Sunday, July 20, 2008

MISADVENTURES IN PLUMBING

As many can attest to, there are things, details, finer points of information to homeownership/improvement that can only be learned from a panicked, freakish moment of absurdity. You could do all the research in the world in preparation for a project, but some times, your dumbass just has to learn the hard way. Saturday was one such moment. (side note: Word is there's a Madvillainy Remix coming out through Stones Throw entirely remixed by the album's original producer: Madlib. Listening to snippets right now. Dope.)

Alright, not sure what you know about our master bathroom project so let's just bring you up to speed in two sentences or less. Watch this TAKS English mastery: Originally planned to be simply putting in tile into bath and the floors, the scope of the master bathroom project has changed slightly to include putting in a new vanity, relocating some lights, putting in tile on the floors and throwing a new toilet in there with a little more, um, torque. After getting estimates from the outside (one of which drove the price of just the tiling to the tune of $3000), we decided to proceed with only small handfuls of experience between us, but also a great deal of logic and coolheadedness. You dummy, you just can't write sentences that nice.

(puts on Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch)

It's 9:00 in the morning--the time I designated as "go time" the night before. The plan for the day is to remove the cabinet. That's my only plan. The floor, for the most part, is complete. The toilet stays for now. But the cabinet needs to come out and travel to the alley and into the dumpster. I throw on a little Quest and begin removing doors and drawers. That was pretty simple. Took only five minutes or so. That brings me to the removal of the sink.

At this point, my lovely wife begins walking around asking where she can help. Since, she removed and replaced the sink in the small bathroom, I asked her if there were shut off valves on that sink because there are none visible on the sink I'm working on. Possible for a sink to not have shut-offs? We were soon to answer that. I begin loosening many nuts and mechanisms under the think and, yes, I began toying with the pipes. I loosen a hose and, suddenly, a mist begins to emit. I'm thinking, "Shit, here we go." I remain as visibly calm as I can, but my lovely wife is beginning to freak out. We have no floors to protect from the moisture and, if those floors get wet and then warp, we're screwed. Big time.

The mist becomes a spray.

We grab towels, a bath mat, shirts, anything we can find and put it on the floor under us to protect it from the moisture. I tell my wife to grab the portion spraying so I can go turn off the water out back (insert obvious comment here). I dash out back into the alley and locate the water meter. I toss the lid off and look into the hole crawling with roaches and crickets. Yes, I don't like roaches. Crickets, I can handle. Roaches suck. I see no obvious switch. What the? I begin to panic. I run back inside to see if I can assess the situation while waters spraying my wife and maybe get what I unconnected reconnected. I run in, push her out of the way and take over. Now trying to screw a connection that has water coming out of it is not only difficult, it's damn near impossible. After about two minutes of fiddling with it, I manage to get it back together with very little harm done. Both of us out of breath and with our hearts racing, look at each other, laugh a little nervously and then proceed with a little more caution. But just a little more.

This time, we collectively agree that by disconnecting the hoses that actually hook into the sink, we'll be able to avoid water and then can proceed with removing the cabinet which, if you'll recall, is all I'm looking to do today. My scope is very limited. I'm removing a cabinet. The sink is just a small inconvenience, if you will.

I position myself under the sink on my back looking upwards at the sink. I take the toilet seat cover and put it under my head because it's still a little wet under there. I loosen the hose at the sink and I'm thinking this could go one of two ways: really good or really bad. Actually, either nothing happens or catastrophe. I stop for a second and just think through a few "safety nets." Truth be known, I didn't really have any. I was just hoping for the best. We're hoping for no water. I loosen it to a point that I can just yank it out. I wrap my hand around the hose, adjust my tension and then just yank.

POP!

