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My experience with plumbing is limited to the practical use of it. Anything beyond faucet operations or toilet handle suppression is a mystery to me.

Plumbing is one of those skills you wish you had but don’t. Oh sure, there is the occasional broken sprinkler head or clogged drain that you can tackle, but when real plumbing is needed, when entire systems need to be repaired, when you look at a problem and recognize that it can’t be fixed with plumber’s tape, it is then that you realize the scope of your inadequacy.

Like this week when the kitchen sink suddenly began to spew water under the counter. Within minutes the kitchen floor was flooded.

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Luckily, my wife is more competent than me and she was able to stop the progressive flooding before it got to be catastrophic. But it was up to me to fix it.

A few years ago a friend of mine came to play softball with my brothers and me in Kansas, and he and I stayed at my mother’s house. She told us that one of her toilets needed to be replaced and he volunteered to do it. I believe he also expected some kind of help from me, but he might as well have asked me to design a new booster rocket for the Space Shuttle. I watched in horror and/or amazement as he and my brother (who inexplicably understands these kind of things too) dismantled the old toilet, pulled a huge wax doughnut out of the hole, then put it all together again (with a new doughnut, which I suspect was an important step). The toilet has worked perfectly for over ten years now.

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This weekend I tackled the broken sink fixture and when I was done, we had a whole new kitchen faucet.

And three new leaks.

Then the garbage disposal started running and would not shut off.

As I stared at the cascading casualties taking place in front of me, I could not help but think of the real professionals who tackle plumbing much more complex than a kitchen sink every day. They are the true experts.

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But for now I am on my own to tackle the family’s plumbing problems. I alone must fall back on whatever experience I have gained from watching the real plumbers and apply those techniques to the challenge at hand.

I’ll start with the purchase of a huge wax doughnut and go from there.


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