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Circling the drain

I've concluded that most fathers are evaluated on two things: their ability to provide for their families (earn money), and their handiness around the house (save money with do-it-yourself work).

Those are qualities that don't always show up in the marriage vows, Father's Day cards or box scores, but in the real world they matter a lot.

I'm not a great bread winner, and I'm even less of a handy man. Still, this week I had a great moment in home repair, motivated by my not wanting to pay a plumber his king's ransom.

Bob_vila I once heard a comedian joke about the fact that if his car breaks down, he pulls over to the side of the road, opens the hood and looks to see what's wrong, but unless there's a giant "On-Off" switch for him to push, it's hopeless. That pretty much describes my experience with household repairs.

This week my metaphorical great white whale was the drain in our bathtub. It got stuck in the closed position, which knocked the tub out of commission. The problem was easy to diagnose: the chain link mechanism had come unattached from the stopper that opens and closes the drain. However, the stopper was stuck far down inside the overflow pipe running into the wall behind the faucet.

I thought about coming in through the linen closet and trying to remove the pipe from the wall for a look inside. Then I said to myself: “Self, are you kidding? You have no idea how to do that.”

My next move was to fire up the old Internets. After a minute of Googling I found several do-it-yourself sites that included plumbing tips. (By the way, what’s with the DIY surgery sites? Call me old-fashioned, but I’m still springing for the doctors for that stuff.)

One DIY plumber said he removed his drain stopper with a metal coat hanger. I took a hanger and fished in the drain for about 10 minutes before finally landing the big one. I reeled in the drain stopper, hooked it up to the chain mechanism, and now we’re back in business.

This doesn’t sound like much, unless you’re as handiness-challenged as I am. Sometimes I hang around Home Depot and Lowe’s just trying to pick up random tips from guys. When I need to fake a conversation there I’ve found that the mention of soffits or joists gives me what I call shed cred.

Someday I hope to find a fantasy camp for handyman. Instead of catching fly balls hit by Willie Mays or shooting baskets with Michael Jordan I dream about learning heating and cooling from Dave Lennox, or putting in installation with Bob Vila. I’d even settle for Norm.


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