Scratching Plumbing From Bucket List

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Nightmarish tales of my ineptness abound when it comes to plumbing repairs. It apparently is a form of handyman dyslexia. When it comes to carpentry, woodworking, even rudimentary electrical repairs, I am— if not Mr. Fix-It — at least his loyal assistant. I can hang a ceiling fan, swap out an electrical breaker, build a coffee table, replace a windowpane or lay down ceramic tile. But if water is involved, my brain turns to mush.

Past disasters are the stuff of legend:

• I stripped the valve off an icemaker tube as the movers literally were bringing in possessions, thus requiring me to frantically knock on doors seeking a water-meter shut-off tool as water sprayed crazily about the kitchen. A neighbor warily cooperated. Disaster largely was averted, since the floors were polished brick, though I had to replace some wet sheetrock.

• Years later, I decided to tackle fixing a leaking kitchen sink spigot while the family was away. I took the valve above the sink apart, not realizing that one should cut off the water before doing so. Twelve towels later — plus an emergency call to the plumber— the problem was fixed. Nobody was the wiser, but I was about $100 poorer.

There are other examples, but these should suffice. I decided that if God wanted me to be a plumber then I would have a predilection for wearing my blue jeans too low in the rear, thus exposing the oft-reviled plumber’s crack. Our family refers to this as a Don Juan, after witnessing a particularly egregious display at a Mexican restaurant by that name. Believe me, I don’t do Don Juan. But for the past several years I have hired plumbers for all but simplest of tasks, figuring I could call them now or later. “Now” invariably turned out to be less expensive. The dumbest I felt was paying a plumber to push the reset button on a garbage disposal, because I couldn’t figure out where it was and inaccurately concluded it didn’t exist. Who the heck decided to put the reset button behind an obscure metal plate?

So, the other day when the garbage disposal quit draining, a crisis loomed. The disposal was still whirring around, but the water wouldn’t descend. My wife and daughter were in Austin with me since it is Spring Break. We have this house on the market and thus need everything to continue working until it sells, and I can return to East Texas. In the interim, we refer to the Austin house as our luxury hotel for weekend and holiday visits. At $50 a night (the monthly mortgage, taxes, etc.,) we consider it quite a bargain.

I studied the situation and then texted my brother-in-law, an excellent amateur plumber, for advice. Take the pipes apart under the sink, he replied. One is probably plugged up. He doesn’t understand that “taking the pipes apart” sparks the soundtrack from “Jaws” in my head. Do-dooh, do-dooh, do-dooh, in basso profundo. But, since I am now either semi-retired or under-self-employed — depending on when I’m asked — I didn’t want to shell out the money for a plumber. So into the depths of the sink’s plumbing I plunged.

Sure enough, the pipe coming out from the disposal was crammed with lime rinds. I cleaned everything out and carefully screwed all the plastic pipes back together and turned on the water, looking for leaks. Let the record show that at 1:15 p.m. on March 13 I successfully completed a plumbing project on the first attempt with no mishaps, false starts or leaks.

I can scratch that from my bucket list.

Minutes later, my Beautiful Mystery Companion, aka my wife, informed me the washing machine appeared to have been hooked up incorrectly by the movers. Hot water was coming out when it was supposed to be cold, and vice versa. This has not been an issue for me in the six months that I have been batching it at the Austin house, since I wash everything together on warm and cold. I never noticed it was actually warm and warm. She was trying to wash with cold-water only, since her clothes are more delicate than mine. So I turned off the spigots (I’m a slow learner, but I do catch on) and swapped the hoses. Again, success. No leaks, and my wife’s clothes were saved.

Two successful plumbing ventures in the same day called for a celebration. Actually, what it called for was a nap, which I promptly took.

Hey, it’s Spring Break.

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  • Nemesis


    Wonder what all them there lime rinds come from?? Good question for Mr. Jackson and Mr. Buffett

    • admin


      They come from iced tea. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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