Sunday morning, nearly 25 years ago, I discovered our kitchen faucet dripping uncontrollably into the dark spaces below our sink.
Ever notice how they bury all those pipes in tight dark spaces? If you are 2 feet tall, you have infinite opportunity as a plumber.
The ACE Hardware in our town was one of our happiest discoveries while moving to our new home. It was where I found that most plumbing solutions were assembled and designed for do-it-yourselfers like me.
Fully confident that I could replace the faucet, I walked into the store and with a foggy image of what I needed, armed with drawings and measurements, I bought stuff.
I had help. The plumbing guy there picked it all out for me.
At home, I took a break for lunch, and afterwards spread all the new parts across the floor, preparing to install a brand new faucet, with all the fixings.
One of the basic life rules that I adopted at early age is: “You will need to go back to the hardware store at least once.”
Indeed, after turning off the water, and undoing some foundational pipes, I realized I had measured badly. So packing up the merchandise, I returned to the store, and the plumbing guy set me straight with new stuff.
The afternoon slipped by as I puttered with the pipes, and rings and washers and bushings and other pieces I had never seen before in my life.
The truth is, we had a cold Sunday dinner as the water was still turned off, and I had encountered additional under-the-sink challenges which had telescoped my supposedly quick DIY job into a kind of major plumbing overhaul.
The kitchen floor was cluttered with wrenches and pipes and fittings lined up like the landing craft on D-Day.
A second life rule is: ” ‘At least once’ means ‘probably more like two or three times’ .”
As it turned out, I returned to the store 15 minutes before closing time, desperate to get my pipe problems resolved. The plumbing guy was there, packing up his stuff, thermos on the counter, ready to go.
He walked towards me as I held a plastic bag with the parts, the manufacturer’s instructions, and a look of defeat on my face.
I explained how some part wouldn’t work, how water oozed out, and how I was now the source of my family’s extreme disappointment.
With that, he emptied the bag onto the floor of the store. Next he arranged every piece in sequence according to the manufacturer.
“Yunno, the instructions don’t always account for little details. Let’s add a couple of these.” He added an additional set of washers.
Satisfied, he watched as I drew the configuration onto my notes, and smiled.
“OK, that’s going to work. Count on it.”
He gathered up all the plastic and bars and steel fittings, put them back into the bag, and walked me to the door as the counter staff was heading for the light switch.
Back home, I was greeted by the family, who looked like relatives called to the hospital, waiting for the surgeon’s bad news.
Again on my knees in the kitchen, I assembled the pipes and clinched the last into place. Down in the basement, I turned the water back on.
Then upstairs to the sink where I flipped on the brand new sparkling faucet, and rejoiced with the steady clear stream of water. Under the sink: dry as a bone.
The lesson from all of this was that DIY is challenging, but also very satisfying when it works. More important, ACE’s plumbing guy had stuck by me, and saw the job through.
As a result, I have been a raving fan, ever since.