Adventures in Plumbing

If you own a house, there will come a time when you will have adventures in plumbing. It might be fixing a leaky kitchen faucet. It might be replacing a worn-out water heater. It might be something else. For us, on this day, it was trying to fix the plumbing for the upstairs bathroom tub and shower. Such adventures we had!

Let us begin the story at its beginning, as is right. On Friday morning, I hopped in the shower to get ready for work. I had swapped days this week and taken off Monday instead of my usual Friday. And I instantly felt some "give" in the faucet as I turned it on, and the water was gushing, and I couldn't get it to turn off.

But I quickly took my shower, and then when it was time to turn it off, I stood there naked shouting for my husband because it would Not Turn Off! He quickly turned the water off to the house. I remembered a little door in the wall in the master bedroom that goes to the water shut-off for the tub, but accessing it would involve moving lots of stuff: a TV on a stand with a bunch of DVDs, and other stuff piled around it.

I went off to work, and my husband removed the part from the faucet and took it into town to buy a replacement. There were multiple stores involved, and multiple trips back and forth to town. No, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Bi-Lo Supply did not have the part. We might have to buy it online.

When I got home Friday afternoon from work, the water was still off. We resolved to move the stuff in the master bedroom so we could access the water shut-off to the tub. But we'd both had long days, and couldn't take much more. So we decided to defer that adventure until Saturday.

So Saturday morning came and we moved all the stuff, and there was the little troll-door in the wall! We removed one screw, and pulled it off, and there was a dusty, cobwebby area inside, with two knobs attached to pipes behind the tub.

We are not experienced plumbers, so we assumed the knob on the left went to the tub, and the one on the right went to the sink. So my husband turned off the one on the left with the help of a little WD-40, and went downstairs to turn the water back on. (Those of you who know plumbing are already laughing, I'll bet. Just wait for the next part.)

And I went and stood by the tub to see what would happen when the water went back on. And wow, what a show! A plume of hot, dirty water, a geyser not unlike Old Faithful, instantly shot across the room at very high speed and temperature, and with great velocity. He'd turned off the COLD water, but the HOT water was still on, full force!

And suddenly I was screaming NO NO NO, TURN IT OFF, TURN IT OFF TURN IT OFF!!!!! as loud as I could. And he turned the water back off. And came back upstairs and messed with the knob on the right, to the hot water. And when we turned the water back on to check, the amount of water dripping did decrease. It slowed down to a trickle, but you just can't leave hot water running all day long like that.

So while the water was back on, I washed some dishes quickly in the sink, and washed and refilled the hummingbird feeders. And we both filled bottles and buckets of water all over the house, and left them by every sink and toilet, for impromptu hand washing and gravity flushing. Then we turned the water back off.

We found the replacement part online for under $10, but before we ordered it, we made one last-ditch effort to find the part locally. My husband called a half-dozen plumbing supply places, the ones that were open anyhow. Because it turns out that the really good ones, at least around here, are not open at all on weekends!

That's when we finally gave up and ordered the part on Amazon. It should be here by the end of the week. Until then, we're without running water at our house. Wish us luck. For the record, it is our second-worst plumbing disaster so far.

The first was the time the toilet downstairs ran and ran and flooded the whole downstairs. THAT was worse, but it was an isolated incident. A quick and unhappy sprint to the finish line, not a week-long, slogging marathon of waterless misery.

On the positive side, though, my husband and I are fortunate to have many good helpers around the house. The photo above was taken back in the moments when we were full of hope, that a mere twist of a knob might save us and get us back in business, though alas it was not to be. Alex the Alligator, Little Bear, and Tiny Tiger came in to help check things out. So that is the photo above, of our little helpers, gravely assessing the situation.

Oh, yeah, and there's this: if you have water where you are - good, fresh, clean, drinkable, running water - take a moment to be thankful for water at the touch of a hand. Not everybody has that, and it's a thing we often take for granted. But not me; no, I won't; not for a while.

The song to accompany this image is for the helpers: the Rolling Stones, with Mother's Little Helper.

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