#70: The Plumbing Diaries – Blowtorch Edition

#70: The Plumbing Diaries – Blowtorch Edition

When I embarked on the glorious journey of homeownership 15 years ago, I did not own a drill or a toolbox or have the slightest idea how to fix anything. My real estate agent informed me of a delightful option known as a Home Warranty, a service providing me with a phone number to call should I have any troubles with the house. It seemed like a divine provision.

The previous owner of my house paid for the first year, and though the cost was exorbitant I continued to pay for it myself for many years afterwards. I wince now when I think about the expense, and more than one person encouraged me to let it lapse. “If something breaks I can give you the number of a guy,” they would say. But the sheer number of guys needed to keep all the electrical, plumbing, structural, and HVAC balls in the air was too intimidating to me. I preferred the security of 24-7 availability, one-call-does-it-all.

Over time, I accumulated a number of tools, and eventually a box in which to keep them. I’ve installed my own window treatments with a minimum of bloodshed and cursing.  I learned how to paint a room the way most do – by painting a few very, very badly. I’ve garnered a few skills along the way, and gathered a few numbers for reliable contractor-guys who can handle the things beyond my ken. Eventually, I felt secure enough to let the warranty go.

Still, when Amy wrote a lovely post recently about fixing various plumbing fixtures, I read it with more than a little envy.  Plumbing has been sort of a last, unexplored frontier for me because beyond tinkering with a troublesome toilet handle, I have been afraid to mess with it. But I had a leak under my kitchen sink, and Amy’s post was just the push I needed to attempt a repair.

I had first “handled” the leak through denial, utilizing the time-honored method of placing a pan beneath the drain to catch the water. My second, more daring approach was to tighten every plumbing whatsit I could get my hands on. When tightening whatsits failed to stop the leak, I went to Home Depot and bought some plumbers putty and silicone. I tried loosening the whatsits I had previously tightened to apply these, but I was foiled by the final whatsit, He Who Would Not Budge. I watched a few DIY videos and messed with it a bit more, but beyond learning what an “escutcheon” was, all further attempts to fix the leak were unfruitful.

Amy was out of town, so I threw in the towel (literally, it was pretty wet under the sink at this point) and called a professional plumber, one of the “guys” I’ve been fortunate to find over the past three Home Warranty-free years. I braced myself for embarrassment, fully expecting him to remove that whatsit with the greatest of ease.

I am kind of ashamed to tell you how relieved I was that he couldn’t. The sounds coming from the kitchen were increasingly loud and angry in tone, and my grin got wider and wider. I was not a total plumbing goofball if even a pro had trouble with the whatsit! I even tried joking with him on one of his many trips back from his truck with various tools, “Next you’ll need to try a blowtorch! Ha ha ha!”

Then I looked up from my computer screen and saw what he was holding in his hand.

Why, yes. It was, indeed, a blowtorch.

He looked at me and deadpanned, “If this doesn’t work, we’ll need to order some Acme products.”

Fortunately for Wile E. Coyote, the blowtorch melted off the old whatsit, the plumber installed a new whatsit, and all was right with the sink again.

I’ve still got the numbers of several guys to fix whatever I find unfixable in the future.

But more importantly, I’ve got Amy, and Acme, on speed dial.

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