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January 30, 2005

The profound satisfaction of having installed a new faucet in the kitchen.

I am not, as some may think, incapable of home repair tasks. I do, however, always need to balance the cost of my doing something myself (and the potential cost if I screw it up) with the cost of hiring someone else to do it.

On Friday as I was leaving work I got a message from my wife that the kitchen faucet had stopped working. She heard a “pop” and then it didn’t work any more. I assured her, in my calm and assuring way it would be ok (well, maybe I was not that calm or assuring).

When I got home I did some very careful investigation (lift lever, no water, repeat, observe) and confirmed her original assessment — the faucet was broken. Given it was a book club night for her and I was headed out, not much I could do except sweat and worry nervously about the apparent failure of a complicated piece of plumbing hardware.

Sometime in my fever dream sleep on Friday night some little voice in my head reminded me that faucets with a single handle use some sort of cartridge thing inside to do some sort of cartridge thing. A quick look online confirmed that cartridge theory to be true.

I went out to the HD and bought the appropriate cartridge (all of $15). I came home and using my full masculine tool-use capabilities (yes, I had to buy some wrenches I didn’t actually need while at the HD, but that only to demonstrate to the cashier that I was not just buying a replacement part but also adding to my masculine tool wardrobe (notwithstanding the fact that I used the self-serve checkout so had no cashier)) installed the cartridge. It was pretty easy. Very clear instructions and no real hassle. Pulled the old one out, pop the new one in. Seal it all up. Lift the handle to a beautiful cascade of

nothing.

Repeat. Pull it out, put it in. Reread directions. Check water on (it was turned off in one of my first crisis-appropriate behaviors upon finding out the faucet had been taken out of commission by suspected terrorists). Repeat. Lift handle one more time to a beautiful cascade of

nothing.

Now, panic can officially set in. Now I can feel my stomach turning over and over as I begin the process of worrying, estimating that I will need to draw down the full amount of my home equity line in order to afford replacing this faucet. Perhaps the whole kitchen should just be redone now as a way to cover-up the busted faucet? I can just see myself saying to the contractor, “yeah, that faucet is great, but just tear everything out and bring in the new stuff!”.

Ok, time to figure out what to do. Need to replace the faucet, but that would entail my crawling under the sink and it is wet and dark down there. Rats and snakes and alligators and Carrot Top all live down there. It is not for me. Plus, did I mention it is under the sink?! Not for me at all.

Call Tanya, Her husband built the Golden Gate bridge by hand and he forges his own tools on the anvil in their garage. She must know what to do. She can give me confidence and strength.

So, Tanya, taking time away from watching her husband build them a new roof using only a toothpick and a old pack of tic-tacs (or something equally impressive, I am sure) tells me I can either call or a plumber or I can put in a new faucet myself. She doesn’t tell me the thoughts going through her (and most of metropolitan Seattle’s) head — namely, Norman is a total home repair loser! She is kind and gentle, and for that I am thankful. Meanwhile, I am certain, Tanya and her husband have built a new yacht for Paul Allen in the space of an hour using only the back page from a 1984 issue of People and some nails. Ah, I am humbled by the materially competent.

I go back to the HD, strutting with new found confidence. I buy a new faucet ($140) and a basin wrench ($20). Come home knowing that I will conquer my fears and make a faucet happen today. Read directions, brace myself for the action.

Crawl under the sink, pushing aside the skin from that snake in the movie Python, and start removing old faucet. Wife and daughter are watching diligently. Wife is thinking “perhaps I should have married one of the ten thousand other men I have know who could do this stuff instead of this guy” and 2 yr old daughter is thinking “Daddy looks funny under there, he usually is cooking something fancy or examining his face for wrinkles”.

I will not keep you in suspense any longer. It took about 45 minutes (but seemed like much more) and some help from the wife (who was checking her old address books for the numbers of those guys she knew who could do this stuff) and the new faucet was in. Yes, pull the handle and get a beautiful cascade of water. Sweet clean water.

I did not actually beat my chest after this triumph, but the urge was there.

I sent Tanya a note thanking her for her help. She probably got it while advising some foreign dignitary on how to rebuild the Indonesian fresh water supply using only empty raisin boxes, yogurt, and a Duran Duran album (we have one of those in our house).

We have a cool new faucet. I am paralyzed with fear that any moment it will explode.

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