sailors take warning

1 09 2009

rdskyNo special filters, no photoshop tweeks on this photo…it is the real deal.  But I wasn’t listening to what it was putting down.  Billy, being the sailor he was, always quipped, “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.  Red sky at night, sailors delight” when he saw a sky like this.  So I should have known I was in for some rough seas for the next little while.

Murphy’s law – anything that can possibly go wrong, does –  is striking all around me like I’m some kind of human lightening rod.  I keep hoping that it is just a three pattern this time around. I mentioned these events in the last post but here they are in all their glory (or gory?).

It started back with the two days before Best Boy’s departure for LA when I found that my 15 year old Maytag was leaking like a sieve from the bottom of the machine.  Got it unhooked and dragged out to the deck where I could at least take the front panel off and have a look see.  Called a repair man who charged $240 some odd dollars to replace the waterpump that was spewing yuck every which way but where it was supposed to be going.  He wanted to charge me an extra $50 to hook it back up.  I cocked my head and asked, “By hooking it back up, do you mean re-attaching the two water hoses on the back and plugging it in…the three things I undid to get it out here?  Ummm – no thanks.  I think I can handle that for $50!”

By then, he had already vibbed me all his bad juju.  Before getting the machine put back in the little nook where it lives, I had run to the hardware store to get a new drain hose since the ancient one was starting to crack and was permenantly kinked. The repairman said that it would cost me $60 from the company and 10 days wait, plus another $65 housecall, not including labor- or $16 from Ace Hardware down on the corner doing it myself.  I knew how to attach it and where.  I am college educated after all.

The Dr. and I  got it back in position and reattached said hoses…cranked her up for test run.  Guess where the water started pouring out?  No, not the part fixed by Mr. Maytag Repairman or me for that matter…but from the spigot where it attached to the wall.

Using special vocabulary, I dragged the machine back out into the kitchen, got the silcock off the water pipe (but had to turn the water off at the main because the valves at the point I should have turned it off – were so stuck I thought I’d have to re-plumb the entire house to get them working).  Smart cookie that I am on this second trip to Ace, I went ahead and grabbed new water input hoses for the machine too – one blue, one red.  I was sure the ones that worked fine 10 minutes ago were going to blow.

After another bunch of hours fussing with this and that, we wrestled it back in place, got all the valves turned back on and we had a washing machine.  Except now it wouldn’t drain.  More special words, dragging it back out, cutting here, reattaching there, pushing and shoving and all sorts of fun…we got it to work.

Sort of…but enough to get the loads done I needed to get done.  I don’t trust it enough to just throw in a load and run off to do something else.  Maybe that will come with time.  I know what the real fix is – but I’ve run out of time and energy and it will just have to wait.  I can make it work by crawling up on top of the machine when it needs to drain, wedge my head under the cupboards that hang directly above it, reach down the back – jacking up my shoulder and twisting my neck to wiggle things here and pull things there and get it to drain just fine.  That ain’t so bad…after all, it’s just me and the Dr. now and working from home (read: sweats and t-shirts) means we only do about two loads of laundry a week.  Just don’t tell Swelling Belly Shop Girl that she has to get on top of the machine to make it drain…she does LOTS more laundry than we do each week.

Next was the 18 year old car with 166,000 miles on it that needed an oil change, new brakes, a new battery and some belts…$400 later (and a week plus at the shop) I drove it home yesterday late in the afternoon listening to all kinds of strange noises I’d never heard before only to park it in front of the house to find there is massive leakage of mystery fluid dripping from under the hood.  The good thing is that I didn’t have the right credit card with me when I picked it up.  I’ll be trying to drive the car back to the garage a few miles away and I’m gonna take a mechanic for a drive.

I know this just doesn’t happen to old stuff.  This happens to brand new things that cost lots more money.  Whatever happened to the feeling that you could trust people to do a thorough job…that your money was going to be well spent when you didn’t have the tools or know how to fix things yourself?  I want a re-do.  I want to go back to the point in 6th grade when we had to decide if we would enter the world of college prep or tech school.  Tech school, baby!  I would have saved myself what my college education cost in repair bills alone.

