the one about the pipe breaking (warning colorful language ahead)
Sunday, October 08, 2006 posted by Henri
I don't even know where to begin. Breathe in. Breathe out. Ok...like all great errr I mean long-ass stories we start at the beginning. I am an immigrant. Yeah that far in the beginning. OK ok I'm an immigrant raised by immigrant parents and taught many strange immigrant ways. The most important of all immigrant ways is the following tenet: get shit done. You got to realize the immigrant mentality...you pack up a warm blanket, a bit of cash, and then leave your home for another country and say goodbye to everyone you've known and loved. Once you land in your new strange land you have no choice but to start getting shit done.
step one: Get to America
step two: Don't starve
Between step one and step two lies a lot of getting shit done. I remember being a little kid and having my first tooth start to loosen up.
"Hey Dad my toof is loose...why?"
"Hmmm it means your getting a new tooth coming in."
"Ok so what do I do?"
"Get it out"
"You'll figure it out"
Hmmm why didn't I think of that? I'll just figure it out. Or I'll just go to Mom and she'll yank it out for me...damn that sucked. From now on I'm gonna stick to trying to figure things out myself. Ok so that was the beginning. Later in life I worked as a maintenance man for my parents real estate empire and they had this really great business model.
1) Collect Rent
2) Have our son fix anything that breaks
3) With the money saved on repairs, buy skyscrapers
Crap I can fix anything damnit. You know much of the stress in life comes from having a choice. It's like that experiment with the monkey with the button and the electric shock...the monkey without the button control was like....whatever, shock me...don't shock me I'm just living my monkey life. Monkey number two they gave a button which possibly was related to the shocks received and that monkey was really freaking out about what button choices to make to try and control those damn shocks he was getting. Well I was the first monkey. I had a pager and a toolbox and when something went horribly wrong in the Kim empire I was the guy that showed up without a freaking clue and just had to figure it out and get it done. Plumbing, electrical, structural, roofing, lunatic tenants...I didn't have a choice I just showed up and started trying to figure it out. When I absolutely could not figure it out that's when we actually had to pay a professional to come fix it. And of course this would only happen once because it was up to me to observe how the professional solved the problem so that we would never have to call him again.
"Hey Henri did you learn how to do that little repair today?"
"Oh you mean the solar powered rooftop mounted swimming pool heating system?"
"No that other thing"
"Oh yeah the thermonuclear skyscraper 'Moonfollower' rotation system/earthquake deflecting device...yes I figured it all out. Oh and I can build an elevator now too!"
So basically, I don't like to call professionals in for anything. Minor Surgery? Meh I'll figure it out. Corporate tax law? Meh how hard can it be. Underground foie gras production plant...got it. Homemade TV....still working on that one. This is not to say that my figuring stuff out always works out for the best. Sometimes I'm retardedly smart.
Take convection for example. Hot air rises, cool air sinks. Simple. Ok now add a grill pan and some bloody ribeyes...delicious. Ok the Ribeyes are searing magnificently, so magnificently that the smoke alarms go off in the house. Hmmm I'll open the garage door and hold these ribeyes out there for awhile. Oh look the smoke is coming into the house from the garage, I'm a smart guy, I recognize the convection effect here. Cold air circulates into the house while hot air circulated into the garage higher up. Soooo if I want the smoke to flow into the garage instead of into the house all I have to do is hold this pan higher. Wow it's working. Hey wait a second...hmmm it seems in my calculation I forgot to include something called gravity and something called hot oil is called hot for a good goddamned reason. Yay now I get to figure out the treatment for third degree burns. Somehow my wife still married me after that display of retarded intelligence. So she knew what she was getting into.
Ok so let's go forward to a point in time three weeks ago. I'm walking into my house and I hear a little sound. Hmm sounds like water flowing through a pipe. I check the main inlet valve into the house and its wide open. I check this mysterious irrigation valve that we have never figured out why it exists considering the fact that we do not have a sprinkler system. Hmm that is shut down tight. So why do I hear the sound of water flowing? I poke around a little bit and notice that there seems to be tiny bit of water seeping out from under the concrete pad on our entryway. Oh shit.
You know that scene in those movies like Fight Club or Sixth Sense where they reveal the secret and they have this flashback to all the clues in the movie that hint at the solution. So I saw that in my mind. I saw....
A few cracks in the concrete
A loose tile on our entryway
A dampness in the backyard grass where our French drain ends
A separation in our rain gutter where it meets the ground of two inches
And an irrigation valve on a house that has no irrigation system.
And in my mind I saw this highly specialized CG montage where we follow the water from the street to the front of the house and then end up under the cement where we CG upwards through all the cement and end up staring at the face of some little Korean guy in a suit and tie with third degree burn scars on his right hand wearing a really disgusted and shocked expression on his strangely charming moon face and he whispers, "The Pipe."
The next day is Sunday. And the man has a plan.
Ok here's how I figure it out.
1) Break up concrete pad
2) Fix the pipe
Man that is one elegant plan. Beautiful. Simple. Effective. My wife at this point has been brought up to speed on the situation and she knows me well but bless her heart, she smiles and says good luck anyways as I go to Home Depot.
I come back with:
Concrete Hammer Bit
Assorted pipe fittings
OK lets get to step 1: Break concrete.
