The Key to a Hot Tub
Great moments in building history: Always keep a spare key
Moving from Michigan to the mountain town of Leadville, Colo., 10,152 ft. above sea level, meant adapting to thinner air and a longer winter—sunnier but still very cold. My wife, Jane, and I downsized our required square footage but agreed on one luxury that we had never had: a hot tub.
Preparing for our new aquatic toy would require the removal of a sadly worn deck and, with the help of my sons, the construction of a solid deck. Once this structure was completed, we would install the hot tub. Daydreaming of this eventual winter paradise spurred me on through thick and thin.
Building the new deck was an ordeal of digging holes and removing tightly packed fieldstone. Progress was slow. I entered a kind of mindless state where the process of removing each of nature’s hand-packed rocks was a challenge to my endurance.
I had heard that in my new hometown, snow had fallen on the 4th of July. Starting this project in September, I feared it would be derailed by snow before the tub could be installed. Toward the end of October, though, the last hole was dug, materials were delivered, and in a weekend, the framing went up. Decking took a little longer. I hauled the hot tub from Denver to Leadville firmly tied down, but standing precariously on its side in my small trailer.
With the help of friends, we wrestled the tub into place. Next, the electrician did his work, and finally, we were able to fill the tub. We tested it the next day. After all that work, oh what glorious bliss! I had successfully planned and executed the installation. Alas, there was one small backup measure I had failed to attend to.
Three or four weeks after we fired up the tub, I came down with the flu. For a time, my wife had to endure the solitude of hot-tubbing alone. At last, feeling somewhat better, I found that the idea of a soak sounded good. That morning, after my wife left for work, I jumped in for a short dip before my morning shower. We had a fresh layer of snow on the ground, and the sun was shining bright.
After 20 minutes, I exited the tub, wrapped my towel around my waist, and reached for the doorknob—which would not turn. To my chagrin, the door had locked. I was left standing in the backyard with over a foot of snow on the ground. Barefoot, I high-stepped down the righthand side of the house until I came to the guest-room window. Trying to look nonchalant, I attempted to pry it open. It wouldn’t budge. Then I pranced down the drive to the front door hoping it had been left open; no such luck.
Where was my cell phone when I needed it? Would Jane come home from work unexpectedly, or would one of the children suddenly appear at the door? No, these were simply the delusions of a desperate man. It seems that somehow in my planning, the final detail of leaving a key in a safe place outside the house had been overlooked. I had thought about it—even came up with a good hiding place—but just never got around to it.
Gaining entrance to the house was made more difficult by the fact that I cannot see up close without my glasses. As is the case when hot-tubbing, I’d left my glasses in their customary spot on the dresser. My arms are long, but standing far enough away to see the latch would require a reach a foot longer than I’m capable of.
With the temperature in the teens, it was only numerous immersions in the tub that kept me from freezing. Frozen footprints on cold concrete attested to many trips to the unheated garage. With tools from the shop, I eventually removed the doorstop molding, then pried the latch, finally getting into the warm house.
Fortunately, my neighbors seemed to have been elsewhere that day. I experienced no ill effects to my health. Only my pride suffered any damage.
Shortly thereafter, the last detail was attended to; a spare key is now hidden away in a safe place.
Drawing by: Jackie Rogers