As soon as I get it back from the mechanic AGAIN, it is going to have the windshield painted with a special message: $1800 OBO.  Volvo clunker anyone?

doohickeys and whatchamacallits

7 05 2009

DSC_0084For Shop Girl – it is Nordstrom’s Rack.  For me – the hardware store.  Those places where just stepping inside makes your heart race just a little faster as your eyes dart back and forth at all the glory.  I go with a single purchase in mind and come out with something entirely different- even at times forgetting what I went there for in the first place.

It happened like that for me last week while I was at the Mrs.’ place.  Whatever it was I went for, was soon forgotten when, blinded like Paul on the Damascus Road, I mysteriously found myself standing yet again in front of the “Wall of Wonder” – the paint chips.  I never tire of stealing hands full  at a time for no good reason.  Well, I do have my reasons even if I never get around to purchasing a quantity that would fit in a gallon bucket.  Buying those itty bitty sampler jars doesn’t hurt at all and they don’t guilt you into commitment.  Genius – those wonderkins at Benjamin Moore that came up with that marketing ploy.  No wait! – I remember why I am am looking at these colors – a friend who lives 300 miles away is looking for new colors for her livingroom.  Or is it me…?

I blame Billy for my hopeless addiction to hardware stores.  There was nothing he couldn’t fix or at least attempt to fix.  Just last summer there was something wonky with their toaster one evening and I had plans to just toss it and get another one the next day knowing it had probably been around twice its normal life expectancy.  Magically the next morning it was working fine and in commenting on it, Billy piped up claiming to have been up all night, taking it all apart and fixing it.  There was NO WAY I was sleeping THAT deeply on the couch 5 feet away.  Maybe by then, he just did it by some means of psychokinesis – maybe we understand less about dementia than we think.

Regardless, I have inherited the DIY (do-it-yourself) approach to simple home repairs.  Plus, I have a leg-up with YouTube.  What’s not to love?  Or one better – my other addiction to HGTV.  Never mind that what I don’t have are the fifty people off camera to do all the heavy lifting, time-lapse photography that isn’t shown with the time code running, a mobile tool shed the size of Montana, a MegaMillions budget and the yummy carpenters to boot.

Since we seem to have passed the Big Thaw here in the Arctic Circle AND I finally got around to storing the garden hose sometime in Februrary, I have been noticing that the outside faucet was dripping ever so slowly and steadily – wetting the side of the house right where there is a seismic gap between driveway and the foundation large enough to stick my fist in. With my recently acquired first hand knowledge and terror of what water in a basement can mean when it is ignored for years, I was going to put a stop to it immediately.

In less than ten minutes, I had the entire faucet in hand (after shutting off the water valve you idiot!) and was inside my handy Ace-is-the-place-with-the-helpful-hareware-man store.  Lady #1 with the ear piece sent me to the correct aisle  and alerted any staff hiding away somewhere in the bowels of the store sorting penny nails that a customer needed help and let them know my “20”.  I pawed through the wall of cute little bins and waited.  Finally settling on what I thought I needed, she noticed me again and barked into  her mouth piece that the “customer has been waiting a LONG time for help!!!” and would someone please respond.

As I stood there with two gizmos in hand, another red-vested woman appeared and I foolishly thought this was going to be another “dispatcher” – “Are you finding what you’re looking for?”  I just wanted confirmation that I wasn’t getting a boiler drain or gas feed – she looked at the original I held and pointed to the 3/4″ and said “That one!”  I turned it over and over in my hand trying to see what markings had made her so sure.

“How did you do that?  It looks just like the 1/2”?

“Honey, after 31 years of looking at sillcocks – you’ve seen one- you’ve seen them all…you can tell the size just by looking at them!” In that moment, I was overwhelmed with jealousy – I wanted to BE her.

A sillcock!  Yes – this was no ordinary doohickey (Billy’s favorite utilitarian hardware word)…it was in fact a sillcock.  Not  – “outdoor-faucet-where-you-hook-up-your-garden-hose”.  I’m dying to know just how it got its name!

