What to do? If you're in Seattle, call Seattle Plumbing Co. Evidently there are a few businesses that have Seattle Plumbing in their names, but make sure you go for the one with Evan Conkling at the helm.
Evan picked up the phone right away and started talking us through the situation. He made sure we'd turned the water and gas off to the heater, so we weren't adding to the problem. It was the weekend, and he wasn't able to get someone to us right away, so he offered us references to other plumbers if we wanted our solution pronto. That gesture was so open, so honest, and so thoughtful, we decided it was worth the wait (and a cold shower) to go with Evan's company.
We scheduled an appointment. He asked us for the model hot water heater we had, and told us he would have a replacement ready. No upsell, no excuses-- just quick, easy replacement.
Seattle Plumbing Co's employee arrived at our door two minutes before the appointed time-- so he could ask where we would like him to park before he started. He worked independently, carrying our old hot water heater out and the new one in all by himself. Quiet, strong, dependable.
There was no, "Well, this hose will need to be replaced... and this concrete isn't ideal..." the way things usually seem to go when we've had work done before. The man came in, did the job well, cleaned up, and let us get on with our lives.
The price was very good, the work was professional, but most of all, the whole process was just simple and easy. THANK YOU, Seattle Plumbing Co.! It's like they could tell that I was all ready to cry in my bathrobe, but they knew I didn't have to. Things weren't that bad after all!