Easy, drill a few release holes into the concrete grab that sledgehammer and go at it. Use the splitter for any chiseling around these pipes which reside under 6 inches of concrete.
No f#cking way. I got crazy concrete here...like its got kryptonite in it or something. I need a jackhammer....
Hey how'd it get dark so fast? And how come I'm not working on the pipes yet? Did I mention I'm real smart? My MBA background tells me that I just spent $700 in combined real/opportunity cost in this project. But that's ok because it's a sunk cost. HAhaha so better keep working.
OK. I've learned that busting up concrete takes me a really long-ass time. Oh well time to give up and just use Craigslist.
"Hi I found you on Craigslist can you give me an estimate to break up a concrete slab"
"Oh like 5 feet by 10 feet about 6 inches thick and there's like Kryptonite embedded in it"
"Mmmm ok for you my friend $50 with disposal included"
Begin crying. Ok so it was a lot more than $50 but still so cheap I can't even type the number. Now at this point I realize that all I have to do is call a plumber to come in to fix the pipe once the concrete is removed. I know this will only cost me like $75-$150 bucks more...but I also know that refitting copper pipe is one of the easiest things a man can do and I would be insane to hire a man to come out and do my job as provider for my family. I mean the not finishing the concrete was bad enough, no way I'm going to hire a guy to spend 10 minutes fixing a pipe and then charge me $75. No way.
Next day. Concrete is done, I see the break in the pipe. Turn off the main. Temporarily join connection with silicone/rubber housing and a few metal straps and about 4 zip ties. Turn water on wait for my next day off so that I can sweat the pipes in daylight.
Next Sunday. Ok bust out the hacksaw saw some stuff here and there. Clean and dry fit my fittings. Everything looks good. Flux it up and light the torch. Solder all my fittings. Wait an hour for everything to cool. Turn on the main and...what the flux? Big leak. Impossible. Ok heat my fitting up again to pull everything apart. Crap I pinch a fitting and screw everything up. OK there goes another Sunday. Temporarily fix the leak with my rubber/zip tie concoction.
Ok I know I should simply call a plumber, problem fixed in a few minutes but then I realize how damn easy it is to sweat pipes (I can hear the laugh track now). Somehow, magically, my fittings leaked. I revert to my usual defense when anything goes wrong: gremlins. I used it in grad school all the time.
"Henri give me one reason why the results from your experiment do not follow...."
"...you didn't just shout gremlins did you?"
"Can I have my degree now?"
To call in a plumber is to admit needing help (again) and if you've ever heard this obscure tale about men and asking directions...
There is no way in high-holy-hell I will ever call a plumber no matter how convenient it is period. Ok Ok I will outsource all my concrete demolition from now on...but that's it!
Basically the smart and simple thing to do is to call a plumber. Just because you pay to have your car washed doesn't mean you don't know how to wash a car. Just because you buy meat at the store doesn't mean you can't kill a Bison. You're paying for convenience and after having a kid, believe me I'm all about convenience. So why can't I just call a plumber?
So I wait until my next day off before trying again. I buy cheater/I'm-a-dumbass EZ fittings which come preloaded with solder. I grab a hacksaw and I cut everything out that I don't need. The whole time I'm thinking of how inconvenienced my wife and kid have been by my insistence on fixing this stupid thing myself, but at this point it has become personal. Me vs. Pipe. That damn rotted piece of crap pipe that some idiot decided to embed in concrete....concrete which shifted as the years went by eventually causing this leak that went unnoticed for who knows how long. I chop everything up, flux and fit, fire up the torch, and solder everything redundantly even though I'm using preloaded fittings. Big-ass ugly overkill soldered fittings. I wait an hour and then turn on the water...
No leak. Three Sundays interrupted by this damn pipe. I am a very very happy Dad. So I go inside and there is my wife smiling at me like she smiles at the kid when he correctly identifies his nose. It is a beautiful supportive smile. And now I have finally reached the beginning of my story.
The Secret of Husband Happiness: The only reason I am here on this crazy planet is to impress my wife. No really, it's the secret to happiness. The moment a husband or father feels that he can not impress his wife or be looked up to by his kids is the saddest day in that man's life. And it is really hard for a wife to act impressed by the antics of a semi-retarded husband. It's hard to act impressed after you've watched your husband insist on fixing a pipe that a plumber could have repaired in 2 hours instead of three Sundays. It's hard wishing your husband would just let it go when you know a far better solution to the problem. But nobility lies in supporting his futile efforts and realizing that it is important to him to feel as if he is accomplishing something great for his wife and his family. Let him kill the spider, let him open the jar every now and then, let him re-roof the house, let him build a really ugly homemade TV, let him pick really bad flowers for you, laugh at his dumb joke every now and then...I mean there are limits of course, and I'm not talking about all the time, I mean c'mon you gotta tell him to shaddup a lot but I'm talking every now and then... pick your moments and let him try to impress you.
I know I was pretty stupid to take so long to fix the pipe. And when I saw my wife smiling I knew that she knew that I was pretty stupid for taking so long to fix the damn pipe, but there she was smiling anyway. And her smile to me is so f#cking unbelievably beautiful.
Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and believe in one another.
(Cue Pipe Breaking Again Now)