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(Mis)Adventures in Plumbing

Tags: home, men, marriage

A husband's misguided journey into the world of do-it-yourself plumbing projects.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I walked down the stairs into the living room where my lovely wife had assumed her normal position. “On Monday, remind me to call the home warranty people. My bathroom sink’s cold water lever doesn’t work any longer,” I requested.

She diverted her attention from HGTV long enough to inform me that my request would be fulfilled. She added, “We also need to get them to look at the kitchen sink.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“I noticed a little bit of water under the sink the other day,” she informed me.

“No problem, let me go check it.”

Upon entering the kitchen and opening the cabinet under the sink, I found the drywall completely soaked through and the cleaning products we store there surrounded by a half-inch of water. It is now apparent that to women “a little bit” means complete and utter saturation.

Unpleasantly surprised, I exclaimed, “When did you notice this!?”

“About a week ago,” she informed me calmly.

“Why didn’t you mention it before now?!” This question I believe was a reflex, as I have discovered I almost never want to know the answer to questions such as these in situations such as this.

“I didn’t know,” she replied. I was befuddled. Didn’t know what? That water belongs inside a sink and not underneath a sink? Newer husbands may have mistakenly asked such questions and created a problem for their marital harmony. I, however, have the benefit of experience in marriage.

 "That’s okay,” I managed to say in a surprisingly non-condescending and calm manner. “You go get the hairdryer from upstairs while I get everything out from underneath the sink and the towels.” I rolled my eyes profusely when she left the kitchen.

Minutes later I made the first of what would prove to be dozens of cramped, dimly lighted, and treacherous trips underneath the kitchen sink. It took at least six bath towels to clean up the “little bit” of water and much time and patience to blow dry the wall. A “little bit” of bleach was deemed prudent to add to the wall, followed by several more minutes of blow drying. Die, mold! Die!

Once the crisis was abated, it was time to get to the bottom of the problem. A cursory inspection immediately yielded the answer: a large hole had developed in the hose that runs to the sink’s spray nozzle. I immediately turned off the water supply and crawled out from under the sink, hitting my head on some pipes along the way. The kitchen sink was officially out of order until further notice.

“I found the problem,” I reported to my wife. “The spray nozzle hose is busted. I’ll fix it tomorrow.”

“Do you know how?” she insultingly inquired.

“Yes,” I confidently informed her. As a trial lawyer, I find it useful to be good at bluffing. “Now, I have some more work to do upstairs.”

Sitting at the computer in our home office, I promptly opened the internet browser and directed it to Google. “Leaky hose” + “nozzle” + “kitchen.” Search. Bingo. Easy do it yourself project? Cheaper than a plumber? Less than forty-five minutes to complete? This sounded like the kind of problem I could actually fix on my own; and, I decided I would since it allegedly cost less than the home warranty deductible.

Sunday morning arrived and it was time to take a closer look at the problem, analyze it, and develop a well-reasoned, educated and logical solution to it. That’s what we lawyers do. Inspection revealed that the hose was capped at the end by a silver thingy, which in turn appeared to screw into the copper piping of the faucet. Easy enough, I concluded. Off to Lowe’s we went.

Delta manufactures a universal spray nozzle similar to what was in our kitchen. Unfortunately, the universal spray nozzle’s silver thingy was attached to a copper do-hickey. We don’t have a do-hickey on our hose. All the other universal hoses had the same copper do-hickey attached to their silver thingy as well.

I stared at the wall of mysterious hardware for what seemed like an eternity. In reality, it was likely only a few minutes. I was deep in panic and confusion…no, strike that…I was deep in thought and consideration. That’s what us lawyers do. Think and consider. To my wife, it must have appeared more like confusion than consideration because she asked, “Why don’t you just ask somebody for help?”

“Because, I don’t need it.” A little white lie never hurt anyone.

 I chose to ignore the deep, exacerbated sigh my wife let out. “I’ll be right back,” she said.

I continued to stand there pondering the thingy, do-hickey dilemma a few minutes longer. Being the weekend, and the one after Thanksgiving at that, there were many other people milling about intent on distracting me and derailing my thinking train. Why were so many people in the plumbing aisle at Lowe’s on a Sunday morning? Shouldn’t they be in church or something? Why are so many of them women and why do they seem to know what they’re doing? Surely that old lady’s retirement home has maintenance people that can fix her problem?

Suddenly, a new distraction surfaced over the loud speaker as a mechanical female voice proudly exclaimed: “Customer assistance needed in the plumbing aisle. Customer assistance needed in the plumbing aisle. Customer assistance needed in the plumbing aisle.” The annoying and oddly emasculating retort continued for several more excruciating minutes. 

Ah, there she is. Standing right next to the “Push for assistance” button, looking quite smug, was my beautiful wife. I love her (this is more of a reminder to myself than information for the reader). Did that old lady just smirk at me? Bitch.

