The Miracle of the O Ring
Ann said, ‘That’s it. We’re ripping out the entire kitchen counter. We’ll replace the backsplash tiles, the sink, everything.’ I was thinking, ‘Maybe we just call a plumber?’ The swivel kitchen faucet was dribbling, leaking. The dark and horrid cupboard storage space beneath the sink was damp. We ferreted out the cloths, sprayers and tins of household cleaners. There was unused stuff in the modest pond that good money had paid for which made me wonder, ‘Why? Why is this here, why is anything here?’ The timing was especially bad, guests were due for dinner and the idea of food prep and later dishwashing in the bathroom sink seemed lose-lose as that drain is painfully slow. We could not cancel.
I plucked a cold beer from the fridge and then went outside to sit in the backyard. I lit a cigarette. Most problems need a little time to either fix themselves or go away. When I went back inside I was disturbed to learn that the water was still finding its own wrong way. Ann said, ‘Why don’t we take it apart and have a look at it.’ I thought, ‘Why don’t we book the plumber and cancel dinner?’ I said, ‘Okay.’ I thought about things. I would have to shut off the water. I would need a tool, a wrench or something. We keep our tools in the basement; I would have to go downstairs. Perhaps I could find a wrench or something like one in the workroom.
When you take out a mortgage on a home you’ve signed up for much more than just the payments. You owe it to yourself and your neighbours to maintain the exterior and the property. You owe it to yourself and your visitors to maintain the living spaces, and the domestic machines required to make everyday living comfortable. Any home repair or improvement is by definition good. Anything and everything you can do yourself saves you money immediately and may save you aggravation, and stacks more of each down the road; the gratification which accompanies the completion of a successful D.I.Y. project may even meet or exceed whatever satisfaction you derive from your life’s paying job.
It seemed as if everything we owned was either on the kitchen floor or the counter. The cats, curious, glided around and through the mess, getting in the way. I figured out how to turn off the water to the sink – knobs, one for hot and one for cold, who knew? Using an adjustable wrench I managed to removed the faucet from its anchor. Just above the thread at its base I found a compromised black rubber Cheerio. What was supposed to be an O was now a C. I said to Ann, ‘I think we can fix this. We’ll have to go to the hardware store. We have to go out anyway,’ I said, ‘we forgot to buy wine yesterday.’
I looked at the wall clock. I looked at the clocks on the coffee maker, the stove and the microwave. Time was getting tight. Not that I was diffusing a time bomb, it was just that we both needed a nap before our friends were to arrive. Our errand should have taken less than half an hour. When we left our neighbourhood we hit heavy traffic and delays, the confluence of Edmonton’s unfrozen road maintenance window and the city’s annual Gay Pride parade. I seethed in the CRV: ‘I want a black rubber ring worth pennies; we don’t even have pennies anymore, but that’s all we want. Why don’t they take their rainbow propellers and just ram them… Do what you like just don’t do it here; they should be marching downtown along Jasper Avenue. We need an O ring. And two bottles of wine. Cigarettes too. And for fuck’s sake, why does fucking everybody need a fucking parade? Everybody’s fucking special these days. Whatever the fuck happened to ordinary people? We’ve got a plumbing problem and we’re on a fucking deadline.’ Ann said, ‘Everybody loves a parade.’ She then gently suggested that it might be a good idea if I rolled down the window, breathed deeply, lit a cigarette and reverted to being a liberal once more. Well, fuck. ‘Crabby indifference from the mainstream means you’ve pretty much achieved your goals,’ I replied; I’d like to believe that a fair majority of us have come a long way.
The miracle outcome of our infuriating excursion was that a near worthless bit of rubber that might be a tight fit over the tip of your pinkie solved our faucet crisis. We had avoided a plumber’s inflated weekend hourly rates. We had deked the necessary decisions, patience and thousands of dollars required for a kitchen reno. I felt that Ann and I were now qualified to inspect O rings on NASA space shuttles. I imagined our portraits on Chinese and Soviet propaganda posters, the pair of us in baggy, ill-fitting genderless tunics clutching wrenches against our hearts as our noble profiles peered up toward the brave new future which lay ahead. We were indeed masters of our house, and there was still time for a quick nap.