One of these days I’m going to learn how to ignore the siren calls of hubris (excessive pride, often leading to tears in the end!) when it comes to being handy at mending things round the house.
It seems the universe takes a particular pleasure in making tasks that should seem utterly simple turn out to be the worst voyages of the damned I could possibly imagine.
I do have a theory that this syndrome may well affect those of us silly enough to work in IT for years far more often than occurs in the general population.
Programmers/designers can design incredibly complex IT systems containing tonnes of moving parts doing awfully technical things that (hopefully!) are reasonably fault-tolerant to the point where you don’t have to mess with the system very often.
Then it comes time to debug a problem.
We’ll spend hours checking the database or seeing if there’s a bug in the programming language or the virtual machine executing our code only to find that we’ve made the simple mistake of assigning a value to a variable (“=”) versus the comparison operator (“==”) we had intended to use.
It gets worse when hardware is involved. Why isn’t that bit of kit working?!? And you’ll go round and round trying all of the complicated reasons why it might not be in order just to find that the stupid power switch was turned off.
Yep. You want the programmer’s equivalent of that “not so fresh” sensation? There it is!
We’re often so proud of our amazing technical prowess and then someone wants us to *FAX* a document to someone. All of our advanced education and technical training is thwarted in an instant by a relatively ancient technology.
How many programmers have made that walk of shame to the admin assistant’s desk and confessed that the mysteries of the fax machine are hopelessly beyond our ken and beg their kind indulgence to help us past our utter incompetence at faxing?
Raise your hands! Get them up! (And be honest…because yes, I’ve done it more times than I’d ever want to admit!)
Let’s not forget this bit of joy when the denizens of the software world confront a hardware problem so confounding that it often leads to an expensive service call to the vendor…
That brings me to today’s channeling of Jeremy Clarkson’s infamous maxim: “how hard can it be?”
The handle for the shower would not completely stop the water no matter how hard you tried to shut it off. This is the well-known problem that the cartridge inside the shower faucet needs to be replaced.
I’d actually successfully mended something similar a while ago when the kitchen faucet not only refused to shut the water off but it also had low water pressure to boot.
So how hard could a shower faucet be, really?
I’ve got all of the parts I need and I’m ready to knock out this project in no time and be able to collect Nick from work before heading down the hill to volunteer at Enloe’s Marching Band camp. (Bwhahahahahahaaaa!)
The first step is to remove the “set screw” holding the faucet handle. Sadly, Moen in its infinite wisdom refused to spend the extra two cents to include a suitable 7/64″ Allen wrench/key in the kit containing the replacement cartridge so off to Lowe’s I go to find one.
That’s one hour in the bin straightaway!
Then I discover that the tool I’d gotten to fit that set screw is the same length as the faucet handle itself meaning it’s a complete pain in the arse because you can’t get a decent spinning motion to remove the screw quickly.
Twenty minutes later and the handle is finally off.
Now the rest of the parts start coming off in a couple of seconds apiece deluding me into thinking that we’re past the really hard bit and that the rest of the replacement should go smoothly.
I’ve got the special cartridge puller tool in place and it’s ready to go. After a couple minutes of no movement, the cartridge finally starts coming out of the faucet…and then the stupid thing snaps in half with the other half of the cartridge still buried in the faucet housing.
That’s when the tears started, dear readers.
Fortunately, I have my best mate Miguel of Prestige Home Renovations as my next door neighbour who is far more handy round the home than I will ever hope to be and he just happened to be home after working a renovation job earlier that day.
I can’t tell you how many times he’s saved me from my own stupidity including rebuilding the guts of all three toilets and saving me a trip to the hardware store for plumber’s putty to finish installing the replacement sink disposal unit (in my defence, I actually successfully removed the old one!).
Now, I’m not *TOTALLY* hopeless at mending things round here.
I’ve successfully replaced/installed many ceiling fans through my life (including a tricky one using a ceiling mount I’d never seen before thanks to Miguel talking me through it after I sent him some pictures). I’ve also done more than a few light switches and a couple of electrical receptacles due to the builder using crappy switches combined with an installation method that lends itself to having wires break off and disable the switch.
But when it comes to dealing with the plumbing, I’m just plain hopeless. I can get halfway there and then it’s something stupid that has me making the call for help to Miguel.
He came round and extracted the rest of the old plastic cartridge which eventually came out in pieces after a titanic bit of effort where I was seriously wondering if the whole faucet mechanism would break before that piece finally came out.
Ten minutes later, the new brass cartridge was installed and the water was back on and the leaking was a thing of the past.
And he made the installation look utterly simple!
Even better, I’d discover during a very luxurious shower later that evening that the new cartridge is actually allowing me to set the temperature for *COOL* water for the first time in almost 11 years of living in this house.
What I really love about Miguel is that he explained every step of the problem and what needed to be done to solve it. In this case, the old cartridge sheared off because the rubber bits on the outside of the cartridge had no lubrication and those sticky rubber bits were what was making it hard to move the cartridge. Once they finally got yanked out of the way, the rest of the cartridge came out relatively easily.
The moral of the story: if you’re in the Raleigh area and you find yourself needing something mended, renovated, or built from scratch by a rather clever gent whose attention to detail is second to none, I’m sure Prestige Home Renovations would love to hear from you!