A contractor passed along to me an e-mail from an attorney named Garrett Hodes requesting “information concerning dip tube failures.” Hodes also said that he “would be interested in speaking to people with dip tube failures.” Not hard to figure out what he’s up to, huh? I responded with the following e-mail message to Mr. Hodes.
Dear Mr. Hodes,
It so happens that your request for information regarding water heater dip tube failures was forwarded to me the day after I watched a couple of episodes of The Learning Channel’s series, “The Roman Empire: Power & Glory.” I couldn’t help but make connections between that program and your request. I will share these observations with you — henceforth and forthwith, as you lawyers are so fond of saying.
Inquisitive minds are fascinated with the Roman Empire in part because we can see so many parallels with modern America. By most measures, the Roman Empire was the most advanced civilization that ever rose in the pre-Renaissance world — just as ours has been since then. Oh, they had their dark side colored by military aggression, political repression, slavery, torture and decadence — just as we have skeletons in our historical closet. Yet, as with us, Rome’s negatives must be balanced against unprecedented achievements in technology and political sophistication. Moreover, they left behind a huge volume of historical literature and artifacts to help scholars understand what made them tick.
As has often been said of the United States in the 20th century, it was a blessing in disguise to be conquered by Rome. That’s because after the Roman legions wiped the blood from their swords, they were generous in sharing their technology and citizenry with their former foes, which usually led to a better life for them.
People in the plumbing industry PM serves are particularly taken with ancient Rome because it harbored the greatest plumbers who ever lived until our modern times. Wherever they expanded their rule, the Romans built aqueducts and sewers, public baths and toilets. In fact, the term “plumber” descends from the Latin “plumbarius,” meaning worker in lead.
The Learning Channel’s series about the Roman Empire was quite enlightening. I learned things that filled many gaps in my sketchy knowledge of this culture’s epoch. For instance, ancient Rome’s population of about one million made it the largest city ever known until 19th century London, and the volume of fresh waster supplied by the magnificent Roman aqueducts to all those people — as measured in gallons per day per citizen — was not equaled in Rome again until the 1950s.
I also learned in more detail the depth of brutality, corruption and decadence that characterized the latter stages of imperial Rome, and which contributed mightily to its demise. Some historians attribute its dissolution in part to widespread dementia caused by the Romans’ use of eating and drinking utensils made of lead. This is an unprovable assertion, although I bet the thought of assigning such blame brings a smile to the face of a lawsuit hungry attorney such as yourself, doesn’t it, Mr. Hodes!
Whatever the reasons, the last few centuries of Roman rule saw a steady deterioration of its economy, military, politics and public order. Again, many see parallels in modern America. In the end, the Romans did not have what it takes to withstand the invading Goths, Vandals, Mongols, Huns and other barbarian hordes that steadily overran the Empire. The remnants of Roman majesty were replaced by anarchy and squalor that took the Western world 1,000 years to overcome.
Here, too, some folks see parallels with modern times — I among them. Except this time the barbarian hordes came not on horseback and wearing animal skins, but in Mercedes and BMWs while dressed in three-piece suits to prey upon an increasingly misguided and demoralized population. Despite being armed with pieces of paper rather than fangs, these modern barbarians are as merciless as wild beasts in stalking the weak and ripping them apart — along with unintended victims caught in their feeding frenzy. In their single-minded quest for plunder, the barbarians in BMWs attack mountains and molehills with equal gusto.
Ah, but pardon my digression, Mr. Hodes. Now if you tell me exactly what you wish to do with the information you request about dip tubes, I’ll decide whether I can be of help.