Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Splish, Splash

Sometimes the tiniest of details makes all the difference. Paying attention to detail is not natural for me. I'm more of a "big picture" guy. My knowledge can best be described as "a mile wide and an inch deep." Consequently I have a lot of useless data in my brain housing group, and just enough information stored in the grey matter to get me into trouble. I think I know enough about a certain issue or project, dive in, and then end up doing a lot of "discovery learning." It is the details that make up the predominance of the grey matter wrinkle-making in discovery learning. Case in point: my latest foray into the exciting world of plumbing.

I was visiting #2 son this weekend and saw a list of home projects on his fridge. Number three on the list was "Fix knobs in showers." "How hard can that be?" I said to self. Self answered with a comment that will go unprinted, but included reminders of disastrous attacks on previous "easy" objectives. I ignored self, and pressed ahead.

The hot water handles in both showers were broken off at the base. In the guest bath, I easily unscrewed most of the parts of the multi-part apparatus leading into the hot water pipe and turned to reach for needle nose pliers to extract the remaining parts. First learning opportunity: Did you know that most successful plumbers turn off the water before working on pipes? Water pressure accomplished the remaining part removal task for me. The remaining pieces shot out of the pipe and sprayed in a jumble at the other end of the tub. The water, hot water, sprayed out as well and continued to spray at a surprisingly high pressure. I was, ahem, mildly perplexed at this development and began to, ahem, calmly and quietly search for a solution. Okay, I was shocked speechless (quite rare for me) and went through several iterations of fruitless knob-turning and wet sock-dancing before hollering for help. My son was in another part of the house and later remarked on the long lag time between the report of hardware on porcelain accompanied by the sound of rushing water and my eventual calls for help. That there was not the immediate vocal response to minor calamities, to which my family has long grown accustomed to hearing from me, made him think that perhaps dear old dad had packed off to the happy hunting grounds. Don't start counting your meager inheritance so fast, #2.

Once I got the water turned off, I attempted to assemble the handle parts. There was a lot of them. I had no clue. So, I went to the other shower, carefully unscrewed its handle apparatus, and learned a little bit more about plumbing.

I thought I had it figured out, screwed everything back in place in the second shower, screwed everything back in place in the guest bath, and confidently sauntered out to turn the water back on. Upon my return to the guest bath, the water was no longer spraying out of the pipe in the wall of the shower, but was running out of the faucet. I went through several iterations of knob-turning--less frantic and not accompanied by wet sock-dancing, but no more fruitful than the previous knob-turning episode. I scampered (sauntering was not in order at this juncture) back out to turn the water off, and went back to the shower that was not misbehaving to try to figure out the difference. I took the handle apparatus apart again, and peering into the pipe, noticed that there was a tiny washer (that I didn't have in the misbehaving shower) covering the small spring (that I DID have in the misbehaving shower). "Surely that tiny washer isn't what prevents the water from running," I remarked to self. Self answered, "It's gotta be, you knucklehead. It's the only thing that's different. The one you're missing probably got washed down the drain during your idiotic wet-sock, knob-turning dance. And stop calling me Shirley."

A trip to a not-so local hardware store (Grenada is one of those small country towns that still roll up the sidewalks at 5 PM and over the weekends) was required to acquire the necessary replacement parts. I am proud to report that both broken handles have been replaced and the water behaves as it should in both of #2's bathrooms.

Next trip up, I'll tackle number 4 on his list: Re-wire outside lights. How hard can that be?
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