It was supposed to be easy, well, that's what John, my good friend and retired plumber told me over the phone.
John lived two hundred miles away or would have been at my house in a heartbeat. I'd called him about a tiny leak I had, hoping to get some much needed advice on its repair, before hiring someone to do it. I hate spending money!
'So, you think I can handle it? ' I asked John.
'Hey, man, it's as simple as falling off a log! ' John said, laughingly.
'So, I just loosen the tiny screw that holds the handle on, slip it off? Then take the plumber's wrench and remove the inser and that's it? Then, I can easily pull the inser out of the faucet housing and replace the new one, right? Well, sounds easy enough, I'll give it a try. Thanks buddy.'
'Don't worry, you can do it man, it's a piece of cake! '
Later that evening at supper, my wife asked; 'Don't you think we should call a professional to fix the leak in our bathroom? '
'What do you need to call a professional for when you've got me, baby? ' I joked, full of confidence.
She looked at me doubtfully and said nothing. So, I told her, 'No, don't call a plumber, that'll cost us at least 75.00 bucks, that's two golf games. I can take care of it on my day off, no problem; no sweat.'
So, when the week rolled around to Friday evening, I had my project, my plans and I made ready for my day off on Saturday. After I repaired the leak, about an hour's work I figured, I'd go visit the green and hit the little white ball with a friend. We should be able to tee off about 1PM.
So, I called Maurice and said, 'Hey Moe, the wife's got a little project for me on her honey-do list that can't wait, you know how that is.' We chuckled. 'Yea, she's nagged me about calling a plumber, but I convinced her that I could handle it. Besides it'll save me big time; it won't take but an hour. So, buddy, get your clubs ready and pick me up at the house around 12: 00. We should be able to hit the ball at 1: 00pm, then we'll have the rest of the afternoon to play.'
'Alright, ' Moe said, 'I'll see ya then partner.'
I drove to the local Home Depot and walked briskly to the plumbing section to get my part. Now, let me see... gosh; so many parts and they all look the same, I thought to myself. I spied an employee and called out, 'Excuse me, miss, could you help me out? I'm looking for a... a..., one of those 'thing-a-ma-jigs? '
She looked at me and said, 'Sir, do you have the old part with you? '
'No, I was afraid to take it out, it's already leaking and I wasn't sure I could do that. I was kind of hoping that someone here could give me a few pointers.'
Then, she asked, 'Do you know what the brand name is? ' Embarrassed, I replied, 'No, I don't.'
'Do you know when was your house built? '
'I don't know for sure, it's old, I know that much; probably 35 years old. But, the fixtures are supposed to be more up to date.'
'Which faucet is it?
'The water faucet.'
'No! Which room did it come out of; the bathroom or kitchen, etc., which one? '
'Oh, it's the master bathroom shower faucet' I answered apologetically. 'That's more like it, ' she said.
Looking at my watch, it was now a good 30 minutes into my one hour project.
We must have looked at every part; one by one with her repeatedly asking; 'does it look like this? ' or 'does this look familiar? ' Finally, frustrated with me, she said; 'Sir, I'm sorry but I can't help unless you can give me more to go on. Now, go back and take the old part out, bring it back and I'm sure I'll be able to help you.'
'But what if it starts leaking more, then what? ' I protested.
'Go down to your basement and find the water main to turn off all the water and then, using the proper tools, simply remove the faucet, ' she explained.
'OK, sounds easy enough. How will I know what the water main looks like? ' I asked. So, she took a few minutes explaining it to me and showed me one on the shelf. I then thanked her and headed back home, with one hour of my precious time gone!
Upon returning home, I went immediately to the basement and for 15 minutes searched for the water main. Finally I found it, Hallelujah! I located the lever and proceeded to turn it to the off position. I headed hurriedly up the stairs and that's when I heard screaming. Panicky, I ran toward our bedroom where my wife, from the shower was yelling at the top of her lungs; 'What happened to the water? ' she screamed.
I yanked back the shower curtain slightly and she was covered in soap from head to toes. 'I'm sorry honey; I turned the water off so I could do the repair. I'll run and turn it back on, but you will need to hurry, I need the water turned off to repair the faucet.'
'Just, go! ' she screamed.
I had to laugh as I ran quickly down the stairs and turned the water back on. I looked again at my watch and gave Moe a call, 'Hey, pal, you getting everything set up? '
'Oh yeah' He answered, 'Wayne and Scott are joining us; 12: 00 noon, right? '
'I'm running a tad behind, but, ' glancing at my watch, 'I still have plenty of time. Noon it is! '
My wife called down and said; 'OK, I'm finished, but please hurry up! '
Upstairs as I proceeded to the bathroom, my wife came in, looked lovingly at me and said; 'Sweetheart, don't you think we should call a plumber? ' I must admit, she made me feel so inadequate. I thought to myself, if a plumber can do it, so can I! 'Oh, no, it's a piece of cake.' I confidently said.
'Alright honey, but I need the water soon, you know today's my laundry day and besides, we have the Tedders coming tonight for our card game. So, please try to hurry, ' she said as she left the bathroom. 'No problem! ' I called to her, somewhat perturbed.