I could hardly wait to get home and the Dr. knew I was up to no good when I stood on the back porch – two sillcocks in hand- with a huge grin on my face.  “Are you proud of yourself?”  Silly boy – of course, I was!  I grabbed my Teflon tape (any girl worth her salt always has a roll on hand) and a few “righty-tightitys” later and a jog to the basement to turn the shut-off valve back on – and we were in business.  But all was not said and done until I asked the Dr. to check to see if his sillcock was dripping.  I love my job!


The case of the mysterious blue haze…

7 11 2008

“So I went down to the basement yesterday and it was filled with smoke…,” she mentioned casually in the course of one of our daily conversations.

 “Smoke?  Did it smell like something was burning?”, I asked, willing my voice into a zen state.

“No, it was just a blue haze but didn’t smell electrical or anything,” she finished. “I just opened the windows – then my physical therapist came so I went upstairs and came back down when she was done and closed all the windows.”  

These kinds of conversations when I am 150 miles away tend to unnerve me a bit.  So as soon as I was ‘on site’ last night I started checking things out. The furnace looked fine.  Took out the filter to see if something was amiss…nope.

It had been raining most of the afternoon so I wasn’t surprised that there was some water on the floor. This house has been in a perpetual state of mold, mildew and dank since who-knows-when.  I had a father who was convinced that there is nothing ever to be done about the way the house was built and if the basement leaks – so be it!

The nearly new dehumidifier seemed to check out but I had my doubts.  Maybe it just gave up the ghost early having to work so long and so hard with no reward whatsoever.  Talk about a job that is NEVER done!

It wasn’t until I put a load of laundry in this morning that it hit me…the sump pump. I had been trying to squeegee water down a floor drain when I noticed it wasn’t going anywhere – looked over at the “abyss” and saw it was to floor level, full of water…going nowhere.  I moved a plastic lid (picture the clear plastic domed lid over a huge deli tray…that is what my dad had over the sump pit) and low and behold I see the light.  Well actually I saw a spark so I knew I had found the scene of the crime.

In less than seven minutes I’m at Menard’s getting my first lesson in sump pumps. How hard can this be?  The fact that there is more rain on the way in a few hours motivates me in a special DIY sort of way.  But the most daunting part is at hand once I’m back in the basement with the new unit.

The old must be fished out of the pit…that murky, questionable water that to my knowledge is unfathomable.  Old unit unplugged, breaker switched off, jewelry out of harm’s way, sleeves rolled up and in I dive fishing for Lord-knows-what.  I see something dark and large floating around my arm…with a great sigh I realize it is just the “floater” (the REAL floater…not one of those kinds…) that had gotten detached from the old pump.

In up to my shoulder, kneeling on slimy wet basement floor, I locate the old pump and start to yank it out.  I’m not sure I haven’t really found something from the Titanic it’s so corroded.  With a 20 second perusal of the instruction booklet accompanying the new bright and shiny contraption, I understand the basic principles.

Into the deep it goes, pipe connected to pipe, switch into socket and I walk over to the breaker box a good 15 feet away in a corner.  All is well, noises are made, water begins to whish away and I flip the breaker to turn it all off.  A few adjustments and I try again but this time I am back beside the pit when somewhere in the process a point is reached where suddenly the whole thing becomes Trafalgar Fountain. Gallons of water are spewing out being rained all over the basement and I am stuck on the other side unable to reach the fuse box to flip the breaker.

I finally make it over there – head upstairs, dripping wet and call one of the plumbers suggested to me by the saleskid at Menard’s.  “Yes”, they’ll have someone out at around 3ish.  That works for me.  I know lots more than I started out knowing today about sump pumps – how they work, what the pit looks (or just feels like when it’s full and it won’t empty) and more.

The plumber shows up when he said he would and within less than an hour new pvc is fit to the pump and we are in business.  I was on the right road – like a kid building a fort in the woods knows how to build a house…I was lacking the proper tools (teflon tape, epoxy from three different cans, etc.) and professional know-how.

I don’t care what those two hours (including travel time) cost…the job is done and I can call and complain if something isn’t working right.  I know calling a pro wasn’t Billy’s way – he was Mr. Fixit – even if most times it was with things he already had laying around the basement.  I had a certified plumber work his magic.

So no…the Christmas decorations didn’t get hauled up from the basement today like was on the agenda.  Maybe tomorrow.img_38032