How I Spent My End of Summer Vacation

I MAY NOT BE ABLE to wring much narrative out of this, but I suspect a spare listing of events will likely elicit at least a modicum of schadenfreude.

Thursday: Wednesday night at midnight, found me winding up the last bits of a project from work. I couldn’t get the customer off the dime in time to get stuff done by quitting time Wednesday, so I had to bring the work home and finish it here. Thursday, my first project up (after a visit to the doctor for a quarterly checkup, lube, and oil change) was to replace the side sprayer in the kitchen sink. I got under the sink — a claustrophobic and confusing space, where everything is too close for me to focus with both eyes, thus preventing clear binocular vision; where obstructions are too many and too large to allow free or even restricted-but-useful movement of my arms and hands, making a normal angle of attack on ANY task impossible — and managed to break the (we were to discover later) proprietary connectors between the faucet and the spray unit. After a panic and meltdown, I did some online research and discovered that Home Depot carries the replacement part. Not online. Not in any store in Cincinnati. But they do have it. Meanwhile, we don’t have a sink in the kitchen, and I cannot turn the house water on.

“Why couldn’t you turn the house water on, Mark?” You ask.

Well, because the kitchen sink isn’t plumbed like a normal kitchen sink. The supply lines come in from the utility space, to the left of the sink, and terminate some 30 inches straightline from the faucet connectors. Those supply pipes — 1/2″ rigid copper — are so tight together that you can’t turn the valve to close it. So, when you disconnect the sink supply lines, they’re open. If the master inside shutoff is on, water comes out the supply lines.

And forms lakes on the kitchen floor. As you may well imagine, this is not a desirable state of affairs. Thus, we leave the house water supply turned off during these maneuvers.

Been meaning to fix that. Thursday, I bought a couple of 1/4-turn Shark Bite supply valves. We also bought a new faucet and sundry supplies. While we were at Home Depot looking for the (proprietary, we learned) replacement sprayer part. Which the nice man in Plumbing told us we could order from the manufacturer — whose customer service is second to none; two days tops to get a replacement part to you. Two days without house water. So we got the new faucet and the Shark Bite valves.

Standing and walking around in the Home Depot was so bad on my back that I had to leave it to Toni to check out while I went out and sat in the car, waiting for the spasms to die down.

That was the end of Thursday. Did a couple of odd items around the house, but nothing worth writing home about.

Friday: Got up early and got started on the kitchen sink. Lying on my back on the kitchen floor. The edge of the undersink cabinet frame hit me right across the shoulders. Left a bruise, Toni tells me. (I can’t see it, not even in a mirror.) Broke everything loose in a couple of painful hours. Cut the old valves off the supply lines and replaced them with the Shark Bites. Closed them and turned the house water on. YAY ME! Big win. Got the old faucet unhooked from the sink deck, and started reading the instructions for the new one, when I realized: I had the wrong kind of supply line. Also: not enough. I needed a total of 40″ of line for each side — hot and cold. One of them had to go from a 3/8″ fip (female iron pipe thread) at the supply valve (my brand-new Shark Bites) to a 1/2″ fip. I had 2 of those. Each 20″ long. So far so good. One problem: the fittings on the faucet lines are male. There had to be an additional 20″ in between. 1/2″ fip to 1/2″ fip. Not that that’s what I had in new lines, that’s what had been used before, with a nipple in the f-f connection. The old lines are corroded and clogged with lime. YOU got it. Back to Home Depot. AND… I ended up getting the wrong thing, and — in the final analysis — ended up using one of the old lines anyway. I would not have survived another trip to HD. So we have a couple of supply lines and a nipple to take back next time one of us goes.

Sometime right after lunch, I finally got the new faucet hooked up. You may laugh, but that was me for the day. I slept the rest of the day. Not only am I old and infirm, I’m in bad physical shape, too. Low stamina.

Saturday: haircut day. Went before breakfast. Had the girl cut it shorter than usual. Just felt like it, I guess. I might have felt justified in calling that a day, but I really wanted to get more done. So, after breakfast, I got started on the NEXT plumbing project. I took the wet shop vac upstairs and drained the toilet tank in the half-bath. (In a 4-room house, we have TWO shop vacs — one wet, one dry. We have our priorities right.) The flapper has been leaking for months and causing the fill valve to cycle. I yanked the old flapper out and left the seat to dry. I went downstairs, turned off the house water, and addressed a chronic leak in the bathtub faucets. Pulled the valves and packed them. Fixed that problem. Back upstairs, put new flapper in. Filled tank. Still running. Damn! OK. We’re going to have to find one of those leak sentry fill valves — the kind that won’t allow the float to drop unless you actually flush it. There’s a chock under the float that’s attached to the flush lever by a chain. You flush, the chain yanks the chock out, and allows the float to fall, opening the valve to fill the tank. When the float reaches fill height, the chock engages and locks the float in the up position. Apparently, leaky flappers is a big enough problem that somebody figured out a solution. In this day and age when you can’t get a 3-gallon tank any more, thank you E-fucking-P-A, that’s going to be a growth market, I’d predict.

Sunday: We were invited out to Jesse’s for pizza dinner, socializing, and a brainstorming session about some work Jesse wants to get done. On the way there, we stopped at Ace and picked up that valve. AND a can of Resolve carpet cleaning powder (great stuff: highly recommended, especially if you have cat(s)), AND a replacement outlet for the one that Earnie has screwed up unplugging the wall lamp in the living room. (Who knew you had to teach a cat to unplug electrical cords by pulling straight out on them and not to jerk them at an angle?)

Monday: Worked in the study. To demonstrate the fuckedness of my weekend, this was scheduled to start Thursday or — at the latest — Friday, after the plumbing stuff was out of the way. Was it hubris for me to assume those tasks could be taken care of in a few hours? So I took down two of the five shelves on the north wall, pulled the microwave cart out, transferred the TV and cable box to the baker’s rack desk, pushed the baker’s rack against the wall. Sorted, bundled, and marked the lumber on hand for trim jobs in the office, bedroom, and downstairs bathroom. And cut the trim for the bedroom builtins and glued and nailed that up. Then Toni and I spent the afternoon sorting through all the CRAP in the study, pitching some, piling other, and putting still other “away.” (I use the term “away” advisedly. There really is no “away” until I build it. At the moment, we’re just faking it.) Toni also dusted the living room bookshelves, drew up several variations of our suggested plans for Jesse’s project, fixed a killer salad for lunch, and ran for Popeye’s chicken for dinner.

And it is now midnight, and I have to go to work in the morning, so this is going live in, like, two minutes. Maybe I can recover this week from my long weekend.

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