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A Crack at Plumbing (Sans the Crack)

January 7, 2011

Sometimes you can’t help but laugh at yourself. For the sensible, more mature ones amongst us this happens infrequently. For those of us who are commonly heard muttering silly things like ‘hey, why not?’ or ‘I can fix that myself’… well, it’s a little more often that we provide ourselves (and at times some fortunate onlookers) with a bit of comedic relief.

For about a month or so, I’ve noticed that the water has been taking quite a while to drain out of the sink in the bathroom that my sister and I share. It was irritating and – for lack of a more appropriate expression – it “grossed me out”. This morning I awoke feeling like the world was full of possibilities; I felt visionary-like. Oh, I have so many brilliant ideas! I will make a difference! I can conquer the world!

It was with this effervescent frame of mind that I marched into the bathroom to brush my teeth and have a shower.

“Huh. The plumbing is still acting up,” I thought to myself.

“Not a problem!” I rallied, full of rainbows and MacGyver-inspired gumption.

I sat below the sink and analysed with scientific precision the exact workings of all visible parts. By this I mean I unscrewed everything I found that I could possibly unscrew. I couldn’t figure out how to remove the central pipe and despite my best efforts to wiggle the blasted thing out, it wouldn’t cooperate.

Refusing to give up, I continued to stare at the different pipes.

Finally I spotted a rubber piece within the bottom pipe and thought, “Aha! Perhaps if I can lever that off with a… erm… [what would MacGyver do]… Aha! With this old pair of tweezers… then maybe something magical will happen and I will discover the source of the blockage and be a hero!”.

And so I did. Unfortunately, there was nothing more than a few strands of hair and measly traces of gunky stuff. Nothing at all that could be held accountable for the blockage. Several squares of toilet paper and a few cotton buds later, the pipe was somewhat cleaner, but clearly I had fixed nothing.

I decided to put the pipes back in place, but there was something strange going on and I couldn’t screw the final seal thingy into place. I panicked momentarily as I imagined having to call the local plumber; visions of me having to explain why I had been fiddling with the plumbing to a qualified plumber who no doubt would be thinking in his/her pristinely logical and ever-practical Swiss mind that I was a moron. He/she would probably have a good laugh about it over a coffee or beer with some friend of a relative of mine in one of the handful of venues in the area by 3 o’clock this afternoon. Did I mention that I’m in the country? In a very small town in the country? Where all my relatives know that I’m back in town within 24 hours even if I don’t call or leave the house? It’s crazy.

I calmed myself down and urged myself to figure it out. Lefty-loosey, righty-tighty… and with that, the seal began to move*. Unfortunately, all the frustrated wiggling of the pipes had loosened the horizontal base and I suddenly found myself holding the large main pipe… free from the wall… and dripping onto my lap.

Gaargh! I quickly jumped up, leaned over the sink and raised my hand to turn the tap on. Luckily, at that very moment as my hand hovered dangerously over the lever, my brain decided to switch on: I’m holding the pipe. So if I turn the tap on, the water will pour straight down and out onto… me. Brilliant. It was at this point that I began to laugh.

What had I been thinking?! I can’t just pull things apart with no idea of how they work and expect to fix everything and for it all to go back together neatly. Things never go back together neatly! It’s like a law of nature… or something.

After washing the pipe out in the shower (what the hell, I figured, I was holding it in my hand anyway), I attempted to resurrect the plumbing. Not fix it; just get it back to it’s previous slow-glug-glugging state. It slid back in at the base and I reattached all the pieces back together. I stood up again and feeling quite relieved, decided that I ought to test it. Just to be sure, you know? For a couple of seconds everything went brilliantly. And then… not so much. I slammed the tap back off and glanced at the water pouring out onto the floor.

Okay, I thought. I haven’t screwed it on properly. I tried again and failed. And again. By the fourth time I should have been exasperated, but I was too busy laughing at myself and luckily, this time I got it on right.

“It’s so odd though,” I mused, “why isn’t the sink draining properly? I’ve cleaned out all the pipes!”. I pretended to ponder the question just casually, you know, as one does in passing… no biggie, whilst deep down I knew that it was because I was refusing to concede defeat.

As I stared down at the sink in consternation, I realised what I had missed. “No,” I thought, “don’t tell me that all along…”

But it was. All along the answer had been right there. As I lifted the thingy-that-sits-in-the-hole-of-the-sink, out came a disgusting clementine-sized ball of hair**. Yuck. Luckily I hadn’t thrown the tweezers out yet. I couldn’t believe that I had bypassed eliminating the most obvious cause and had dove right into unscrewing every possible pipe that I could get my hands on. I’m normally a very logical button-pusher***.

One would think that this would teach a valuable lesson or two. Not to fiddle with things you aren’t familiar with and know nothing about. To call a professional. To not just pull things apart.

But not I. I will undoubtedly face another situation and decide to ‘give it a try’ myself despite not knowing how it all works. Why? Because this is who I am and that’s more than fine by me; I learn for myself and sometimes I can even laugh about it.

However, I will try and remember to start with eliminating the easily accessible “sink plug parts” of the situation as culprits next time before pulling apart the messy, more complicated bits. That was just silly… hehehe.



* Here’s a tip: if you’re like me and you find that you need to repeat “lefty-loosey, righty-tighty” to yourself in order to remind yourself which way things screw on and off and/or if you refer to various parts as ‘thingys’… you should probably not be fiddling with them.

** I just looked it up. Apparently it’s called a ‘basin stop’. And it sits in the ‘drain hole’. There you go.

*** I’ll explain my theory about button-pushers another time.

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