I grabbed my wrench and quickly stepped into the bathtub to start my task; forgetting the tub was wet, my feet went sliding out from under me! I hit my head on the back of the tub and I must have twisted my ankle. It was hurting, and I could feel my face turning red, as I tried to get up quickly, hoping no one had heard.
My wife came running into the bathroom and cried out, 'Oh, Dear, are you alright? ' Helping me up, she looked at the back of my head.
Man that hurt, I thought to myself. But aloud I said 'Aw, I'll be alright, just a clumsy mistake, ' I wasn't about to let on that I was embarrassed.
'Honey, are you absolutely sure we can't call the plumber? '
'I'm Ok! I told you I will fix this leak, now please, get off my back! ' I was beginning to get upset at her lack of faith in me.
'I'm sorry sweetheart, I didn't mean to upset you, ' she responded, 'I just don't want you to get hurt, but I'll leave you to your project. Forgive me? '
A little upset, I took the screwdriver and removed the handle; that was the easy part. Next, the job called for a pipe wrench, glad I brought one up. I placed it on the nozzle... remembering my dad's instruction from years ago; 'lefty-loosy, righty-tighty.' So I twisted it to the left. But, it didn't budge. Hmm? That's strange I thought, so I tried again turning harder this time. Still nothing moved. I picked up the hammer and banged on the wrench's handle, V'oila! Alright, now we're in business, its turning!
But, I had forgotten that I was supposed to have a wrench on the faucet and one on the pipe, so when I turned it, the entire nozzle and pipe was turning. It was now loose from within the wall, out of sight. Oh, what a mistake! Oh, my goodness, now what should I do? I muttered under my breath.
I tried to tighten it back up, then went down and turned the water back on to see how bad it was. I ran back up stairs only to find water was gushing from inside the wall! It sprayed me real good. Oh, no! The walls were dripping and the carpet was already soaked. After hearing the commotion, my wife ran back into the room; hand over her mouth. I could swear she was laughing under that hand!
Anyway, I ran quickly back towards the stairs to the basement, dripping wet; on my way down, I missed the first step, and I went tumbling down the stairs! Not realizing it, I must have screamed, and then all went black!
I awoke, in the arms of an EMT worker; 'Please hold still sir! '
'What happened? ' I groaned. I was still a bit dazed.
'Sir, you fell down the steps and hit your head, and was knocked unconscious. I think you also have a fractured arm, and you have a large cut on your elbow, needing stitches; we'll get you checked out at the hospital immediately! '
I looked and sure enough, I had blood every where.
'I'm OK, ' I protested, 'I need to fix the leak in the bathroom, and....'
'No! You hush right now! ' my wife spoke up. Then turning to the workers she said, 'Pay him no mind, you all take him on ahead and I will follow you, if that's alright? '
They must had given me something for the pain for I felt myself dose off.
The next thing I knew, I woke up in the Emergency Department of our local hospital. While they were running some tests, Maurice, Wayne and Scott came in to visit me, dressed in their golf shirts. Assuring them I was alright, I encouraged them to go on and try to make their golf game. They hesitantly agreed, said goodbye and left.
Just then, my wife came into the room where I awaited tests and in her babying way, poured the sympathy out on me. 'Oh, you poor dear! '
'Honey I'm sorry, I'll fix that faucet when I get out of here, and...'
'Don't worry about a thing, I've already called a plumber, he's at the house even as we speak repairing the leak.' She interrupted, 'it's alright, '
I groaned disappointedly, and then relaxed a bit on the bed.
To make a long story short, they released me about four hours and $2,000.00 dollars later. I had one broken arm, now in a cast, and 15 stitches on the other arm. My ankle was wrapped in a thick ACE bandage and I had a splitting headache. I felt like I'd been hit by a Mack Truck!
The doctor had made it clear that I could not work for a while and I needed to try to rest. He gave my wife a handful of prescriptions and then just before he left my room he said, 'Oh, by the way, absolutely no more plumbing! ' I could hear him laughing as he went down the hall.
My wife looked at me with her dove eyes and said; 'Honey please don't let it bother you. One day you'll look back and laugh too. I'm just glad it wasn't more serious. So, don't worry. OK? '
As we were nearing home, I noticed the plumbing truck passing us, my wife tooted the horn and I tried to wave. Upon arriving home, his bill was attached to the door. I carried it inside, opening it to see the damage.
There it was, his itemized invoice:
Replacing the faucet stem
Repacking the faucet stem
Making access panel
Patching access panel
Research and locating of replacement parts: total: $35.99
Three hours labor: ($75.00 for the first hour and $60.00 per hour for two additional hours) total: $195.00
Your total bill is: $230.99
Then I read in the remarks section: 'Sorry, but we do not do painting or carpet cleaning.
Thank you for your business. Hope you feel better. Your payment will be due in 30 days.'
I hobbled upstairs to our bedroom, walked into the bathroom to check things out. I turned the water on; no leak, it was working perfectly!
I then noticed the water spots on the wall and ceiling; and felt the carpet squish under my feet. What a mess, I confessed to myself.
I took a good look at my cast, my ankle and the stitches in my arm. I felt the knots on the back of my head and I laughed under my breath, thinking as I walked away; and it was supposed to be a piece of cake.
© August 2008 by Loyd C. Taylor
Special thanks to Edith Ragan, Siona Edffield and Joyce Shepherd for their wonderful help in editing.