I finally noticed Whoopi Goldberg’s twin sister meandering slowly down the concrete floored aisle decked festively in her red smock. Mercifully, she shut up the loudspeaker when she reached us. I like to think that she asked us something to the effect of how she could help us, or what she could do for us. I believe, however, that her greeting was more of a “uh-huh.” Perhaps it was just an inarticulate grunt. I’m not sure. Regardless, it was clear by her scowl that she was there excited and eager to help my wife solve my dilemma.

I looked at my wife doubtfully. She in turned scowled at me menacingly. It was clear I was going to ask Whoopi for assistance whether I liked it or not, so I began to explain our situation.
After informing Whoopi of the main problem, I continued: “our sink only has the silver thingy. There is no copper do-hickey. Will the universal hose still work on our sink despite our hose not having a do-hickey connection?” She looked at me quizzically, yet assured me that it would.

You see, explained Whoopi, the do-hickey can easily be disconnected from the thingy. Just pull the original thingy off the faucet and the then pull the do-hickey out from the new thingy. Then, just slide the new thingy onto the faucet until it snaps into place. It was easy, she told me. The lawyer in me smelled bullshit, but wanted to believe her because I like the movie Sister Act. We purchased the do-hickey clad universal hose and headed home.

It was time to disconnect the original thingy from the faucet. Tug. Tug. Tug . Stuck. Tug. Tug. Stuck. “Honey,” I inquired, “that nice lady did say the thingy is supposed to pull right off, correct?”

“Yes.”

Tug.
Yank. Yank . Stuck. Yank. Yank. Yank. Stuck. Violently Yank. Cuss. Still stuck. A wrench should get it off, I deduced. I was wrong. Pliers? Still wrong. The only logical conclusion that could be reached at this point was that the silver thingy had corroded onto the copper piping. Damn.

“Honey, the thingy corroded onto the faucet pipe and is stuck. Can you get me the needle-nosed pliers and my pocket knife,” I politely requested.

“Why don’t you just call a plumber?” Oh Honey, ye of little faith. Because me man. Me fix. You be impressed. Me manly man. Thump, Thump on my chest. Fortunately for me, evolution and my mental filter purified this primal response and I responded to my wife: “Because a plumber charges more per hour than I do and it’s an easy repair.” Although no verbal response was given, I could sense the eye roll from under the sink.

The next three hours were spent cutting the hose, jamming the pliers between the thingy and the faucet connection, plying the thingy apart, cussing, more cutting, more plying, a lot more cussing, a little rinsing of debris out of my eye, looking for safety goggles, giving up on finding safety goggles, more plying, and a hell of lot more cussing. Loud, angry cussing. Finally, I defeated the thingy and was now only two hours behind schedule in repairing the sink. After hours of literal blood, sweat, and tears the thingy had fallen off and exposed the connection on the faucet. It looked like a copper screw that had been hollowed out, and I later learned that it is called, oddly, a nipple. I'm fairly certain a redneck man must have named it sometime in the distant past.

The new hose was packaged in plastic. It was the industrial strength plastic that prevents opening by anybody who is not a skilled shoplifter. I could not for the life of me get that damn packaging open. Hours of pent up frustration finally got the best of me at this point, and the package was promptly opened by the kitchen meat cleaver. 

It should be noted by the reader that a meat cleaver will instantly open this annoying packaging. Equally, if not more importantly, it should also be noted by the reader that said meat cleaver will also chop a cutting board in half if utilized in a rage involving all of one’s strength. Therapeutic, yes. Smart, no. Luckily, the wife was outside raking leaves with the dog while all this was going on.

Once free from the Fort Knox packaging, it was clear almost at once that the do-hickey attached to the silver thingy on the new hose does not come apart from the thingy. Luckily, I decide, the do-hickey appears to have a sufficient hole to attach to the nipple. Whoopi must have been wrong, you only need to attach the do-hickey to the faucet until it snaps into place, I thought. I was wrong, however, and the do-hickey didn’t even come close to fitting on the nipple.

The legal profession is one based on reason and logic. These traits told me that since our sink was Kohler, and the hose was manufactured by Delta, that the “universal” part of the packaging must refer only to Delta products. This made sense at the time, and I promptly returned the new hose to Lowe’s. Since Lowe’s only had Delta products in stock, I went to The Home Depot.

I believe that The Home Depot is a better store than Lowe’s. This can probably be attributed to the orange smocks that seem to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere. One might also attribute this to the fact that my wife did not accompany me on my trip to The Home Depot and, therefore, there was no annoyance or emasculating embarrassment to be had in the store. There was just hardware. Manly tools and hardware. Me man. Me fix.

After several minutes looking at their selection of spray nozzles and hoses, a smock clad gentleman named Bob asked if I needed assistance. “No, thank you Bob,” I politely informed him. Fifteen additional minutes pass and Bob is back. “No, really, I’m fine. Thank you, Bob.” Bob looks skeptical. 

