Friday, September 29, 2006

A Hung Hat

Today I tried on the plumber's hat. I was cleaning up from a large dinner and found myself spending a lot of time waiting for the water to drain down both sides of the kitchen sink. I thought that maybe air pressure was a problem and so I started swirling the water in the sink. That didn't work. Then I decided to stick a straw into the drain. No success. I then decided that I would bail water out of one side of the sink into a bowl with a cup. All that did was bring all of the water from the other side of the sink up into the sink from which I was bailing water. Perhaps that should have been my obvious expectation given that I am a science teacher. I finally realized that I wasn't working in a closed system and that swirling the water in the sink, putting the straw in the drain and bailing water from one side of the sink had no effect on my ultimate goal of getting the water to go down the drain. I decided to invite the help of the menfolk.

Dad promptly removed half of the U-tube on the left side of the sink. He left to find a tool in the basement. While he was gone, I decided that if removing the left side U-tube helped, removing the right side U-tube couldn't hurt. I unscrewed right side U-tube only to discover that I had broken off the drain cover that had originally been part of the sink. Oops.

Now that the U-tube was off, I decided to take off the T-connector. I removed this successfully and thought that I now had enough flexibility to stick a wire down the drain and clear it of any remaining clogs. I took a hanger from my parents' closet and unwound it. I proudly stuck it down the drain expecting to pull up a nasty wad of drain clogging material. Instead, the wire popped right through the metal pipe. I had sprung a leak. Add a hole in a metal pipe to a clogged drain.

At this point I realized that I should not pretend that I am a plumber. After Luke observed the situation that I created he remarked, "I sometimes wonder how you survive in the chemistry lab." Dad came to the rescue and taped my hole with medical adhesive tape.

While he was winding tape (and I was feeling badly for springing a hole in the pipe) I reminded him of the time, many years ago, when the upstairs toilet was clogged. Dad decided to fix the problem by getting a Roto-Rooter snake device. After unwinding this metal snake and successfully fixing the drainage problem, one of the children came running into the house exclaiming, "Water is pouring from the side of the house!" Sure enough, the water was draining - but not into our septic field. "Dad," I asked tonight, "do you remember that story?" "I had selectively forgotten it until now," he said reluctantly.

That memory relieved me as I realized that I was not the only one in the family to have less than immediate success with plumbing. But, even with this relief, my decision has been made - my plumber's hat has been put back on the wall peg.