Out of the small quarter-inch opening, water absolutely spews forth at an unfathomable rate. It's coming out at a rate that has the end of the hose whipping uncontrollably. I snag the snake-end of the hose and now realize that we're in seriously deep shit. Seriously. I call to my wife to bring me a plastic trash can so I have somewhere to direct the hose. I fill up the trash can she brings me in about five seconds and then dump it in the nearby bathtub all from a sitting position. I repeat. Fill it. Dump it. Fill it. Dump it. But while I'm dumping it, this hose is hitting everything in site. The bathroom is now officially hosed. I yell at my lovely wife, "Get me something bigger! Get me something much bigger!" I needed a bigger basin to buy me some time so between filling the small one and dumping it. Water continues to spew. I'm now emptying the hot water heater. Scalding water begins to come out of the hose. My glasses fog over. I can't see anything and both hands are working overtime. I hear the vibration of my lovely wife stomping around house. She appears with a large storage tub. I take it and jam it under the sink. Now I have some time. But I look at the tub filling up and I realize that time is only assumed. This thing's filling up really fast. I begin filling the large tub, but trying to empty the large tub by using the smaller trash can to fill from the storage tub and dump into the bathtub. My lovely wife's standing there in complete disbelief. She says, "I don't know what to do!" With obvious fear in her voice. These are really honest moments for a young couple.

I say, "I don't know either! Go call someone! Go ask our neighbor how to turn off our water! Go talk to the marine across the street! Just do something!" She disappears like a flash of lightening. I know, at this point, two things: if I can visibly see my lovely wife, nothing's happening. She needs to be in the alley, at the neighbor's, anywhere, but she needs to be out of my sight. When I couldn't see her, there was hope that the resolution was coming soon. Also, I know I can keep up this fill-and-dump transfer method for another twenty minutes tops. She comes charging back in yelling, "Where are the keys to the alley gate?"

Of all the things...

I know they're in my shorts pocket, but I'm sending with my legs crossed and my pockets are unaccessable. Not to mention, my hands are little busy. I grab throw my right leg under the big tub to wedge it into place and then hold the little bucket with my right hand. I begin digging into my pocket with my left. I couldn't grab it. The water's rising in the tub. Must hurry.

Within probably ten seconds, I snag the little rubber duckie keychain, toss it to my lovely wife and tell her to get lost. She knows what I mean. The sound of the water rushing out at this point is deafening. It's so loud. It's coming out with such brutal force it could strip paint and, you can trust this, it would absolutely ruin a house full of wood floors. I keep filling and dumping. It feels like we're about the five minute mark now. I haven't seen my lovely wife in a couple of minutes which is a good thing. All of the sudden, I feel the pressure begin to dwindle and then, within seconds, the water stops.

I begin yelling, "That's it! That's it! That's it! It's done! It stopped!" I take a deep breath. I'm soaked. I look around me. There's water everywhere. The bathtub's up to about the halfway point because the plug at the drain had dropped in the process.

My lovely wife comes running back in. She recalls her side of the story. She ran next door and was banging on our poor neighbor's front door. She answers the door and my lovely wife yells at her, "Do you know how to turn off the water!?" She says, "Uh, no I don't." My lovely wife then runs back to our house. Grabs the phone, finds the Water Utility department and, thank God someone answers. The old voice at the other end of the line walks her calmly through the shut off from the alley. She said when she opened water meter, the meter was spinning at a rate of about a gallon every four seconds.

We go outside. Even though it's about ten in the morning, I tell her I really want a beer. I'm so rattled at this point. We sit there and walk through possible solutions. The most obvious one to me is that we need to install shut-off valves on those pipes. We go to Home Depot, I have a verbal spat with one of the employees who was attempting to excercise his smart-ass tone with me as we discussed plumbing supplies. His questions were obviously a little over my head. I returned at one point with, "I don't know, dude. I'm not a plumber." To which he responded sarcastically with, "Well, neither am I." I then, said bitingly, "Well, I don't work at Home Depot. I don't know what the hell you're talking about."

It took only $25 to install shut off valves onto the pipes, we turned the water back on successfully and managed to dry out the floors pretty quickly using a series of crafty fan positions. This could've been an absolute disaster. Five minutes of water running into the house at that speed would've flooded not just the bathroom, but probably the living room and two bedrooms as well. Bullet dodged. Lesson learned. Always shut off the water in the alley before proceeding with any plumbing work.

1 comment:

Terrence Flendersen said...

hahaha, that sounds hilarious! Sounds like you need the calgary plumbers to come help you