At home, I unwrap the packaging on the new, new hose. The packaging tells me that the hose is “universal” and will work on Kohler products. Its actions speak louder than its words, however. The same problem that arose with the Delta hose arises with this one. The do-hickey doesn’t come off the silver thingy and the do-hickey doesn’t fit on the nipple. 

Using my superior logic and analytical skills earned through a $100,000 law school education, I determine that the bold look of Kohler demands only a Kohler product. I rush back upstairs and scour our files and finally find the instruction manual for the faucet that was installed ten years prior. The next stop is The Home Depot to return the deceptively labeled “universal” hose and to look for a Kohler nozzle. My search yielded nothing. The only things Kohler in stock were brand new faucets, and I was slightly sure that I should not have to replace the whole faucet. Oh, hi Bob. No, I still don’t need any help. Bob’s skeptical look is growing more extreme by the hour.

Upon returning home, a quick search of the Kohler website reveals that the particular faucet installed in our kitchen has been discontinued. How nice. Will I have to actually replace the entire faucet? Is there a replacement part I can get from Kohler? I have no idea, but I reassure the wife that I know exactly what I’m doing and everything will most definately be okay. Bluffing is an important skill for a trial lawyer to possess. Lowe’s, The Home Depot, and Kohler’s Customer Service hotline are now closed on this Sunday night so it’s time for beer, bandages, and bed.

Monday morning and twenty-five minutes on hold with Kohler’s customer “service” hotline reveals that they do manufacture a replacement part. They assure me it will work even though my sink has been discontinued. I do not waste time covering the silver thingy – copper do-hickey problem with them as Whoopi already told me how to solve that dilemma. Overnight shipping is required to satisfy the wife’s need for a kitchen sink and the damn hose now costs me double what Lowe’s charged me for their fancy Delta “universal” hose.

Tuesday brings the FedEx man who brings me my hose. This hose also has a copper do-hickey attached to the silver thingy. That’s odd. The do-hickey does not come off of the silver thingy. That’s odd also. The do-hickey does not fit on the nipple, just like the other two hoses. That’s even odder. Nothing seems to work despite Whoopi, Bob, and Kohler telling me it should. A total breakdown is imminent. Will I need to finally call a damn plumber? Can I do it while the wife is still at work and keep that from her? I must not admit defeat.

As the internal meltdown rages on, I hold the new Kohler hose in my hands and am fondling the copper do-hickey. The copper do-hickey, I notice, looks a lot like the top of the nipple. The copper do-hickey…wait a minute…Mother [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored]! Damn you, Whoopi!

In less than five minutes the nipple (now know as the old copper do-hickey) easily twists off the real nipple using a wrench. Amazingly, the copper do-hickey on the Kohler hose now fits on the nipple (as would the other, much cheaper, two have) and is installed. Success! The water supply is turned on and…drum roll, please…shit! The damn thing leaks!

An angry call to Kohler results in a new over-nighted hose and a credit for the purchase of the original new Kohler hose. The result is paying $6.00 for something that originally cost me $50.00. I like Kohler.

As I sat there at the kitchen table after hanging up the phone with my friends at Kohler, I became depressed. As if defeat were not bad enough, I knew that I would hear “I told you to call a plumber” for a long time to come from my wife. Suddenly, my superior intelligence earned after so much higher education results in a stroke of genius and I rush off to The Home Depot once more.

Bob did not offer to help me this time. Instead, he just passed me by and gave me a highly quizzical and doubtful stare. Kiss my ass, Bob. Your orange smock makes you look stupid, by the way.

I returned home with the newly purchased basin wrench a short while later and again crawled underneath the sink. When I die and go to hell, I believe that Lucifer will make me hell’s plumber specializing in sinks. Apparently, the do-hickey was not as tightly screwed to the nipple as originally thought. After a few more quick turns with the specialized plumbing wrench, the do-hickey is absolutely secure and all leaks are gone. Success! Finally! Me man. Me fix.

A few hours later the wife came home from work and I proudly told her that our kitchen sink was now in working order. “How’d you end up fixing it?” she asked.

“It was easy. I just needed the part from Kohler, which was only $6.00. If we had that to begin with, it would have taken just a little while. It was Whoopi’s fault because she lied to us to get us to by the $20.00 Delta hose,” I said. I firmly believe that what my wife doesn’t know about the true cause of the repair calamity won’t hurt me.

“Well, we won’t be shopping at Lowe’s any longer,” she stated.

“Agreed.”

“Did you fix your bathroom sink also?” she asked.

“What do you want for dinner?” I asked her.
This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © This work has been copyrighted upon its publication by Michael S. Rothrock. All rights reserved. The complete work, nor any portion thereof, may not be reprinted, reproduced, redistributed, or republished without the express written consent of the copyright holder. Violators may be subject to a legal mess.

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