[George's Pond]

Mr. Fixit

It was a typical early morning scene in the Smith household. There I sat, ensconced in my man cave-cum-home office, iPad in hand checking the overnight news from around the world while my coffee brewed in the kitchen. It’s a laidback, peaceful ritual that eases me into the day. Retired and no longer required to leap out of a warm bed and immediately into the fray, my zero-to-sixty-in-seconds days are a distant memory.

The house was silent except for a whisper of white noise from the furnace when a sudden, spine-chilling cry, unlike anything I’d heard since Linda Blair let loose in The Exorcist, shattered the serenity. It took a nanosecond for me to register that the source of that howl was the kitchen.

Joy! Dear God! What could she have done? Sliced off a finger? Dropped a pot of boiling water on her foot? Burned the sticky buns she’d promised to bake today?

When I turned the corner to ground zero, there she stood, momentarily cataleptic, her face a dripping mask, her hair a sodden mass and water gushing like a fire hose from the kitchen faucet creating a Niagaraesque spray that settled on the counter top, much of the kitchen floor and my bride.

Before I could even open my mouth, Joy abruptly regained her senses reached over and stanched the torrent.

After the cleanup, it was time to analyze the situation. If you don’t already know, I am the antithesis of a handy guy. Yes, I can change a light bulb. That’s about it. Mike Holmes and I are polar opposites. But even I could diagnose this problem.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version. Seems that the pull-out wand on our fancy goose-neck faucet had failed, forcing water through an opening one-quarter the diameter of a dime with enough force to take your eye out. It was obviously beyond repair and replacing the entire wand would be our only reasonable course of action. That was a start, but with countless different makes and models on the market, tracking down the right part looked like a job for Sherlock.

I suppose I could have called a plumber or my handyman, but sometimes parsimony trumps DIY angst and I decided to go it alone. This couldn’t be brain surgery, I told myself. And it wasn’t. But it wasn’t easy either.

After several hours spent surfing the web and sifting through the reams of manuals and papers the previous owners of our house had left behind, I figured I had enough information to call one of the major faucet manufacturers and hope that whoever was on the other end of the line wouldn’t laugh in my face.

This time, I got lucky. The customer service guy was an all-star. He was knowledgeable and a good communicator. The best part? He didn’t laugh at me. Maybe that’s because all my research was bang-on, making his job easier. And the replacement wand was available.

But finding that part was just half the battle. It still had to be installed. That could be my Achilles’ Heel. I had no choice but to be shamelessly honest with him.

“Is this a job for a plumber?” I asked. He didn’t laugh, but I sensed that he was holding back. “It’s an easy fix,” he said. “Anyone can do it.”

“But,” I persisted, “I’m really stunned when it comes to this kind of stuff.” This time he chuckled, but it was a friendly, reassuring chuckle. “Look, it’s a 30-second job and I’ll email you illustrated, detailed instructions. You can’t go wrong.”

I decided to take him at his word and seconds later, the promised instructions arrived in my inbox. Three days later, the part arrived at my door, courtesy of Xpresspost.

With a healthy dose of trepidation, I opened the small parcel and was relieved to see that I’d received the correct part. That’s not always a given these days. Then, I gave the old wand a final more thorough inspection and, to my chagrin, discovered a thick layer of mineral deposits where the wand joined the retractable hose. Damn! They were fused together.

But with instructions in hand, I gently applied my pliers to the metal collar on the end of the hose, twisted the wand in a counterclockwise direction and, shazam, not a smidgeon of resistance. Installing the new part was just as easy in reverse. Degree of difficulty? Zero. If you can open and close a jar, you can do this. Even I would have been embarrassed to call a plumber to do a job that easy.

I know how ridiculous it is to take even a shred of pride in accomplishing something that any seven-year-old could manage, but my DIY victories are few and far between, so I will continue to enjoy this one for another day or two. It does make me wonder, though. I’ll bet I could successfully attack quite a few other projects if I were just to keep my wits about me and approach them calmly, rationally and methodically.

But I guess I’ll never really know because I have no plans to put that hypothesis to the test. Incompetence gets me out of a lot of work.

Story by:
George Smith

Illustration by:
Charles Bongers