The Handyman’s been real touched by the fan mail he’s received of late. I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again now … no matter how popular our little show becomes, I won’t be jumpin’ on any couches. Even though I’m in possession of some seriously mad skills, which might lead you to believe I have some kind of shop-super-powers, I can assure you, I’m not too much different than anyone else. If I didn’t think that anyone could learn how to do all my wicked cool Shop-tricks, I wouldn’t be spending the time passing them along to you. As my Great Grandmother’s used to say, “If you aren’t learning something new, you might as well be the meat burning in the stew”. A lovely (and handy) lady, but no real flair for the language. But The Handyman digresses.
A few days ago, in betwixt some Tweetin’ and Stumblin’, I figured it was pert near time to catch up on some unpaid bills. And, OH BOY, did The Handyman get a shock.
Just imagine … you log on to pay your utility bill, only to find that the dollar amount next to “water usage” was less penny-ante and more high-stakes. Not only that, but the sheer magnitude of water listed as having been used the prior month approached the volume sufficient enough to buoy a Spanish armada. That’s exactly what happened to your ol’ pal The Handyman.
Carrying the crumpled-up invoice (freshly printed from my ink-jet), The Handyman lumbered over to the meter. I don’t mind tellin’ ya … The Handyman was pert near shocked out of his knickerbockers to find that Handy House’s water usage rate had jettisoned like Ol’ Faithful.
It was obvious that The Handyman needed to accomplish two things, and fast. Immediately, I sprang into action. Fifteen minutes and two courtesy flushes later, The Handyman made his second move – to shut off the main valve at the house.
Returning to the meter and my escalating chagrin, I noted, that little hand kept a’ spinnin’ like a propeller on an idling Cessna. After a speedy calculation, I estimated my hydro-loss rate at several gallons … every single minute. Obviously, a leak in the main waterline. The gears of my handy head began to whirr (incidentally, they’re much less bindey ever since I started swabbin’ deep down in my ears with WD-40), as I pondered outloud, “How in the world am I gonna track that down?”
First, I called a leak detection service. This fellow arrives at Handy House in a trice, patches a tank of CO2 into the line, and inserts a special microphone in the ground every few feet, listening for that gaseous release. The Handyman’s fart jokes fell flat with this guy; I suppose he’s heard one too many of ‘em. The only thing he didn’t do was map the waterline. Not havin’ been through this before, The Handyman didn’t think that this was any big dealio. Wished I hadn’t been wrong about that.
After an hour of tromping around on my beautifully manicured lawn and jamming a fancy microphone-stake into my soil all willy-nilly like, at a cost of about $6 per minute, the guy takes his headphones off, points at an area a few feet away and says, “There she blows”. With an increasing sense of doom, I follow the imaginary line extending from Cap’n Ahab’s index finger over to the middle of a terrible tangle of weed trees off to the side of Handy House.
Of course. Not out in the middle of the yard, but in “The Jungle”, a neglected area that could easily serve as a backdrop for a scene out of one of the later Rambo flicks. He tells me the leak is very near to the house, but it appears to be deep. I ask how much to dig it out. He takes a catalog out of his pocket, and circles the price next to a new HP computer and shows it to me. The Handyman bids the Cap’n a good day, and heads off to The Shop for a shovel.
And that’s how my Jungle adventure began. With the theme song of The A- Team stuck in my head (sometimes there’s just no explaining the gray membrane), I step full on the shovel, forcing it into the ground. I scoop out two shovelfuls of dirt, and stop. I remove my knife and cut through a wad of roots, and stop. Two more shovelsful, stop. Slice and dice, stop. Scoop, scoop, stop, slice, stop, repeat. The Handyman continues this backbreakin’ work for several hours, until nightfall. Still no water and no pipe. I emerge from the new trench, somewhat defeated, and ready for sleepy time.
The next morning, The Handyman rolls out of bed and into the trench. Dig and cut, dig and cut, until I was about four feet down … and still no pipe and no water. And I’m thinking, I should be slogging around in mud if I’m losing three gallons every dangle minute. So, I call a friend who has some expertise in this area, and he convinces me that not only should the pipe be only two feet down, it should be at least two feet from the building. He’s pretty persuasive, and his knowledge of waterlines and building codes down here is legendary, so I was inclined to trust him.
So now, in hour 14 of this saga, I start digging away from the house. Again and again and again with the shoveling and cutting. The repepitiveness has got me on edge, wondering if you can get PTSD from shoveling. Just at the moment when The Handyman’s lost all sensation in his limbs, I spy a teensy, tinesy trickle of water at the bottom of my trench. Wiping the sweat from my eyes (okay, might’ve been a tear), I strike with the shovel and “whoosh”, the floodgates open. Within a few seconds, The Handyman is bobbing around in a small pond. I scrabbled out of the hole, rolled onto my back, and felt about for my phone. I call the water company to shut the water off so I can expose the pipe.
The cut the water, the water level recedes and The Handyman’s at it again. Except this time, I know right where I’m headed. After another couple of hours digging and cutting later, I see something. Before my eyes, gleaming like a new icicle on a sunny morning right after the winter’s first solid freeze, protrudes a one inch copper pipe. I feel up and down the exposed length, and there, on the bottom, is a pencil-tip sized hole.
Post-haste like, I fabricate a band-aid, using a piece of rubber and a pipe clamp. Now, I’ve sweated my share of copper pipe before, but I’m not going to risk a bad solder on my watermain, because I do not ever want to go to this place (physically or mentally) ever again. So I do what any handyman worth his salt does when something happens that reveals a blind spot in his or her unique edumacation – I called an expert. A plumber arrived a couple of hours later, and put a collar on it. And suddenly, everything was right as rain!
Now the only thing left to do is send this letter to the water company, along with copies of my receipts and get a credit for my ginormous water bill. That, and fill in that darnable hole.