A note on small things.
If there’s any place in the world you don’t want to find yourself yelling at the top of your lungs, it’s a bathroom.
Last week I decided I’d take a day to work from home. I’d been clunking through a project with all the grace of a drunk orangutan and thought a change of scenery might help.
I was determined not to be distracted by clutter.
I woke up early, washed every single dish, dusted the windows, took out the garbage, wiped down the stove and whipped the crumbs off my tablecloth with all the enthusiasm of NASCAR flag girl.
I had one last thing to clean: me.
As a man with an unfortunate hairline, my showers are fortunately short. Without having a mighty mane of styleable bliss to hold me back (not bitter, I swear), showering takes all of five minutes. When the grisly ordeal was over, I got to work. My keystrokes were furious and wild; my ideas roared like unending tides crashing against the shores of productivity.
And then I heard it.
Drip. Drip. Drip. Dripdripdripdripdripdripdripwshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….
Groan. I slid back my chair and lumbered to the bathroom. I pressed the shower handle down – nothing.
“Hmmf… probably just needs a reset” I thought, drawing from my infinite understanding of modern plumbing. I cranked the handle to the position for “torrential downpour”, then eased it back to zero. This time the faucet didn’t keep dripping. It poured.
At full blast.
I stared stupidly at the handle, doing the mental math. Faucet = off. Tub = on. That can’t be right. A logical improbability. A bathroom paradox: what is both on AND off AND running up your utilities bill?
oh crap… oh crap oh crap…OH CRAP OH CRAP OH CRAP OH CRAP AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRGHHHHH I CAN’T AFFORD THIS WHY WON’T YOU SHUT OFF YOU..
Now was not the time for inaction. This was my Alamo. I could fix this.
I just needed to get the handle off.
I tugged on the handle praying in vain that these things were built exactly like a twist-off beer cap. Nope. I recalled that there was a panel screwed into the wall behind the tub that housed (maybe) a shut off lever (possibly) and decided that I try to remove it (NOW).
After repeatedly dropping the screwdriver and nearly sending myself to an early grave with a tumble on my sopping wet floor, I started to unscrew the panel. The screw spun.. spun.. kept spinning. I moved on to the next one. Same thing – spinning, but no release.
With all the finesse of a master carpenter, I jammed my screwdriver into the crack between the panel and the wall, chipping the paint. Oof, that’ll cost me. I heaved. Nothing but sickening cracking noises. My heart was pounding like a mariachi band on speed. All I was succeeding at was destroying more of my bathroom.
All the while, litres of ice-cold water continued to gush from the shower head, taunting me.
Out came the iPhone. My slippery thumbs managed to fumble out “hhw to foix a berpken fsucrt”. I needed an allan key. After briefly questioning where allan keys got their name, I sloshed my way back across the hall where my wrench set lay untouched as though waiting for this very moment.
I submerged myself below the shower’s frigid waters once more. The first allan key was too small. The second was too large. It was a horrible Goldilocks story. I found the one that fit, twisted out the bolt and pulled back the handle with a firm tug.
Turning the pin, the water began to pour out of the faucet instead of the shower head. Then both. Then hot. REALLY hot. Disfigured-in-a-horrible-bathroom-accident hot. But it couldn’t be stopped, like an NFL running back playing junior high football.
I was soaking. I was angry. I had unloaded a few choice sucker-punches directly into my mattress (surprisingly firm!)
Finally, a moment of clarity.
If no water comes into the house, no water can flood my tub. With the rumbling of my personal waterfall still pouring behind me, I braved the musky furnace room, clamoured over a pile of empty paint cans and ended the madness with a few flicks of the wrist.
The relief was short-lived: the 45 minute ordeal had left me needing to use the toilet. Peeing, cooking, washing my hands (not in that order): these things would either need to be put on hold or done with the knowledge that every time I turned on my water I’d lose litres to the drain.
Warning: Analogy to follow
“I’ve never seen anything like it”, remarked my contractor, screwing the handle back into place on my repaired shower. “This little spring came off. That’s it, that’s all. A 30 second fix.”
Something smaller than my pinky finger had sent my entire world spiralling into chaos.
I think there’s a lesson here: Sometimes, all it takes to derail your grand, well-thought-out plans is a small oversight. Our security, our big ol’ lives tend to rest on a bunch of small things we take for granted.
An object lesson reminding us to appreciate (and mind) the little things – before you spring a leak.