Home improvement

A plumb job

Not to sound hyperbolic, but I have accomplished the two greatest plumbing successes the world has ever known.

I base this on the fact that I did two very minor plumbing repairs that (a) only required two trips to the hardware store and (b) did not result in having to call a neighbor for assistance (or, worse, an actual plumber who needs to be paid actual dollars).

Now, you may be saying, Mike, how does that make you the architect of the greatest successes ever? Answer: because after two decades of plumbing missteps, errors and abject failures, accomplishing these two feats with my level of skill is unprecedented in history.

I have tried to learn. I have watched as friends who were adept at plumbing, deftly helped me fix things (and by “helped me fix things” I mean “fix things”). I have talked at length to folks at the hardware store prior to repairs. I have watched YouTube videos, but that usually ends up with me getting distracted by the more interesting videos in the menu on the side, and I abandon the tutorial so I can watch “Alton Brown reviews Amazon’s dumbest kitchen gadgets.” (That’s a real video that popped up. And way funnier than a leaky kitchen sink repair tutorial.)

But for whatever reason, this time, I launched a two-game winning streak. The first plumbing issue was when a set of metal measuring spoons went down into the garbage disposal without me seeing them. I turned on the disposal a while later and it made a frightening screech of a sound that will no doubt haunt my dreams for years to come, and then just kinda stopped grinding and instead emitted a high pitched whir. (Quick note: before you say, “That’s not a plumbing issue” – It’s attached to the sink. It’s a plumbing issue in my world.)

I said to my wife, “Well, I guess we don’t have a disposal anymore.” It was Christmas day, so there was really nothing we could do about it anyhow.

That evening, while bored, I googled “disposal stopped working.” Lots of videos. I clicked the first one. And made myself promise not to look at any of the other videos it was offering. The video was only a little over a minute, which probably helped.

Turns out, there is a little bolt thingee underneath the disposal, and if you pop the right sized allen wrench in it and turn it back and forth a few times, it magically fixes everything. Side note: Make sure you get the rest of the metal spoons out of the disposal once the magical fix is in lest the screech return. I was unable to do that with my mitts, but fortunately my wife has little squirrel-sized hands and could get in there and root out all of the metal. (Note: Her hands are much smaller than mine, but are completely normal sized hands and would make a squirrel kind of terrifying.)

A few days later, I went to get some napkins from under the same sink. When I grabbed the bag, my brain said, “Hmmm. Napkins usually don’t weigh several pounds…” When I pulled it out, the bag was also dripping. Great.

My wife and I pulled everything out from under the sink and saw we had standing water. We put a towel down to sop it up. “Must be from the disposal,” I said, closing the cabinet door and standing.

My wife, who is WAY smarter than I am, turned on the water and let it drain into the sink. She opened the cabinet. “It’s an active link,” she said. And apparently, completely unrelated to the disposal.

I got down underneath and began to assess the situation. Indeed, the link was active, and it was pretty clear where it was coming from – a metal connector between the sink and a pipe had begun to break apart, and water was trickling out around it. My wife stood behind me. “Let’s just call a plumber,” she said.

Not with this hot streak going.

It only took me two trips to the hardware store to get the right part, which surely is a record. After I finished threading the connector in place, I cut on the water and peered below. Nothing. Not a single drip. I said to my wife, “I fixed it.” Her response: “You did!?!?!?” I don’t blame her.

So I await the next plumbing challenge. I am emboldened by plumbing victories. I feel as if I can conquer anything. As long as it’s the most basic anything possible.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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