You DIY, dammit

Today, I cleaned out the sinks in our bathroom. Both of them were starting to empty a little slowly, and being the convenient environmentalist I am, I didn’t really want to throw a gallon of whatever toxic sticky stuff Drano has in it down the tube and into the Chattahoochee. Plus, Drano is damn expensive.

I’ve done this drain-cleaning thing before, and other than being pretty gross — you can imagine — it’s not a big deal. It’s not tackling some big home improvement project. It’s not messing with electricity, or swapping out a kitchen faucet. This is routine maintenance. I figured this was going to take me 10 minutes. Fifteen, tops …

… and 120 miserable minutes later, it was done.

Why is this stuff always such a chore? Why does no household job, ever ever ever, go as quickly as it should?

I’ll be the first to admit I’m no Joe Handyman. My brothers, when they come down to Atlanta, get a good laugh checking out my toolbox. They quiz me on things like ratchets and ball-peens and stuff. They ask me if I need help changing lightbulbs. Yeah, they’re funny guys.

But, honestly, how often do you need something other than a hammer, a screwdriver, an adjustable wrench and one of those socket sets anyway? I have about six dozen Allen wrenches in the garage, too, from various pieces of cheap furniture I’ve put together over the years. I have a stud finder.  A laser level. I have this handled.

And this job … I mean, c’mon. It’s cleaning out a drain. It takes no tools. None! You get under the sink, you release a metal clip (1) attached to that little rod behind the faucet (2). You know, the one that pulls the stopper up and down. Then you unscrew a nut on a little dealie-bop (3) that sticks into the stopper and attaches the stopper to the little rod behind the faucet.

Ah, dammit, let me draw you a picture:

Schematic of my bathroom sink.

The parts thus disassembled, a trained monkey can pull the stopper out of the drain, clean out all of the whiskers and hair and toothpaste (really, you can imagine), throw all that crap into the wastebasket, wash everything else down the drain and put it all back together.

That’s how it worked with the first sink. A charm. Next one … could not unscrew the nut on the end of that sonofabitchin’ little dealie-bop for nothing. It was supposed to be screwed on finger-tight. It was not.

(An aside here on cursing. Nothing — nothing — brings out the red-neck Delawarean in me like these stupid projects. Maybe an idiot in rush-hour traffic sparks a little anger once in a while. Maybe a brainless politician. But these DIY things, I hate ’em. I’m getting all worked up right now just thinking about them.)

Once it was clear that the second sink was going to be stupidly stubborn — I should have seen this coming — I went down to the garage to grab some WD-40, which evidently fixes everything. It did not. I grabbed a brand-new adjustable wrench. Too big, not effective.

I banged on the little nut on the end of the dealie-bop, trying to unmoor it from the drain. It laughed at me. I wrestled with leftie-loosie and righty-tighty rules about a dozen times in my brain. I trudged over to the other sink to make sure I was turning the damn thing the right way. I was. I’m pretty sure.

My fingers, as I type this, are raw from trying to turn that sassafrassin’ nut (and I wasn’t saying sassafrassin’ then).

I went down to the garage again, trying to find anything that might help. A saw? A can of paint? Some old license plates? About 9,000 screws? A trowel? Some old lightbulbs? An unopened bag of fire ant killer? Sandpaper?

I finally came up with a metal paint-can opener (it looked handy) and another, smaller adjustable wrench. I, it seems, have two adjustable wrenches, and of differing sizes, to boot. Take that, brothers.

Nothing. Not a damn thing. Not a &$!#* thing.

My back hurt. My fingers were killing me. My knees, from the tile floor, were bruised.

Suddenly, after a particularly (if I must say so myself) impressive blue streak, the heavens opened, the nut loosened and the damn thing came off. I cleared out the drain and cleaned up the sink. Put away my tools.

But why? Why was it that difficult? Why are these things always that difficult?

A few weeks ago, I felt the need to replace the ceiling light in a bedroom closet. Two weeks later, after we tired of  dangling wires, phantom smoke smells (maybe it was the WD-40) and fumbling for our clothes in the dark, I called a guy. He and his buddy finished the job in 20 minutes. Charged me 80 bucks. At that point, I’d have probably paid $800.

A couple months ago, I made the mistake of swapping out the faucet in our kitchen sink.

You ever get under a kitchen sink? I mean, way under there? You know how much room there is to maneuver under a kitchen sink, with all the pipes and the water supply lines and the garbage disposal and four bottles of Drano?

Let me tell you: Not much. It’s not a comfortable thing to do. Just getting in position is a slipped disc waiting to happen. Then, to actually free the faucet from the countertop, you have to reach up behind the sink, reach way, way up, through all the pipes, up between the back of the sink and the wall (see the photo at the top of this post) with this new tool I bought called a basin wrench and  … yeah. You have to loosen a frickin’ nut. A sassafrassin’ nut.

I knocked that job out in an afternoon. Should have taken, maybe, an hour.

I’m not a handyman. Never pretended to be. Never wanted to be. I’m not the kind to use a pencil or rule.

If I didn’t have a damn conscience, I’d call a professional to change the lightbulbs in my house. I wouldn’t blink. That’d save me a lot of time right there. And, for certain, a lot of aggravation.

Although I think a lightbulb is, what, a five-minute job?

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