Waiting for Hot Water in the Hamptons: An Essay

Hot Baths Cartoon By Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon By Mickey Paraskevas

If I’m the first one up in the morning at our house in East Hampton, I go into the bathroom and turn on the hot water and wait. In spite of the letter H on the handle, it takes about a minute before the water coming out is hot. There is cold water in the pipes, which have not been in use all night. The hot water in the hot water heater has to rise up through the pipes to the bathroom. So finally, the hot water arrives, hooray!, and I wash my face and brush my teeth. When I’m done, others use the bathroom and the water is already hot.

My wife and I maintain an apartment in the city, however, and when we are there, in the morning the water is always hot, even when I’m first to get up. I figure somebody elsewhere in the building has been up earlier. But the other morning, I got up just before dawn and thought I ought to be the first. But I wasn’t. The water was hot as soon as I turned it on.

It’s the same mechanical system in the apartment as it is in our home. Cold pipes at night. Hot water from the water heater flushing out the cold. So how do I get to be first? Well, I suppose you could say you have to get up pretty early in the morning to be first, as the old phrase goes about the early bird and the worm. But surely everybody is asleep in the middle of the night. So somebody has to be first.

I looked in the mirror and thought about it that morning. This building is 15 stories high. There are eight apartments on a floor. That’s 120 apartments. And there are, probably, on average, three people to an apartment. So that’s 360 people all getting up in the morning at one time or another.

At that rate, it would seem, I would get to be first, enjoying the delicious experience of getting the cold water out of the H tap, on average about once a year. But that assumes I’m here 365 days a year, which I am not. I am only in the city two nights a week. So that means much more time will have to pass for me to get to 360. I ran the numbers. My chance of being the first one up in the building and therefore the first to have to wait to get the hot water to come up in the pipes, a rare honor, will come around only once in every three-and-a-half years.

I will have to remember this. Or maybe I won’t have to. There’s a shortcut.

Leap Year comes every four years. So Leap Year could mark the span of my chances. If one Leap Year passed and then another Leap Year passed without me getting the cold water out of the H tap, I could probably count on my turn coming up soon.

Out the bathroom window, the sun rose over Long Island City. Beyond that was East Hampton and my home, where I can count on being the first one to get the delay in the hot water rising about every three days.

It’s just one of those perks you get living in the Hamptons.

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