Fixing plumbing is a pipe dream

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m probably the handiest guy currently in my living room (sorry wife, sister-in-law, baby and cat!). Wait, Mike Rowe just came on the TV trying to sell me a Ford. OK, so now I’m the second handiest guy in my living room. Get outta here, Mike. You’re making me look bad.

Frequent readers of this column know just how much of an expert I am with most things, home-repair included. Although I do struggle at times because for 30 years I’ve lived with disability of not knowing what I’m doing. Most would agree that I’m pretty brave for attempting to fix things. I think I need some kind of “Live Strong” bracelet.

So when my wife approached me one day thinking we had a leaking pipe, I sprung into action.

“I hardly think that’s the case,” I replied.

“Why not?” she asked, annoyed.

“Homeowner’s intuition,” I said, expertly. “If you ignore it, it goes away. Acknowledging the problem just gives it power over you.”

Her look prompted me to investigate. After looking at it from every conceivable angle, I deduced the problem: the pipe was leaking. I immediately did the only thing I knew how to do. Sigh dramatically. The next step is always venturing to the garage to get my toolbox, making a good bit of noise so my wife swoons over how hard I work. I then went back into the basement, because that’s apparently where I keep the toolbox.

I expertly removed the flashlight and pointed it directly at the leaking pipe. I mean, I shined it RIGHT on it. Inconceivably, that didn’t stop the leak. Undeterred, I proceeded to my other technique: verbal motivation.

“Pipe! Stop your leaking, pipe! Quit with the dripping! And wetness! You suck!”

No discernable effect. Clearly this was one of those unfixable problems and we’d have to move.

“Can you fix it?” my wife asked, with a hopeful look in her eyes that reflected the thought that she still married a guy that could fix things.

“I did what I could,” I replied, gently. “The only thing we can do now is pray and make it comfortable. Or, in lieu of that, make me comfortable. So I’ll be on the couch, uh, planning and stuff.”

Consequently, I did what any responsible guy would do: I forgot about the problem for six weeks, then ignored it for another two. Unfortunately the pipe soon became angry it was being ignored and conspired with an appliance to create Team Disaster.

The dishwasher, tired of functioning properly, had decided to rebel. At random intervals during the cycle the machine would begin to shake the house as if being attacked by Romulans. While annoying, I grew to tolerate it. However, my wife did not appreciate me breaking into my Captain Kirk impression every time the house shook.

Me: “Shields up! Readyphoton torpedoes. Prepare to return fire!”

Wife: “Honestly? Again?”

Me: “I don’t have time for insubordination! Lieutenant! Take this one to the brig.”

Wife: “I’m not going anywhere and stop calling the cat, ‘Lieutenant.'”

My cost-effective solution was to simply have my wife manually wash everything. Problem solved. However the conversation that resulted indicated this particular solution would be no less noisy.

Swallowing my pride, I dialed a plumber. I didn’t catch his name because I didn’t ask, so I called him Bubba because he was larger and very Bubba-ish. Initially when I started the dishwasher, it did what all appliances and vehicles do when you’re trying to fix them, meaning function perfectly. They do this just to be jerks, because they KNOW that the repair guy will give you the “You’re clearly imagining everything” look. After staring at a dishwasher for 10 minutes with a strange man, the house began shaking as if possessed. Staring at the dishwasher, hand on his stubbly beard, Bubba came to an expert conclusion.

“That is so weird,” he said.

Clearly, I hired the right guy.

I always feel special when something breaks that a dude hasn’t seen in 25+ years in the industry. I feel entitled to a prize of some kind. Most manly men know exactly how to fix anything. I felt strangely proud to learn that he had no idea either. You know, until I realized I was paying this guy by the hour.

Genius Bubba’s first idea was to cover the rattling pipe with some insulation the same thickness as a soft shell taco, which was akin to trying to quiet a shuttle launch with roll of kittens.

After that had no discernable effect, I suggested the problem could be water pressure. Bubba turned a knob on under the kitchen sink (there are knobs under there?). Just then it dawned on me that I was paying a guy to turn a knob. Might as well see if we have any stuck mayonnaise jars that need opening as I rifle through my purse for some feminine hygiene products.

Of course this solved the problem. I’m glad I could tell an expert plumber how to fix something. Maybe he’d end up paying ME after it was all said and done.

Next it was on to the pipe repair. Bubba surveyed the situation.

“What is this, a sock duct taped around the pipe?” he asked, far too judgmentally.

“You’ll find I’m somewhat of an expert when it comes to plumbing,” I agreed.

This Classic Kelly column originally published in April 2011. Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative writer for Briscoe14 Communications ( He can be reached at or via cake icing message.