Last week, I wrote about house parts that break down without warning. This week, I feel the need to add that house parts don't just break without warning. Apparently, they can communicate with each other, and choose what they consider an ideal time to fail.A few nights back, daughter Jess called me to her TV-lounging area, pointed up to the ceiling and asked sweetly, "Dad, is water supposed to be dripping from up there?"
I looked at the ceiling, and sure enough, there were some slow drips around the recessed lights, dropping onto the kitchen island below. "Well, daughter," I said, "water coming from the ceiling is never a good thing. But thanks for noticing. Now go grab some of your mother's mop buckets and put them under the drips."
At the time, I was convinced that some roof or wall flashing had failed on Christmas Eve night, when the wind was blowing hard enough to make the whole house groan and the rain was coming in horizontally. So I went upstairs, and started looking for roof and wall leaks. I didn't find any.
But I did hear a loud hissing sound coming from our upstairs laundry room. I know, I know. Only a fool has an upstairs laundry room, because all laundry equipment leaks sooner or later.
Well, don't you know, when I opened the laundry room door, I saw a plume of water rising from the hot water faucet that connects to the washing machine. I reached behind the washing machine and started turning the hot water valve. The water plume rose higher and higher, and my left hand got hotter and hotter.
I yelled downstairs, "Baby girl! Bring towels!"
"How many towels," Jess asked.
"All the towels," I said. "Stay away from that hot water faucet and stick every towel you can find in a place where it'll pick up some water."
Meanwhile, I trotted down the main stair to the ground floor, then headed down the basement stair. Once I got to the basement, I shut off the main water valve — the one that sends water to every pipe in the house. The drip from the kitchen ceiling slowed, but didn't quite stop.
"Daddy," Jess asked, "does this mean I can't take a shower?"
"It means you can't take a shower until the day after Christmas," I said. "And you can't do your laundry until the faucet's fixed, unless you want to go to a public laundry and end up surrounded by dirt-streaked babies wearing Cheeto dust around their mouths."
"I'll just stay home and clean up with baby wipes," Jess said, settling back onto her futon and refocusing on the Mythbusters marathon.
An hour later, she called from her lounging area, "Dad! The commode won't flush!"
"Dump a gallon of water into the back of the commode," I yelled to Jess. "Then it'll flush."
Clearly, I had done something to offend the plumbing gods. With my kitchen ceiling dripping water, both toilets stuck in no-flush mode, no hot water anywhere and every water pipe in my house on strike, I had been transported to the foyer of Plumbing Hell.
But then things started to turn in my favor. I did a little Internet research and found that the Fluidmaster 400A, which costs less than $10, will cure the flush-and-fill ills of just about any commode. So I went to the nearest hardware store, picked up my Fluidmaster, and installed that sumbitch in about 10 minutes. A one-armed, one-eyed retired circus monkey riding a Hoveround could've done the job as well as I did. Note to do-it-yourselfers: Next time you're in a hardware store, go ahead and buy two or three Fluidmaster 400As, and stick 'em in your bathroom cabinet. With any luck, you can fix your next commode problem for about $8.
Lucky for me, my favorite plumber, Blue, fixed the demon-possessed faucet that dumped water into my ceiling. Life is a little sweeter here at the Jowers house, now that we don't have a waterfall in our kitchen. Sure, I'll have to get a drywall guy to saw out a big chunk of the kitchen ceiling, and I'll have to get an electrician to replace the now-corroded recessed lights.
Best of all, though, I'll have a good reason to remove those dang worm-shaped compact fluorescent bulbs from my ceiling. Sorry, Greenies, I'm going back to tungsten.
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