Thursday, May 16, 2013

Learn to Fix Your Own Tub Drain (and other work of the devil)

I feel so Faustian with the title I just wrote.  My keyboard is Satan's handmaiden.

The truth is that I want to learn to fix my own tub drain.  I want to be "that woman," like my niece, Darcy, who is a single Mom-of-two living in a rambling farm house in rural Vermont.

Last winter, Darcy disassembled her entire oil burning furnace and ... did things to it.  Essentially, she transformed a cold, muted appliance -- something you'd see in the establishing scene of a post-apocalypse movie --  into purring machinery that heated her home.  I remember her Facebook post:

"Well, it took three hours but I did it! I disassembled my oil burner, found the problem, repaired it, then put it all back together," as though she had simply completed a hundred-piece puzzle of dimes.

I get jazzed like that when I find an old tube of mascara -- its wand fused from age to the applicator -- then run it under hot water until it shimmies out of its reservoir. This, too, takes me three hours and I, too, would post a Facebook update.

Oh, if only I had hot water today, to run mascara under.

Unfortunately, my tub drain ... misfired... meaning, horrible things happened that forced me to shut down my hot water heating system.

Weeks ago, the tub exhibited early symptoms of disease.  First the handle wouldn't shut off all the way so the faucet dripped.  Last week, the drain lever snapped off in my hand.  I had to use a screw driver to disassemble the front plate and remove it, lest one of us rip a shin against the sharp metal stump.

When my insomnia worsened from the oil burner cycling on and off all night, due to the now-pouring tub faucet, which only drips scalding water, I shut down the system completely.

Forgetting to turn it back ON evokes certain disadvantages.  Like harsh words and a marriage counselor.

Eventually, my husband decided one of us should watch a Youtube video on how to install a new tub kit:  thermostat, handle, faucet, drain stopper with face-plate and working lever. He watched the video. I went to the hardware store.

The sales associate I randomly selected ... was new.   He knew nothing about drains or tubs and had to ask a colleague where plumbing supplies were hidden.  Without a GPS he was unable to follow her directions, so "Alice" had to walk the two of us over to a wall labeled PLUMBING.

The new guy began pawing at random boxes which contained outdoor hoses and a kitchen sprayer.

"Um, none of this stuff is for tubs," I noted, rummaging through different boxes until I found a tub kit all by myself.  I tore it open to ensure it had the right parts and discovered ... it did not.

"But I don't need a new shower head. I DO need a new faceplate for the drain.  This $100 kit is the opposite -- in some Perfect Storm kinda way -- of what I am here to buy!"

Which is when I noticed across the aisle a wall-display of separate components.  I tore open a packaged faceplate because, if I was going to buy a new one, I was going to test the lever first and you won't believe me when I tell you this, but I jammed then bent the faceplate lever, right there, in the store.

The sales associate was horrified.

"Well I hope you don't think I'm buying this NOW," I huffed, then stomped off to my vehicle and drove directly to my plumber.

It was 4:03 p.m.  The office closed at 4:00. I released their locked door-handle and walked to a parked plumbing van to read their phone number off a logo, dialed my cellphone right there in the parking lot, and left a dramatic message on their answering machine.

Early this morning at 9:12 AM, my plumber -- I'll call him Roosevelt -- arrived and I won't keep you in suspense.  No, wait.  I WILL keep you in suspense because that is what I am in right now. It is 3:59 pm and my bathtub parts are wholly exposed to the air looking pretty vulnerable and, frankly, in need of antibiotics.

Back when it was 9:12 AM, Roosevelt had explained that, although my message claimed all new hardware was needed, I probably did not need ANYTHING.  He could replace a tiny coil-rotor here and a flywheel there in about ten minutes.

You know that faceplate with the lever I broke in the hardware store?  And you recall how I already removed our faceplate after the lever snapped off, to avoid injury?  Well, it became swiftly apparent that there were multiple crises involved in that faceplate removal.  It is best if I just number them.

 #1.  Roosevelt and his ENORMOUS van which could store hundreds of dead bodies inside hundreds of tubs, alongside thousands of replacement faceplates... today did not happen to have ONE faceplate.  Apparently this is unusual.  I am buying a lottery ticket.

 #2. Once you remove that plate, there is a HOLE, inside which lives this long string of chain-mail attached to a heavy fishing sinker.  It's an intricate pulley system I have seen many times on dumbwaiters and the flying buttresses of Notre Dame.

#3. Mine had been living inside that hole doing God knows what for so many years, it was covered in green slime and disease.

#4. Roosevelt handed it to me.

#5. I stifled a scream and walked it to the kitchen trash, which is when Roosevelt informed me he just needed me to hold it.

#6. Meaning I had to fish it back out of my trash.

#7. It had already coiled itself around an egg shell.

"Well," I reassured myself, "at least I am in the hands of an artisan capable of salvaging perfectly good -- albeit slimy -- parts, saving me a fortune!"

And then he was gone.

In about an hour, I received a phone call from the office noting that Roosevelt needed a very unique tool to finish repairing my coil-rotors and flywheels to attach to a shiny faceplate with a working lever.  He had to acquire this special tool from one of his colleagues.

That was five hours ago.

In my tub right now pulsates gray, mushroomy stoppers and flow valves, spigot-joists and ruminators all waiting for Roosevelt's return because he is determined to salvage parts that resemble necrotic muskrat genitalia, and it was easier for him to acquire a special tool to access some coil-rotor than it was for him to go to the hardware store I went to yesterday to break a new one out of its package -- unless it was the one I already broke.

Oh look.  Officially 4PM.

Well.  I could think about all this tomorrow -- or I could take a lesson from my own blog title:  "learn to fix my own tub drain" --  become 'that woman' ...  be the Tara to my Scarlett ...   get Darcy on the phone.