“We have a situation,” I said to my wife, Kara, after considering and reluctantly rejecting all possible alternatives to being honest.
It was Sunday night. The kids were asleep. Just around the corner, my new hacksaw sat on the bathroom floor, ashamed of what it had just done.
“Oh, no. What happened?” Kara asked.
“I’m not exactly sure, but we don’t have running water anymore. The hardware stores are all closed, and I need another part before I can fix it. Well, try to fix it,” I replied.
Beneath our faucet, a copper pipe stuck out from the wall, making an O shape where my hacksaw had recently sliced through it.
“O why, O why, did you do that?” the pipe seemed to be asking.
If anyone turned our water back on, that pipe would become a sideways geyser, and I had no way to seal it off.
Coming into this project, I had great confidence in my abilities as a handyman. Turns out, confidence is much like a car key: you need it to get to where you’re going, but it can easily be misplaced.
The project, replacing a leaky valve, was supposed to take about twenty minutes. I’d carefully planned the timing, too, based on the recommendation of a colleague.
“Always do your plumbing on a Sunday. That way, when you mess up and have to call a plumber, you can have them come out on Monday. Then you don’t have to pay weekend rates,” he said.
A sound strategy, I’d thought. The only problem is that when you don’t have functional plumbing on Monday morning, you realize that the importance of running water to modern civilization has not been overhyped. Turns out, it’s not just for making coffee.
“I could pour a bottle of water over your head, but you’d have to be really fast with the shampoo,” I offered to Kara, when she inquired how the morning showers were going to work.
We weren’t worried about our two boys. Kids are supposed to have a thin layer of grime. It’s their natural state. But Kara and I had to go to work in an office, where you’re not supposed to show up looking like you’re fresh off an Appalachian Trail through-hike.
The next morning, I was at the local hardware store when they clicked open the door at 7:30am. Then I came back thirty minutes later. And thirty minutes later, I was back again, this time to buy a blowtorch. In plumbing, as in life, if at first you don’t succeed, try taking a blowtorch to it.
My results up until that moment hadn’t exactly been stellar, but at least my perfect streak of not-burning-down-the-house was still alive. As I applied the flame to the pipe, though, my streak appeared to be in jeopardy.
A few minutes later, I realized that even the blowtorch wasn’t going to work. I’d tried everything.
“What a nightmare!” I said, throwing my hands to the sky.
“Babe, someone you love getting cancer is a nightmare. This is an inconvenience,” Kara replied.
She helps me keep things in perspective, even when I’ve forced her to work from home for the day.
That afternoon, when the plumber came out, he told me that if I’d spent another thirty minutes on it, I would have solved the problem.
“You’ve seen people do dumber things than this, right?” I asked, seeking more validation.
“Oh, this wasn’t dumb at all. I admire that you tried,” he said.
It was worth every penny just to hear him say those words. Of course, he didn’t want to dampen my enthusiasm for plumbing, since guys like me keep guys like him in business. Still, at least we didn’t have to pay weekend rates.
You can pour bottled water on Mike Todd’s head at email@example.com.