by Dan Smith
As every homeowner well knows each house is possessed of its share of idiosyncrasies. Some are very obvious like a creaking board in a staircase and others are much more subtle like a shingle that only flaps when the wind blows from a certain direction. We all have little things like that to annoy us as we seek respite with our chosen domicile. One thing that seems to be common to all homes is a problem with the plumbing.
Now, I'm not talking about the broken pipe that floods the kitchen or the toilet that overflows in the bathroom. Those disasters call for immediate qualified help. That means a plumber must come to your house. You know, the gent that causes your heart to sink when he shows up in a brand new Cadillac to give you an estimate.
Nope it's the little plumbing mysteries that affect us all. Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night and lay listening to a drip someplace in the house? You try to ignore it and go back to sleep, but it is impossible.
Louder and louder it becomes and soon you are like the fellow in Edgar Allan Poe's "Telltale Heart," who is driven mad by the beating of his own heart. You know right from the beginning you are going to have to get up and track the thing down, but you insist on struggling mightily to avoid that. After the pillow over the head move fails, you have no choice but to do a full target search of every outhouse, sink and bathtub in your home. Once you find the perpetrator you twist the handle with the power of Samson, but when you are back between the sheets it begins anew.
How about the leak under the kitchen sink? Oh come on, I know you have one. The little bucket you have placed under the elbow is a dead giveaway that you have no confidence in those little rubber seals that stand between you and disaster.
Of course, la toilette is the scourge of every homeowner. The most important appliance in any house is the receptacle that disposes of human waste. Why does that thing have to operate on such a close tolerance level? The slightest influence will put this crude implement out of whack.
Here in Central Florida, the sediment from our hard water leaves deposits that constantly interfere with the smooth action of a flushing john. When I can take it no more and decide to work on it, all I ever find is a couple tiny grains of matter that looks like sand. How can something so insignificant keep my loo from filling?
When visitors come to my house, I always have to tell them to be sure and jiggle the handle after flushing. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have to insert mechanics into someone's most personal moment?
Inside of my porcelain throne is the very high tech chain and rubber stopper contraption that is supposed to facilitate the refilling of the tank. That is the part that calls for the handle to be jiggled. So simplistic and yet somehow so complicated.
I'll bet you that when the new pope moved into the Vatican, someone had to say "your Holiness be sure to pull up on the handle of the toilet after you have done your job."
I'm guessing his old house has some of the same idiosyncrasies as ours. Maybe he will get the old chain pull model that has the tank mounted high up on the wall. Those always scared me. Anything with that much pressure has the potential to make a giant mess on the bathroom floor if the porcelain monster does not accept all that is given.
All of us, the wealthy and the not so wealthy, are at the mercy of contrary and unpredictable plumbing. Some of us have learned how to live with it. I now know the maximum number of guests I can entertain in any one day in order to keep everything within the orifice. Still, like many of you I am constantly living on the edge.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, "The World's Greatest Beach" and "I Swear the Snook Drowned." Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (386) 441-7793.