If it ain’t fixed, don’t break it
April 25, 2003
It’s spring fixup time. Knock yourself out.
That’s what I did.
I was stooped over untangling a hose in the back yard. When I raised up, I smacked my head on the window box.
For a split second, I thought I was in a Tom & Jerry cartoon. I was seeing stars, and then everything went black.
So I settled back on the grass, rubbed the lump on top of my head and said to the dog, “Boy, was that stupid.”
The dog agreed.
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When I told my wife later, she said “That’s how Dr. Atkins died.”
“Well,” I said, “he was 72 years old. He actually slipped on the ice and fell on his head, and he got a brain hemorrhage.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said,” she replied.
I was comforted by the thought.
Anyway, stupid is kind of my mantra in the spring when I head outdoors to catch up on all the little household chores that piled up over the winter.
I’m fairly helpless when it comes to handyman repairs, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.
The first thing I tackled was the outside “freezeless” faucet that had frozen over the winter. I don’t remember it getting that cold this winter, and I had taken all the precautions. Nevertheless, it was spewing water out the side of the house whenever I turned the handle.
The first thing I did was crawl under the house. If you haven’t been under your house in awhile, I recommend it enthusiastically.
It’s a whole other world under there, reminiscent of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — only darker.
Naturally, the crawl space begins at one end of the house and the faucet is located at the other. I’m telling you there’s no better aerobic exercise than crawling through a Marine obstacle course of beams, heating ducts and cobwebs while pushing the flashlight ahead with your nose.
I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got to the faucet, so this was mainly a reconnaisance mission. I slithered up next to the pipe and — voila! — couldn’t see anything. Dry as a bone.
I hollered at my wife to turn on the water. Nothing. She hollered back that it’s spewing outside the foundation. OK, so I’m going to take that as a good sign. It means I probably won’t be trying to wrench a pipe while lying on my back in a pool of water surrounded by a nest of spiders underneath my house.
I crawled back through the obstacle course and re-entered the real world, exhausted. Time for a nap.
Later, I consulted a few outside-faucet experts — by which I mean I asked some guys who also live in houses.
Armed with their advice, I got a big wrench and unscrewed the faucet from the outside. Sure enough, it came out easy as pie and exposed an inch-long rip in the copper tubing. This was going to be a cinch. Crawling under the house had been a stupid thing to do, sure, but at least it was fun in a miserable kind of way.
I zipped over to the hardware store and bought a replacement faucet for $20. No sweat. This job would be done in 30 minutes and I could move on to the next chore.
Such is the deluded state of the home self-repair klutz.
The faucet didn’t fit, so I’m back at the store looking for a piece of pipe to make the connection. The store was out of that particular piece. So I went to another hardware store, where the guy told me there was no such connector. I needed to buy a whole different faucet.
I had forgotten one of the Rules of Home Repair. Every task, no matter how simple it appears, will require three trips to the store. Yes, I realize some of you whizzes out there have actually managed to complete a home repair in only two trips to the store. I’m talking averages. If you count taking back the first faucet I bought to get a refund, then I managed this home repair in four trips. That’s pretty good for me.
Now I have the right part and all I have to do is screw it back into the pipe. My neighbors probably can pin down the time, because that’s when the cussing started.
At first it was, “stupid, stupid, stupid.” As I wrestled with the faucet, which wouldn’t thread into the pipe under the foundation, my chant gradually became “STUPID STUPID STUPID.” Then as I began hacking away at the siding of the house because it still wouldn’t catch the threads, I began muttering “Who is the stupid #@%&@ moron who would design such a stupid #*&@% thing that won’t fit on the $@*&#% faucet?”
Actually, at some point, I may have shouted that sentence at the top of my lungs. Because my wife poked her head out the door and said, “Something wrong, honey?”
I repeated my analysis of the problem, inserting a few more #@*&%$s into the narrative.
She nodded sympathetically and disappeared. After I made a few more tries and uttered a few more colorful phrases, I heard her call out from inside the kitchen.
“Honey, do you want me to hold the pipes from in here?”
“Yeah, they’re moving under the sink every time you try to screw in the faucet. That’s probably why the threads won’t catch.”
“Umm. That’s a good idea, dear. Yes, you could do that for me.”
The faucet immediately screwed in. It doesn’t leak now, although it’s still sitting a little sideways.
This Saturday, I’ll be able to move on to the next chore. Or I may just crawl under the house for awhile.
Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.