitely want to post about claustrophobia in general, and possibly the evolutionary development of phobias in general. In light of the lengthy nature of this post, I'm saving all of that for part two.


  • Thank you for your words, you pleasantly surprised me while looking for plumbing related information. I even had to read the link about the dutch boy putting his finger in the dike.

    big thumbs up from: usaplumbing.info

    By Anonymous usaplumbing.info, at 12:49 AM  

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