The new water heater talks to us. She’s a little scary.
The old one was broken when we moved in, and when I called the landlord, a series of phone calls and visits began. Mostly, they were calls telling me that someone else would call me—my company’s real estate agent telling me the landlord would call, the landlord telling me the repair company would call, the repair company telling me the actual repairman would call. I became very familiar with the way to end a phone call: “お願いいたします。失礼します。” (“I humbly beg you. Excuse me.”) Then bow to the phone and hang up. I think they can hear if you don’t bow. For sure, I can hear them bowing, no matter how perfunctorily.
On Tuesday morning, before the appointed time the heater repairman was to come, the landlord stopped by. He wore a suit and mopped his brow with his handkerchief. (No one wears a jacket in this heat, of course, but it’s boiling even in shirt sleeves.) He came in, slipped his shoes off, bowed, and told me that the heater repairman would come soon. Then he put his shoes back on and left. At the appointed time, the heater repairman himself came. There he was, in his lime green jumpsuit, reflective white stripes down the sides, and white helmet. A white towel was tucked around his neck, but he didn’t seem to be sweating at all. Native Osaka, through and through. Was the helmet really necessary? I wondered. I hoped nothing would explode, and that he would be wearing eye gear as well as a helmet if it were at all likely to.
He tested the old water heater and confirmed that, despite my not being able to speak like a fully functioning human being, my diagnosis of no hot water was in fact correct. Whew. (Actually, this had already been confirmed by several other people before him.)
Then he bowed and said he’d get started. He spread a cloth in my front entrance and brought in all the new parts and took out all the old parts—shoes on and off and on and off.
When he was done, he gave me a tour. Water heaters here are generally “on-demand”; they don’t store hot water. The heater itself is on the front balcony, and there’s one temperature control in the kitchen, for the kitchen sink, and one in the bathroom, for the shower and tub. 32°C is the recommended temperature for sinks, 37°C for shower, and 43°C for the bath. You adjust the temperature setting and use only the hot water tap, rather than adjusting cold and hot water levels, as we do in the States. For the bath, you also have to set a number of liters before you fill it, and make sure to turn the water off when you’ve run that number of liters. (“How much is 200 liters?” I asked the man. He patiently showed me an approximate line on the tub.) I don’t quite get that part, or why it’s necessary, but I got the distinct impression from the repairman that the house might burn down if I get it wrong. Anyway, I’ll set the liters and the temperature and run it to the level that he showed me and no more.
Sitting in the living room, I hear a determined Japanese lady say loudly from the bathroom, “You have set the temperature to 42 degrees!” I jump and ask, “Whose there?” Then I remember that my daughter is in the bathroom and that the water heater controller talks. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to it, though. Even when I set it myself in the kitchen, I jump when she yells at me.