Home improvement

It’s a trap!

I’m not handy. And I know nothing about cars. So it’s pretty much a guaranteed GREAT start to a vacation when I have a plumbing leak and a flat tire right before we are about to head out on a trip.

The tire was not my fault, but rather the fault of a nail. The leak? All my fault.

My wife and I had seen fruit flies near our sink. We had this problem years ago, and we took to the internet to solve it. After numerous attempted solutions (many of which involved vinegar), we found one that suggested you remove and clean the P-trap under the sink.

This seemed to be a relatively simple procedure, even if I still couldn’t understand why it was called a “P-trap” and not a “U-pipe-thingee.” I’m sure there is a reason, but I’m too lazy to find it out.

The last time this happened, this was indeed the problem, and we found the nastiest concoction of gross embedded in the P-trap. I opted to set fire to it and go buy a whole new one. Or I cleaned it out. Can’t totally remember. Either way, the problem was solved.

So as we were getting ready to head out, my wife mentioned the fruit flies. “Probably the P-trap,” I said, pretending like I knew what in the world I was talking about.

I opened up the cabinet beneath the sink and removed the standard things that are under a sink: dishwasher detergent, steam cleaner chemicals, a can of Comet and that pack of light bulbs I had spent the last month looking for, occasionally grilling my kids on where exactly they had put it. (Apparently, they were innocent of light bulb theft, and I just can’t remember where I put things.)

With a few spins of the washers, I removed the P-trap. Fun fact — when you remove a P-trap, water that has been just hanging around under your sink comes gushing out! Yay!

Once the water decided it was done (and I screamed, “JENN, I NEED A TOWEL!!!!”) I pulled the P-trap out. It was as clean as the day it was installed.

So what did genius home repair Mike do? How about give it a quick rinse just for good measure.


So once I cleaned up my new mess, I went to put the P-trap back. I put it in place and tightened the washers. I cut the sink on to make sure everything was in working order. And cue the water spewing. Fortunately, my wife had thought ahead and bought me some backup towels.

I took the P-trap off again and tried to attach it once more. I turned on the water. More leaking.

At this point, I had no choice but to direct blame to the person who was most responsible for this: “Why did you let me attempt home repair right before we go on vacation?” My wife did not respond. Based on her look, I can guess what her response might have been. And it was not going to be, “You’re right. My bad.”

I decided to leave well enough alone for now and fix it post-vacation, most likely with assistance from a neighbor who is in the plumbing business and probably knows about 8 billion more things about plumbing than I do.

When we went out to the car and saw the flat tire, my wife said, “Why don’t we take a different car.” I’m not saying that was an admission of her guilt in letting me attempt home repair. But she did agree that car repair was probably something that could wait a few days.

We left the broken pipe and the flat tire and had an enjoyable vacation, one in which I didn’t bother thinking about either problem even once. We’re back now, and I have gotten the tire fixed. I still need to fix the P-trap, but that will come in due time. If I need to find something to occupy my time with before I get around to it, I can always go replace light bulbs that are out.

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

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