Whatever You Do, Don’t Faucet

Recently, the kitchen sink faucet started to drip… drip… drip. While I found the gentle, rhythmic sound of water splashing on stainless steel quite comforting, Carol found it markedly less so and commanded politely requested I fix it.

Now, I am willing to admit I’m not the handiest of guys around the house – and there are several plastered-over holes in the walls and a wobbly fan dangling from the living room ceiling attesting to that. But a leaky faucet is the first item listed in the syllabus for Home Repair 101, so I dusted the cobwebs off of my toolbox and got to work.

I know what you’re thinking: “I bet he forgot to turn off the water before removing the faucet handles!” Really – you think that little of me? No need to answer; it’s a rhetorical question.

Once I had everything disassembled and didn’t see any obvious points of failure, I considered Occam’s Razor and figured I would just clean the small bits of crud off the assorted parts before putting them back together, believing that was the most parsimonious solution. I soaked, scrubbed and rinsed each component, reassembled the structure, turned the water valves back on (which I *had* remembered to turn off, O ye of little faith!) – and immediately saw a thin but now-steady flow of water emanating from the faucet, despite both handles being in the “off” position. I’d managed to turn a minor inconvenience into a major problem; that’s my specialty.

I took it all apart again, made sure everything was snugly in place and re-assembled, turned the water supply on, spun the taps – and had now restored the original threat level of an occasional drip. While tempted to declare this a Trump-like victory, I decided to give it one more shot and so took everything apart for the third time. I believe this action qualified me as a “master” plumber since I now had the process down cold.

However, this time before reassembling I paused briefly to see if there were any online references suggesting an alternate course of action. I found a repair video for a sink that looked identical to mine, posted by another home handyman. The video displayed slick production values, as text scrolled across the screen which read, “PLEASE IGNORE HOW DIRTY MY SINK IS!” His kitchen counters looked as if they had last been scrubbed during the Bush (41) administration. Nevertheless, he chose to post this video – warts, scum and all – but actually provided the useful piece of information that the seat and spring beneath the cartridge were the likely source of the problem and should be replaced.

All well and good, but since I was home without a car I couldn’t zip to the hardware store for replacements. Therefore, I put everything back in place so we could use the sink until I had a chance to pick up the parts, turning on the sink one last time to ensure I hadn’t made the problem worse again.

The outcome here depends upon your definition of “problem” – apparently, I’d reversed the cartridges this go-round and so both handles now spun the opposite way when starting the flow of hot and cold water. “Dang it all!” is not the phrase I shouted in response to this kerfuffle. Well, since the drip was no worse, and I was going to have to take the sink apart to install the new parts anyway, I figured I’d just leave things in this alternate-universe state until then. But the error gnawed at me… and, quite frankly, I did not want to face my wife’s understandable scorn when she came from work to find that I didn’t even know how to put everything back together correctly while still having only a hunch regarding a fix for the core issue.

And so – I took the faucet apart for the fourth time, correctly oriented the cartridges, and put all back in place. By this time, the jaws of my plumber’s wrench were practically glowing red from repeated use. I turned the handles one last time to ensure they moved in the correct direction, which (and this may surprise you) they did. But when I turned off the water flow there was one more shock still in store – the faucet was no longer leaking. Disbelieving my good fortune, I must’ve turned the water on and off a dozen times; the issue did not return. It’s been 24 hours and still no evidence of the drip.

Flush with new-found confidence in my handyman skills, my plan for today is to open up our computer and see if I can figure out why the fan that cools the hard drive makes so much noise. I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong: I already backed up our files. I just need to remember where I stashed the floppy disks.

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