Knowing One’s Limitations

I can do a lot of things. I can launch a product, try a case, give a presentation, change a diaper, cook a meal, build a treehouse, play a guitar, paddle a rapid, run a race, paint a house, and a few other things to boot.

I cannot, however, install a bathroom faucet. I couldn’t today, at least.

The faucet knob on our girls’ bathroom sink had been getting increasingly difficult to turn and the whole thing was in generally poor condition, so I decided that I would take advantage of the Labor Day holiday to replace it. After a quick trip to Lowes, I came home armed with a shiny new replacement faucet kit and got to work.

My biggest initial challenge was in cramming the upper half of my body into the cabinet underneath the sink so I could get at the blasted hardware. I was able to see it, and I was able to reach it – I just wasn’t able to see it and reach it at the same time. After a while I figured out a way to lay on my back, squeeze my head and shoulders inside, and then wedge an arm in and twist it up and around to reach the pipes. This would allow me about three turns of the wrench before my arm started to go numb because my awkward positioning was cutting off my blood supply. This, of course, was assuming that I had remembered to grab the wrench before I worked my way inside. More than once I crammed myself into position only to find that my tool hand was empty. I then had to extricate myself and start the process all over again.

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I was eventually able to get the old faucet removed, and the new one set into place. Install the stopper assembly, hook up the water lines, and I’d be done. The directions for the stopper were maddeningly simple – insert the stopper into the drainpipe, slide the horizontal rod into the pipe and through the hole on the bottom of the stopper, and you’re done. The problem was, the stopper seemed to be a half inch too short – I could never get the rod into the hole. Meanwhile, my girls’ cheery visits to the bathroom to check on my progress were becoming more frequent. “How’s it going, Daddy? Almost finished? Need any help?” My increasingly terse responses told me that I had better wrap this project up. I gave up. The sink was destined to be stopper-less.

But that was OK. The sink was already stopper-less; installing a stopper would have been an enhancement. That was a project for another day. So, all I needed to do was hook the water lines back up, and I’d be done. Predictably, the metal fittings on the faucet didn’t line up with the plastic ends of the water lines. I crammed myself back up under the sink, realized that my wrench hand had once again come up empty, twisted myself back out from under, and cracked my head on the bottom of the cabinet for the fifth time. Once the stars had faded from my vision and I had once again worked my way up into the cabinet and under the sink, I set to work bending the metal fittings to reach the end of the water lines. A few skinned knuckles and more than a few choice words later, I was finally ready to screw the fittings together and turn on the cold water line.

My face and left arm got soaked as water jetted out from the ill-fitting connection. I managed to get the water turned off, unscrewed the connection, bent the fittings some more, and screwed them together again. Holding my breath, I turned the water back on. No leak. Success! Giddy at the thought of the project being nearly complete, I turned on the hot water line. The water missed me this time, but instead gushed out onto the bottom of the cabinet. I turned the water back off. Fiddled with the fittings. Screwed it back together. Turned it back on. No gushing torrent this time, just a slight dribble.

A few seconds later, water began to dribble from the stopper rod cap as well, and then the dribble turned into a spray. Meanwhile the dribble from the hot water line became a full-fledged stream, and then the stopper rod cap and hot water line were spraying at me in stereo.

I gave up. Tomorrow I’m going to bite the bullet and call a plumber. I’m sure installing my faucet will be the easiest job he has all day. Glad to oblige.

You’ll be relieved to hear that I don’t do my own electrical work, either.

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One Response to Knowing One’s Limitations

  1. D. Peace says:

    I’ve been there. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Not only am I not at all handy (I can barely tell tools apart) but I’ve also had the same problem of not being able to turn a wrench when there’s not enough room to maneuver around.

    I hope that plumber worked out. I would have wound up doing the same thing.

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