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Monday, May 2, 2016

Better lucky than good

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

As the baby of the family by 10 years, I wasn't often called upon at home to fix things. If a car was broken down, my brother assisted my dad. The story was the same for any amateur carpentry, plumbing or heating and cooling issues.

And don't even think about electricity. I'm colorblind, so that's a disaster waiting to happen.

Extending further out in the family, we find even more talent for working with one's hands. On my dad's side, I have uncles and cousins who worked on cars as a hobby. My mom's brother built his own house.

So it's easy to understand why I might sell my own mechanical talents short. Even if I was called upon in any of these ventures, it was something like knowing the right tool to hand to the person doing the real work or holding the other end of the board.

Occasionally, I might be called upon to drive in a nail or two. But even at that, it tended to take me twice as many swings, and my thumb was never safe.

Over the years, however, I've come to understand that I may have just picked up a thing or two -- either by paying attention or simple osmosis.

Several years ago, I casually mentioned to a friend I had rotated my tires that morning. You'd have thought I told him I'd turned cat litter into gold. He was dumbfounded. I tried to explain that it was just a matter of having the right tools and a basic understanding, which I had when I still lived with my parents.

(And anyone who has worked on cars is rolling their eyes right now. It is pretty elementary.)

Recently, though, I surprised myself. I fixed something, but I'm still not sure what I did.

Our master bathroom faucet had a leak for a month or so, and for several days it had gotten worse. It had become a constant stream, so I knew something had to be done.

Seeing as how I was broke (as usual) I thought I'd take a look myself before calling in a plumber I really didn't want to pay.

I started by watching a brief video on the Internet about fixing a faucet. Besides being very informative, it served as proof to me that YouTube has uses beyond watching old music videos or people getting injured.

With my newfound knowledge, I set to work. I turned off the supply to the hot water knob, which stopped the stream, and set to taking it apart. Things seemed to be going well. I hadn't damaged anything yet.

Unfortunately, about four steps into the process I decided I must have done something wrong. Although the valve below the sink was still off, the water started again -- ever so slowly. I watched with horror as it began to fill my tiny work area and overflow into the basin.

I had no idea what had gone wrong and no idea what to do.

There comes a moment, though, when you have to decide you're in over your head and just cut your losses. I had reached it. I decided to simply put things back together and leave the valve turned off. We'd have to operate without hot water in the sink for a day or two until I could get a plumber to look at it.

Fortunately, though, I'm pretty good at paying attention when I take something apart, so it went back together without a hitch. With things back together, I decided, just for fun, to see what would happen when I turned on the hot water valve.

While visions of a highly pressurized knob hitting the ceiling haunted my thoughts, I figured the most likely outcome was the leak would be back.

I turned the knob and something remarkable happened ... nothing at all.

I fixed my leaky faucet, and I'm still not sure how. The proof is right there in my bathroom. When you turn the handles off, the water stops flowing. It's amazing.

I'm not sure what I did right, but I know enough not to question it. I should probably also know enough not to talk about it in a public forum, lest I jinx myself.

If I go home tonight and the bathroom sink has exploded, I'll know that's what happened.

And if it does happen, dear readers, you will all hear about it soon enough.

Jared Jernagan is the assistant editor of the Banner Graphic. He can be reached at jjernagan@bannergraphic.com. His experience with this home improvement project is not typical, and you should not call upon him for your plumbing needs.