My homeowner friends often remind me they learned to be “handy” around the house out of necessity. When something’s clogged or broken or burnt out, there’s no landlord to call. In fact, any call you make for a repair will likely result in a bill, when you’re a homeowner. That’s why I, as an apartment renter, don’t mind tending to the minor things that need fixing.
Part 1: Men Of A Certain Age.
Take my bathroom sink, for example. Recently, it was clogged. I mean really clogged! Standard products like Liquid Plumr or Dran-O weren’t strong enough to answer the call. Now, I could’ve simply dialed up my landlord’s maintenance people and left it to them. But I chose to answer the call myself for two reasons:
1) It’s a clogged drain, not a broken compressor. How hard can it be?
2) I’m a man of a certain age. When men reach a certain age, we no longer enjoy the laziness of our younger brethren who can leave it to the super to fix stuff. After the age of 40, a man calling another man to fix his clogged drain is like watching a woman stand on a chair and scream about a mouse in the kitchen. You just can’t do it when you’re a man of a certain age.
So one day, after work, I tackled it like a home project. I grabbed my toolbox, emptied out the bathroom cabinet and began inspecting the pipes like I knew what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing, but sometimes, just looking the part is a good start. After 10 minutes of trying to determine which wrench I needed to remove the trap, I finally realize it’s rather modern and unscrews from the pipes.
Part 2: The Widow Maker.
With a bucket smartly placed under the open drain pipe, I removed the drain plug—which apparently was installed by MacGyver! It had more moving parts than an internal combustion engine! Once out of the way, I found the offending clog…about 20 years worth of wet hair and DNA created a blockage I affectionately called “the widow maker.”
Reassembly of the pipes wasn’t a challenge, but the damn drain plug wouldn’t cooperate. What should’ve taken five minutes turned into an excruciating 20-minute exercise that felt like playing a rigged carnival game. All that was missing was a haggard carny giggling at me as he took all my money. Eventually, I got it back together.
It took about 30 minutes in total to fix the drain. And there’s no finer feeling in the world than turning on the faucet and watching the fruits of your labor go down an unclogged drain. Success! Until…
Part 3: “What’s that noise? And why are my feet wet?”
About two weeks later, I was standing in the bathroom, brushing my teeth at 7 a.m., getting ready for work. It was right then when I first heard it. A distinct, unfamiliar splashing noise. I knew it was out of place. But I pressed on and moved on to shaving. I never heard the noise again. So I rinsed my clean-shaven face, stepped toward the shower and noticed something else that was out of place: my foot landed in an ever-growing puddle of water.
I looked down and, to my shock and horror, I see water pouring out of the sink cabinet, onto the floor! The floor is soaked! I believe the first two words out of my mouth were, “what the…?!” I’ll spare my delicate readers the rest of that sentence, as it was about two minutes of steady, unintelligible swearing.
Part 4: FEMA Can’t Save Me From Myself.
Quickly, I jumped into emergency mode and began surmising the damage while emptying out the cabinet. Water was collecting in every available receptacle underneath the sink. The new toilet paper I just bought? Waterlogged. Gone. I spared what I could and sacrificed the rest to start sponging up the water.
After getting everything dry (floor, cabinet, everything underneath the cabinet), I inspected the pipes. No obvious leaks around the pipes or the trap. And then, when I turned on the faucet, I found Patient Zero: the damn drain plug. This drain plug connects to an “arm” of some sort underneath, that connects to the sink lever via a couple screws and connectors. Okay, so I don’t know the technical term, but it’s a crapload of armature and levers and physics that seems pretty elaborate for a damn drain! Well, there’s a gasket/washer thingy that popped loose, causing water to flow freely through this exposure, onto the floor of the cabinet. After re-attaching the gasket/washer thingy, problem solved.
Part 5: Know Your Limitations.
I cannot say I had the same sense of pride and accomplishment about this project, as it was a direct result of my removal of “the widow maker” clog. It’s sort of like a patient getting a staph infection after surgery. Who celebrates beating the staph infection when it’s your fault in the first place?!
The moral of this story is simple: forget that nonsense about pride and accomplishment. Leave repairs to the professionals when you know you’re out of your depth. Better to spare what’s left of your dignity than crawl around underneath your bathroom sink at 7 a.m. in your underpants trying to solve a puzzle.