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The Kitchen Sink November 10, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Uncategorized.
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I did not floss last night. There, I said it. Mock if you must; I have confessed and I am open to your scorn. Naturally, you must wonder why I failed to floss last night, I who floss so diligently every night, sometimes even while camping. It’s a long story. Just the kind I like.

It all started with a phone call. I was at work. Amy called from home. “The sink broke,” she reported, as matter-of-factly as if this happens every couple of days at our house. It doesn’t. In fact, this was our original kitchen sink, a decade old. I knew the faucet handle had been a little wonky and I had tightened it in the past, so I hoped I just needed to fix a screw.

I left work late, since I had the crazy idea earlier in the day to go on my first ever cruise during the week of Thanksgiving, and I happened to check this cruise website, and there happened to be some really good cruise prices, and so I wound up booking a cruise for all five of us and Amy’s mom! But that’s another story. Back to the floss.

I got home, late, ready to pull out the screwdriver and fix the faucet. Amy had a big pot of water beside the sink. She said she was a pioneer woman and she had fetched the water pail from the outhouse. I laughed at her mixed metaphors, and then inspected the faucet. The handle was actually broken into two pieces, right at the base. No screwdriver would fix this.  I had never replaced a kitchen faucet before, but it didn’t look too hard. We ate dinner (my pioneer woman made delicious potato soup!) and then took off for Home Depot.

I should mention how nice it is that the kids are old enough that we can just leave them at home sometimes. None of them really wanted to go to Home Depot (what’s up with that? You’d think they’re girls or something!), and I really wanted Amy to come along for the faucet-picking-out process. So, we just left. And they stayed and worked on homework, except for Rebekah, who has swine flu. But that’s another story. Back to the floss.

Amy and I had a lovely date at the Home Depot, and settled on a lovely faucet with a big tall spout which will be useful for filling big pails with water. No more trips to the outhouse! Since there were kitchen faucets there that cost hundreds of dollars, our new faucet was especially lovely since it rang in at $64. I also had a little thrill when I got to slide the wall of display faucets to retrieve the box stacked behind it. I like sliding walls to find hidden boxes. Do all diligent flossers have the same odd proclivity, I wonder?

Back home, I unboxed the new faucet and started pulling all the obscure items out from the cabinet under the sink. We had various cleaners, a gallon of ammonia, an almost-gallon-sized jug of bubbles, and no less than eight lunchboxes. Plus lots of icky stuff that missed the trashcan several years ago and, well, festered. Then, I followed my time-tested process for all new projects: I worked at it on my own for about 174 seconds, then I called Dad.

Dad knows everything about building things and fixing stuff. I marvel at his depth of knowledge and experience. I told him what had transpired during my 174 seconds of effort, about how I tried to twist the big nut that attached the water supply hose and the copper pipe twisted instead of the nut. He told me to disconnect the other end, then take care of the tricky part after the sink was off. I asked him how the sink was attached, and he told me several possible scenarios. We sorted out that this particular sink was held on by a nut in the middle, on a long threaded stem. I told Dad the collar above the nut was rusty. He said,

“Oh. That’s going to be hard to get off.”

If Dad thinks something will be difficult, I know that for me the task will be gargantuan. I was not mistaken.

I have my wrenches hanging neatly from a pegboard in the basement, so I went down to grab a few to find the proper size for the nut. They were all too small. I went down to get bigger wrenches. They were metric. I went down again to grab another handful. Then I went down seven or eight more times just to make myself more frustrated.

I found the right size wrench and realized the ordeal I would now face. There’s simply no good way to get to this nut. It’s all the way in the back of the cabinet, right in the middle, between two supply lines and the spray hose and just above the drain pipe and behind the two sides of the sink, which, by the way, are very rough and knuckle-scraping. I decided to disassemble the spray hose to make a little more room. Success! One task down, five-or-so to go. I could get at the nut a little better, and I got the wrench on it, and it moved, just a little. It is important to realize that I was twisted all under the sink, inside the cabinet, dodging that annoying strip of cabinet that goes between the doors, propped on one elbow with my neck cocked to one side and the wrench in the other hand. The wrench had about two inches of space to actually turn, no matter which way I approached the nut. I dropped it dozens of times. I’m sure there’s some plumbers tool that does this job in seconds, but I had no idea how I could possible get this nut all the way off the long threaded pipe when I was only able to turn it about 1/6 turn at a time.

I was hopelessly frustrated after 20 minutes of 1/6 turns and dropping the wrench and getting a sore neck and such. I finally pulled myself out of the cabinet and declared, exasperated, “I can’t do this!” We talked about calling a plumber we know, but it was late. Amy had to take Sarah to a Bible study that I was supposed to go to also. I stared at the sink. A weird Yoda-like voice popped in my head and reminded me that the nut was turning. It wasn’t turning much, but it had to be called progress. I pulled off my long-sleeve T-shirt and laughed a bit at myself clad in jeans and a plain white undershirt, looking distinctly plumber-like. I wanted to do my Marlon Brando “Stella!!” routine, but there was no one in the room with me. Instead, I crawled back under the sink.

I twisted that infernal nut, 1/6 turn at a time, for hours! It crept in its petty pace toward the bottom, at which time I had to disconnect the sprayer hose which is not held on by a nut but by a completely round fixture. Whose idea was that?  I went back to the basement for vise-grips, got the hose off, and went back to my little tiny turning. I was amazed that at no point along the length of this pipe was I able to turn the nut by hand. I tried. Oh, did I try.

I’ve often said that I could have been a stellar athlete were it not for my smallish hands. Stellar athletes have huge hands. I have small hands. And, during a recent cleaning-out-the-basement binge, I discovered that in high school I wrote very sensitive poetry. And also, I like to think of myself as a musician. So I have the small sensitive hands of a poet-musician. I am certain that dozens of men could have twisted that nut with one finger, but my small sensitive musician hands were no match. Instead, it was: twist the wrench just a little bit, take off the wrench, flip the wrench over, twist the wrench a little bit more, repeat. All while contorted all up under a cabinet. Curse these small sensitive hands!!

Amy and Sarah were back. I told Sarah to run out and get me one of those ratchet-plier things, which would have trimmed hours off this project. She laughed. I soldiered on, as best a sensitive small-handed poet-musician can soldier, and after two hours of little baby twists, with a shout of victory, my nemesis the nut was vanquished!

I did some much easier disconnecting, pulled the old faucet off, cleaned the gunk from under the old faucet, then installed the new sink, all in less than an hour. It was after 10:00, after everyone had gone to bed, in a quiet room, that I tentatively opened the water supply valves. No leaks! Hurray!

Of course, you know the rest of the story. I went to bed, tired and really rather dirty. I scrubbed my hands, but they were still pretty slimy. Slimy enough that, yes, I did not floss.

I should have felt a more profound sense of accomplishment after finishing this task, but I was busy lamenting how crazy long it took. Today, though, after the perspective gained from an almost-uninterrupted night’s sleep (did I mention Rebekah has swine flu?), I am a bit proud of myself. I have taken another stride in the footsteps of my father, and I am reminded how he acquired his vast knowledge of building and fixing stuff. He struggled (at least I assume he did), and made mistakes, and used the wrong tools, and wanted to quit, and then he persevered and figured things out and accomplished one little project at a time. I’ve extended his legacy by adding just a bit to my own, one little twist of the wrench at a time.

In the end, if not flossing because your sensitive smallish hands are grimy is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

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Comments»

1. Dot Geil - November 10, 2009

Great story, now you know why Dad hates plumbing!!


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