This Old House
I love my house. It is 50+ years old, built in a time when houses were supposed to last. I love my wooden archway in the living room. I love the fact that you can open the refrigerator, the oven and the dishwasher all at the same time and people can still walk through the kitchen. I love my library and my fireplace. I even love my beat up and destroyed wood flooring.
I hate the plumbing.
Apparently, the plumbing gods looked down on my house and frowned. I have been waging an all-out war against the antiquated pipes and fittings for over a year now, and I am not winning.
Let me explain. Last year I was sitting in my living room, reading a book, and I heard this…. sound. It sounded like white noise, or traffic, or some unidentifiable electric hum at first, but it was constant. I got up and starting walking around, ear to the wall, in every room of the house. It sounded like it was coming from everywhere. It was water. Rushing, gushing, money flushing down the toilet water. I froze. Now what?
During my investigation, I had discovered two of the four toilets in the house were running. Not that this was the sound I was hearing, oh no, that was just a bonus. I jiggled the handles and adjusted the chains and flappers in the tanks and they both stopped. But I still heard water. Where IS that coming from! I had visions of a river running under my house. I sounded like it was coming from the walls. Have all my pipes exploded? Will my house be washed out into the street? I am now panicking and close to tears.
When my beloved Mr. Fix-it arrived home, he doesn’t hear the water at all. Okay, so either my house is on the verge of its own personal apocalypse or I am going insane. Neither of these options sit well with me. I continue trying to live my life like a normal person, every so often sticking my head against a wall or standing stock still, listening for the sound that has become my own personal Gaslighting. I got into bed and had to turn on the ceiling fan to mask the sound that only I can hear, whimpering softly until I fell asleep.
The next day, I come home and start inspecting the outside of the house. And that is when I notice the small pond forming near my flower bed. I run inside and turn of the water to the house. This has no effect. I run back out side and begin panicking again. My house is possessed by a water demon. I call my friend Marlene who, apart from being my boss is also one of the most mechanically gifted women I have ever met, and she tells me to turn of the valve to the sprinklers. It takes me 5 minutes to realize the brass pole sticking out of the ground is said valve. Silence. I have stopped the water. I am a hero, a champion to women homeowners everywhere! I am so relieved I laughed out loud… Then I remembered that I still have a little problem.
You see, I live in the desert. And my 10′ x 10′ patch of green will not survive the week without water.
I am a sensible person. I know this is beyond me. I have no idea how to fix a sprinkler system. I can’t dig up the pipes, I might get dirty or break a nail. I decide to let my big strong man take care of it. After all, he is proud of the grass. Wasn’t it his idea to rent a power aerator and dump 8 bags of manure on it to get it glowing and healthy? I am sure it will be fine.
Well, turns out the sprinkler would just have to wait. While I was dancing with joy in my front yard, congratulating myself over the victory I have claimed against wasted natural resources, another insidious event has occurred in shower. It seems a drip, drip, dripping noise (masked by the rushing, gushing noise) has decided to make itself known. The hot water is constantly running and refused to be denied its freedom from my shower head. In an attempt to turn the water ALL the way off, I seem to have destroyed the handle and the brass stem that holds it in place.
Oh, no problem, I will just go to Lowe’s.
Problem. Lowe’s doesn’t seem to carry this stem. In fact, no one does. “Sometimes you see this with these old houses”, the jovial guy in the blue vest tells me. So I will have to go to the plumbing supply (read money sucking leech) house to find one to match. After a week or so of turning on the shower with a pair of pliers, I broke down. A new $45 brass stem is installed. Now to find a new handle that will fit the antiquated stem…
All of this happened last Fall. Since then, we have had to replace two toilet tank assemblies two shower heads, the kitchen sink sprayer, and the original shower handle. Half of the parts had to come from the plumbing supply house because, again, standard plumbing is only standard to other people and my house likes to be special. We didn’t even get around to the sprinkler repair until last month. And let me tell you, that was its own magical experience. Needless to say, the desert has reclaimed my yard, the guys at Lowe’s start shaking their heads and laughing as soon as we show up, and the plumbing supply house owner has sent both of his sons to Harvard.
Does anybody know a good plumber?