Monday, August 15, 2005

The Fun Side of Plumbing ... Again

If you have been reading these posts for more than a year, you may recall one that I wrote last summer. Entitled "The Fun Side of Plumbing", it described one of my attempts to teach my boys life skills. The life skill at that time was plumbing. The laboratory was a slow-draining bathtub, and my two students got to see just how fun plumbing can be.

Since that time, we have had a couple other "plumbing labs", one of them being the same bathtub drain pipe which I finally replaced because of its continuing reluctance to make the bathtub water disappear. This time, the lesson was how the force of habit can interact with home repairs. I disassembled the drain plumbing and then drove to the hardware store for parts. In the mean time, Deb told Josh to take a shower as she always does about this time of day. Halfway through the shower, Deb needed to get something from the basement and discovered it was raining in the basement. Deb ran up and yelled through the door at Josh, who quickly stoppered the drain. This reduced the downpour in the basement to a mere drizzle. When I got home, they were moving all the boys' Lego pieces from the big wet spot in the carpet and had a large bucket catching most of the water. In this case, I didn't think of leaving some sort of reminder in the bathtub because I don't usually use it at that time. Josh wasn't helping me with the drain pipe so he didn't realize it was missing. Once things were dried out we had a good laugh.

We teach these things to our boys because we want them to be able to manage a household of their own someday. Including the plumbing. These life skills include the knowledge of what they can do themselves and when they need to pay for a professional. I sometimes wonder how much of these "life experience" lessons actually stick.

This past Saturday, I found out that these lessons actually do stick. Maybe not all of them, but this one stuck enough to avert a small disaster.

Deb and I went out to run some errands on a Saturday morning, leaving the boys at home. When we arrived home about an hour and a half later, David was waiting anxiously in the driveway.

"What took you so long?" he inquired. We thought it was a little strange that he would wait like this; he usually reads in his room when all his tasks are done.

We vaguely mentioned birthday shopping as his birthday is coming up in a couple weeks. But he seemed to be preoccupied with something else so we finally asked him what was up.

"Water," he said impatiently, "we almost had a flood".

When we came in, the boys were talking through each other in an effort to explain.

They heard a hissing noise in the kitchen, and after checking that the burners on the stove were indeed off, they located the source of the hissing under the sink. By this time the water was starting to run out over the kitchen floor, although most of it was pouring into the basement. A pipe had ruptured and was soaking everything under the sink. Josh tried to stem the tide by wrapping it with duct tape (I think he has seen me fix too many things with duct tape), but discovered that even duct tape has its limitations. It will not hold up to water pressure. Seeing that our sink does not have shut-off valves, Josh had the presence of mind to run downstairs and shut off the main water valve to the house. With Old Faithful now settled back down, they mopped up all the water and cleaned up the kitchen.

By the time we arrived home they had things pretty much back to normal.

I guess you could call this a sort-of "life skills pop quiz", and I am pleased to report that my boys passed this one. This kind of test may have been unexpected but it is far more real-world than a scheduled test in a classroom. Hopefully, when my boys are on their own, they will be better equipped to handle those fun little emergencies than I was. I'm pretty handy, but it was a rude awakening when, three days into the ownership of my first house, the toilet overflowed, and, with lots of gurgling noises, continued to run and run and run...

Me and plumbing, we go WAY back.

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