I hate plumbing.

All my life I’ve heard complaints and jokes about plumbers making too much money. I say, if people are willing to pay it, there’s a reason. Nobody wants to mess around under a sink. Even Dan, who was handy-and-a-half, hated to fix plumbing. I remember him grunting and swearing and having all kinds of problems when he replaced the kitchen faucet.

I thought I’d just need to change a washer, but when I got the sink handle apart, I could see the whole thing was a mess — all rotted away and crumbly. So I bought a nearly identical faucet and watched some YouTube videos.

It took me three days to get that old kitchen faucet all the way out. There were these plastic nuts on under the handles, holding them tight on the sink, and I had to lie on my back in the cabinet to unscrew them. Unscrew them, ha! They wouldn’t budge. The YouTube videos said to use a little lubricant if they were tight. I squirted WD-40 all over them and they still wouldn’t move even a little. I made a little progress by banging on one of them with a hammer, but even after an hour of that, it wasn’t any looser. Getting them all the way off at that rate would take days.

I called the local do-it-yourself plumbing house. “You can heat up a screwdriver and melt through the plastic, then pull it right off.”

“Heat up a screwdriver?”

“Yep, a hot screwdriver. It’s not real pleasant, but it works.”

“Hot screwdriver?”

We went through a few more rounds of me stupidly repeating “hot screwdriver” before giving up and thanking the man. How do you heat up a screwdriver? Wouldn’t it make a big melty plastic mess? Maybe get stuck worse than ever? I didn’t know. All I figured out was that if you say “hot screwdriver” too long, it starts to sound like a porn film.

So I turned up a burner of the electric stove full blast and set the metal ends of three screwdrivers on it. Back under the sink. Little chunks of lime flaking off the bottom of the sink basin, falling all over my face, into my eyes. Flashlight in one hand, weapon in the other, shoving that screwdriver into the plastic nut. Something — maybe plastic, maybe water — made a hissing sound when the melting was going particularly well. Made me feel like a dragon slayer.

I had to burn four gaps, two per plastic nut, then use the biggest screwdriver to chisel the things off. They didn’t come away easy. Even when just a quarter of a nut was left, it held onto the bottom of the sink. The smallest screwdriver, heated, pulled up a corner of it, then the biggest screwdriver jammed into it repeatedly until it flew off. I’d work at this for maybe ten minutes, then get out of there to wash all the flakes of lime off my face and get a drink of water. One fleck of lime got wedged into my eye and wouldn’t come out. But finally the last bit of the last nut came off.

After turning off the water valves and unscrewing the little hose thingies that go up to the faucet, I pulled the whole thing out of there, like a Medusa head trailing a couple really long snakes. The next day I took it down to the do-it-yourself guy to buy new hose thingies. Pulled that sucker out of my backpack, plopped it on the counter. Everyone who saw it looked pittyingly at the thing. The water spout held together with duck tape, the hose thingies two-parters that were way too long and covered with all sorts of colorful crud.

“Looks like somebody sat on it,” one guy said.

“Why are the hoses so long?” Do-it-yourself plumbing guy asked.

“The hot and cold water valves are on the wrong sides, so these have to be long enough to cross over.”

“Ah.” He just kind of shook his head, and said he couldn’t stock hoses that long because they’re against code, and sent me over to the hardware store.

Anyway, I finally got the faucet replaced, four days after I started trying to take it out.


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