This is how I have to spend my school vacation, with a list of 55 things to do, some as straightforward as doing the laundry, paying the bills and putting out the deck furniture, others more involved, like buying a lawn mower, assembling a lawn mower, assembling mail order lamps from someplace like Singapore and putting together Ikea-like nightstand kits with a multitude of parts and a paucity of directions.
Yesterday I turned on the outside water and checked for leaks. One year I waited too long to turn off and drain the outside water, and the pipes froze and burst (thick copper pipes!), making the job of turning on the outside water much more complicated. The shut off is in the basement, but you can always tell if there is a leak outside before you check, because when you turn the water back on you can hear that the water just keeps flowing through the pipe. You don’t want to hear that continuous hiss. This year the pipes were silent, no leaks.
The hoses, on the other hand were not as cooperative. Each year I drain the hoses before I store them in the garage. I put each hose caddy (there are two, see image below) at the top of the driveway and unroll 100 feet of hose down the slight grade of the driveway and empty all the water into the street. Of course the hose is bent and coiled in so many weird directions that gravity can’t possibly pull all the water out, so I have to blow through one slimy end of the hose to force the remaining water out the other end.
I hooked up one hose caddy without any trouble, no surprise leaks, but the hose connecting the caddy to the outside faucet was flattened and crimped in one spot so I squeezed it into the shape it should be with a pair of channel lock pliers and splinted it at that spot with two 8 inch pieces of quarter round molding from a job I did last summer. I wrapped the repair in duct tape and now that spot doesn’t bend or crimp.
The feeder hose (running from the faucet to the caddy) for the second caddy leaked badly so I decided to replace the fixture at the end by cutting the hose and installing a new fixture. I made my way to Jimmy’s, a store that has everything from toasters to tires. The breadth of supplies, however, is somewhat diminished by the quality of the items, but the location is convenient, it’s one-stop-shopping, and most of the time the quality doesn’t matter much. Besides, it’s worth the trip just to walk into the store and smell the rubber from the tires.
Everyone who works at Jimmy’s is related (I believe) and stamped from the same mold. An older man, straight, steel-gray hair, a face worn and leathered from years of drinking and smoking, approached me to help find what I wanted. His belly rounded out to the size (approximately) of a basketball so he belted his trousers at the top of his thighs. When he spoke his mouth looked like it wanted to be sucking on a cigarette.
I told him how I wanted to replace the fitting at end of the hose. “Male or female?” he asked me. He may have winked, not sure. Of course, he has to use the genitalia reference, the unofficial or slang plumbing term that describes the two different ends of a threaded plumbing connection. Let me think, in what way could they be male or female? Oh, I get it, it’s like the parts are having intercourse when you put them together (one end threads into the other). I came in to buy a hose repair kit and now I’m having a casual discussion about genitalia and intercourse with the potbellied Jimmy’s man. I wonder if he would have referred to the parts that way if he was speaking to a woman (later, in a different hardware store, I would get my answer).
I brought the genitalia home and shoved it into the end of the hose, then secured it with the hose clamp (see image below). I should tell you that the faucet for this hose is located on the side of the house that we have come to call, ”the jungle” and the caddy is at the front of the house by the lawn, 30 feet away from the faucet, so each time I tested the hose I had to hack my way through the brush to turn on the faucet, then run back through the branches to see the result. I could hear it before I could see it, but when I arrived on the scene it was like a water park, spray shooting in all directions, drenching all my tools and soaking my backside as I fought my way back into the jungle to turn off the water. This happened many times over several trials of different solutions (well, I guess they weren’t solutions after all).
I inspected the clamp. It was pretty tight, but still I could see a couple tiny spaces between the clamp and the hose, so obviously the hose was not clamped tightly enough around the new fixture. I got a bigger screw driver and carefully turned the screw even tighter, nearly closing the gap. Just a little bit more. I turned with all my strength and that’s when I stripped the clamp and it sprang loose, popped off the hose, and lay in the dirt, a mangled mess. Dammit!
Wet and muddy, I hopped in the car and sped off to John’s hardware store, just past Shaws, a little farther away but at least they’re a real hardware store and they sell high quality merchandise without the overly familiar referencing to the sex of what you’re buying. I imagined an industrial strength, heavy gauge iron clamp that could be squeezed down with tremendous force on the hose (see image below for close to what I had in mind), something that could take all the force I could apply without breaking. But I dreaded the ordeal of explaining precisely what I needed (and I didn’t have the image at the time) because I wasn’t even sure it existed.
The woman running the cash register stood elevated on a platform. She looked down and asked me what I wanted, so I asked to speak with someone who could help me find a particular type of clamp. . .to go over a hose. . .to secure a repair. . .I stumbled on with a long and rambling description that she thought was totally unnecessary, as indicated when she finally held up her hand and climbed down from her perch. Turns out she wasn’t about to summon any clamp specialist, she was planning to help me herself, so she abandoned her post and took me to the hose repair section, not the section with various clamps. “These are our hose repair kits, what do you need, male or female?” she asked, without skipping a beat. I studied her face to see if she was joking with me, if maybe she had just gotten off the phone with the leather-faced man from Jimmy’s.
Evidently everybody, male and female alike, is in on the genitalia joke and no one is the least bit self-conscious. How is this any different than going into Dunkin Donuts, ordering a dozen plain donuts and asking for half male and half female? Of course nobody does that (but somebody should), but everybody does it with hose parts.
I didn’t get the clamp I had in mind after all, but I walked out with a female repair kit that had a humongous clamp with it (image below). This clamp could fasten a bazooka to a battleship. I also bought a levered shut off to attach to the caddy so I could turn the water off at the caddy for the rest of the season instead of clawing through the jungle every time.
I completed the repair and you will be very happy to know that the result is outstanding. Not a drop leaks from around the fixture (and I go out on a regular basis to check), a picture of pure elegance and strength, keeping all that pressured water exactly where it belongs.
I felt like taking a nap, but instead drank a cup of coffee and headed to the basement for a weight work out. Stubborn Love by the Lumineers boomed, “I can’t be told, ah ah it can’t be done”.
One of the outside water shut offs in the basement sits in the open ceiling just above the bench press bench. About every three minutes a drop falls from this fixture and lands right next to the bench. Each year it takes a couple of days for the leak to slow down and stop, once the water finally swells the washer inside the fixture. I should have a spotter, but it doesn’t take three minutes to complete a set so I can work between the drops.
Vacation is almost over for me. Only four more things on my list, but this little note wasn’t one of them. Happy Spring to all of you. “I can’t be told, ah ah it can’t be done”.