I know a lot more about plumbing than I used to. Electricity, which can kill you quicker, somehow seemed easier to grasp in terms of home maintenance than pipes. Because you can get wet with plumbing, and nobody likes that.
I know more because I’ve had a problem, and because I’m working with a plumber who’s friendly and casually tosses out information that he knows I don’t know, but not in a way to make me feel inferior for not knowing. Do you know? Maybe you don’t. I didn’t and I do, now.
And I know, partly, because I’ve done the reading. You can find out a lot online, and particularly by reading the stories of people who, like me, didn’t know. At first.
So, on the good chance that someone will search for this particular problem and find me, even though I do absolutely no SEO with this site, here’s a very brief explanation and update.
In the picture above, the A is my house. The red squiggly line is a rough approximation of my main water line. The blue line represents the fence that surrounds my neighbor’s yard, in front of me. The red X is where, a while ago, I noticed some soggy sod.
Right off, this might be different from your situation, since instead of 25-50 feet, my water main runs a good 200-250 feet from my house. This will be important later on, to me.
This, incidentally, seems to be a fairly recent satellite photo, since once we discovered the wet spot I took to parking my white van in that area of the yard, to discourage visitors from parking there and sinking into
Argentina the Indian Ocean.
So I started digging, in fits and starts, hoping that the leak I was experiencing was on my side of the fence. It wasn’t, as it turned out, and in fact my neighbor was bearing the brunt of all that water. I just had a little puddle; he had a very soggy backyard.
Yesterday, then, another neighbor and I took down some of the fence and kept digging. Sure enough, we found the water pipe. And we found it in a very common way, by which I mean my neighbor struck it with a shovel and got the usual reaction from the pipe.
As I said, you can get wet.
So now there are TWO leaks.
This would actually be minor, except that in the world of pipe material, up here there are two pretty standard kinds. One is a black PVC. The other is referred to as “the blue crap.” The blue crap is very flexible. Also, it breaks. A lot. There was a class action suit in the mid-1980s. Lawyers got rich. Et cetera.
The blue crap is almost impossible to fix, since once it starts to crack it keeps cracking. There are temporary measures, but they won’t last. The whole line will have to be replaced sooner than later. It will be expensive.
That’s where we are. The original leak, actually, hasn’t been uncovered yet, but I know pretty much where it is and I’ll finish that excavation today. There are other utilities down there and it’s tricky. In the meantime, I’m running a hose from my neighbor’s bib to mine, borrowing water temporarily to flush toilets and wash mud off my body.
Lessons learned? Shovels can be dangerous. Plumbing is messy. And fences do not make good neighbors, don’t believe it.
Keeping with the birthday theme, now.
2003 – The Boys of Summer
I turn 45 this week, and I’ve learned something recently. At 45, you can’t really fool yourself into pretending you’re still somewhere around 30, because you’re not. At 45, it turns out you’re exactly midway between 40 and another place that I’m not going to talk about.
I learned this because last weekend, my friend Dave and I spent the first 10 minutes of our annual road trip talking about our teeth.
Even a year ago, I couldn’t have imagined spending even five minutes on dental issues, but we were just getting warmed up when we mutually agreed to stop because it was freaking us out. Talk about lower back pain and bladder problems seemed just around the corner, and we wanted to play loud music and laugh and party like we were young, and maybe take a nap in the afternoon.
Although we did have a brief conversation about vasectomies. That’s OK, because after a few minutes of that you really want to talk about something else, anyway.
Dave is three months younger and about an inch taller, just as he was when we met 30 years ago in the hallway at our high school and I made fun of his hat.
It actually was probably a very “cool” hat, or “hip” or maybe “the cat’s pajamas” (I can’t remember how we talked in high school, so I get confused. We said “far out” a lot as I recall). It was black with a wide brim, though, so I took to calling him “Zorro” and he didn’t seem to mind as long as he sensed, you know, some respect for the hat.
Sarcasm seems a strange way to start a relationship, but 30 is a long time in friend years so there must have been something. If you were to graph our separate tastes and interests, the lines would intersect only briefly. He’d no more go to church or a baseball game than I’d spend 8 hours watching European spy films, but we share a common history. We remember old girlfriends, apartments and jobs, weddings and promotions and one particular night that we rarely talk about because neither of us can really remember it, but I think we were 19 and it involved a case of beer.
We didn’t pass through Portland this year but stayed there, meeting Bill and all three of us getting rooms with balconies on the banks of the Columbia River. We’ve done this for years, getting away for a summer weekend with old friends, but this one was the best, for various, circumstantial reasons. Things just went our way.
We had our usual close encounters with waitresses. Every year, there are waitresses who flirt, joke, or insult us, and sometimes all three. We got a trifecta this year, and it just felt right.
We are a motley band of brothers but we’re a band, and we walked through the market and downtown, to the waterfront and back, finding a good parking spot and a great Irish pub, accidentally running into a parade with bagpipes and discovering a place to stay next year, when we’ll do it all over again.
My brother says he looks forward to these trips to remember how to laugh, and that’s a good enough reason for me. I laughed all weekend, mostly at how fortunate we were to be there, to be having fun, and to find what we were looking for, even if we were a little unsure of what it was until we found it. We should have bought lottery tickets; it was our weekend.
I’ve written about these trips with the boys before, and more than one guy I know has expressed, sort of wistfully, that he’d like to come along, even knowing the dynamics wouldn’t be the same. I guess it does seem a little strange, middle-aged men heading out of town with no real destination, no salmon fishing or off-road racing or kayaking to do.
We just pass the time with familiar faces, as time passes us, and we comment on that and other facts of life, but mostly we just remember how to laugh.
Dave got a new hat on this trip, as did Bill. I got new shorts and some socks. We all got sunburns. We went to bed before midnight and brushed after every meal.
One minute after we headed for home we were back in Washington, which made me laugh again. We wanted to go someplace else, but as soon as we got there we stopped. That was far enough. The whole trip, in fact, was far out, which was something we used to say a long time ago, when we were really boys, when friendships were forged, and when the last thing on our minds was teeth.