I feel a special shade of terrible.
The number of times I’ve found myself halfway hovering over some middle-aged, white guy’s sagging jeans should earn me a slightly muddy reputation. But it’s not what it you think. All those dudes displaying the dreaded butt-crack? Plumbers, each one.
Living the NYC apartment life means at one point in your lease, you’ll have to call the Super because of some mysterious leaky foolishness. It’s never fun and always annoying, but somehow Mr. Fix-It figures out what’s what in the length of time it took for you to call him.
There’s got to be a better way, right? I mean, if there’s ever a one-phone-call moment, when you actually pull out a yellow pages or some other vestige from The Time Before Twitter to call for help, it should be for something major. A legit catastrophe like a team -- no, a gang -- of rats deciding they were done with living in the ceiling so they sent two lookouts ahead through your bedroom window. (THIS IS NOT FICTION. Scarred. SCARRED, I SAID!)
Anyway, we’re talking about plumbers and how, in so many cases, you really don't need them or their straight-outta-Central-Casting sagging jeans, even after you leave apartment life for the grown folk stylings of homeownership.
Exhibit A: Just a few weeks ago, I stepped over to our kitchen sink to wash my hands when I realized there was a small puddle right outside the sink’s cabinet doors. Not gonna lie, my first thought was, “Ugh, where’s Nate’s number?”
OK my actual first thought was, “Wet socks are the worst!” then I figured I should called Nate, our friendly plumber. I should say here, for the record books, that Nate is young and slim and has work pants that fit him fine.
As I went to root around the random paper/notes/pens/menus drawer, my visiting mother-in-law stepped into the kitchen and into the puddle. First thing she did? Opened up the cabinet to see what needed fixing or tightening by her own hand like a bawse. She went rudimentary, too, simply grabbing a nearby dishtowel as her main tool.
“It’s the leaky thing here,” she said, her entire upper body completely dipped deep beneath the sink. “Stupid leaky thing.”
Listen, who needs industry-speak when there’s a puddle on the floor?
After a few twists, it was all fixed. She was already putting our cleaning products caddy and plastic-bags bag back under the sink and mopping up the puddle before I even found the Important Numbers paper with Nate’s cell. I was so distracted and impressed by the fact that my silver-haired MIL just Martha Stewart’d me that I thought, clearly this trick needs to on my I Got This list.
About two weeks later, I had to call Nate for something else. No rats, but it involved the water pump, the yard, a burned-out motor, and buying and lugging new parts. I asked him for some basic tips on fixing the average leaking faucet. Here’s what I learned:
1. Figure out what kind of pipes you’re working with, Nate says. It will determine what kind of tools you’ll need.
2. “Plastic pipes, most common these days, contract and expand leading to leaks down the road,” Nate says. When that happens, check the compression nut on the P-trap. The P-trap is the “U”-shaped thing and the compression nut is the giant ring that slips over the ends of the pipe’s opening.
3. To tighten, just do like my handy MIL did and grab a dishtowel for traction and turn the nut to the right (remember righty tighty). Nate says you don’t want to go too tight on these; just a light pressure is fine.
4. For copper pipes, you’re still working with compression nuts and P-traps, but they are a little tougher to tighten by hand, so grab a wrench instead of the dishtowel.
5. Knowing your way around P-traps also comes in handy for the awful day a piece of preciousness slips off your ear or finger and falls down the drain. Simple fix: loosen all the compression rings, remove the P-trap and fish out your bling. Nate recommends placing a bucket or bowl under the pipes before removing anything to catch excess water runoff.
That’s it! Leak fixed! No MacGyver tactics necessary. All it took was a dishtowel, a little elbow grease and some basic confidence. And without sounding like a fortune cookie, for most things in life that’s kind of all you’ll ever need.