The recent cold weather has done bad things to us this year. It had me outside with a AAA mechanic replacing a battery. It flattened Nita’s tire. Twice.
To make matters worse, the roads in Cincinnati have absolutely sucked this winter. Normally, we get a storm warning, salt the living bejesus out of the main roads, and just wait a day. Most of the winter, we have dry or somewhat wet pavement, and that’s it. Snow means one or two PTO days. Oh, not this winter. This winter is like those I grew up with in Cleveland. Wait a minute! I left Cleveland in 1990. I’m done with Great Lakes winters. This is not fair! Damn you, Kyoto Protocol! Damn you!
To make matters worse, I got stuck at home when the cold took out a sensor in my engine. That got fixed, only the next morning…
I’m half way to work when my phone buzzes. “Hello?”
“Honey, the entire basement floor is wet.”
Um… My tower PC is down there. My Mac is down there. My STUFF is down there. “So, do you need me to…”
“I called the plumber.”
I could feel the cash draining from our bank accounts immediately. Now, Nita lived on her own for four years before she met me. And she’s lived at Chateau Nita for about twenty years. So, even when she was previously married, this postwar cottage has schooled her on DIY home improvement. Unfortunately, she married me, a man who lived almost all his adult life in apartments. How did home improvement work for me? “Hey, Alan? (My last landlord.) The kitchen sink’s backed up, and the toilet’s acting funny. Can you call a plumber?” Go shower at the company gym, then come home. Problem solved.
When I bought the condo, the former Rancho Winter, I had to do very little to it other than replace the central air. But we moved back to Nita’s place after two months in the wilds of Eastgate, Ohio. There were some things I could do if I thought about it. I could paint. I could jerry-rig extension cords without risking a fire. I could caulk the bathtub. Plumbing and real electrical work? I did the deck light on the condo, and that was about as far as I was willing to go.
So we called a plumber. Then, as he fixed the leaky valve (ironically one I’d planned to take a day off to have him fix, and last week to boot), he did a quick check on the water heater. “Hear that?” he told my wife as he knocked on it with a wrench. “That’s supposed to sound hollow.”
Yikes! I knew enough about the systems to know we were not being bullshitted. I wish I could say that about auto mechanics. One national chain took me for $600 for a $200 job my current mechanic did in half the time. And they did not use lube when they bent me over that barrel.
His suggestion: “Buy your own overflow tank. Then it’s just a service call.”
Sure enough, it was a $40 part as opposed to the $60 one his boss sent out with him. (Mind you, if I’d have gotten the wrong part, I’d gladly pay the $60 for the other one.) After he installed it, he said, “And let me show you something so you don’t have to take a day off and pay me for another service call.”
I learned how to blow out the lines. I also learned how to replace that tank if it goes bad again. He said, “I’d rather you know how to do the easy stuff and save some money. Then you’ll call me when you really need me, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money cleaning up a flooded basement.”
Nita and I talked. We still have some plumbing problems to be fixed. But it will be cheaper for me to take a class at Lowe’s, then replace a couple of ancient water faucets myself than to pay for two more visits on top of the new faucets.
Until then, I’m sticking to painting and anything with hammer and nails.
Anything that goes wrong with those can be fixed. With bandaids and ice.