Zen and the Art of Plumbing

Long before watching Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, I learned that one could fix nearly anything with a few basic tools: duct or electrical tape, wire, pliers, caulking, and WD 40. In addition, a correct Zen attitude is required.

According to Master Lee Quan Yu, the procedure in which to accomplish a task requires a fusion of subject and object, ie you must not be distinct from the other. For example in Zen mode, if I sweep the floor I am also  sweeping myself. Hammering a nail effectively means I am both the nail and hammer in the same space-time continuum. It is difficult for the western mind to wrap the head around eastern philosophical thinking.

This mode of evaluating reality was recently put to the test with a leaky bathroom sink pipe. The top end (FUBAR connector) corroded off the drain gasket thing and water flowed freely into the cupboard and out the door…

Ok I say, this is an easy fix. I take the decayed item to the local hardware store and he gives me a replacement. Only problem is that it’s too short and so I need an extension pipe. Ok, no problem. Except he said I may need to cut the pipe to make a good fit. Sure enough he was right. Thing is I didn’t have or feel like acquiring a hacksaw. So I made the system fit by bending everything more or less, except metal and hard plastic don’t really flex all that well. As a consequence I crunched the pipe at the j bend and there was this little crack now where water flowed freely. But liquid dihydrogen monoxide also flowed happily from the top drain end and the extender joint and all the slip nuts. The zen attitude had failed me and so was replaced with a few glasses of Cabernet which improved my resolve.

I fixed the drain end by figuring out which washer or gasket or whatever went where. I used a hairdryer to deal with the wet slip nut connections and slathered on caulking. Success!

Except now there was the cracked j pipe/trap to deal with. I started with caulking alone without a good outcome. So I went back to the hardware store and picked up plumbers putty. I plastered that over the caulking but water came out the top seams. At this point zen and the remainder of the Cabernet were definitely replaced by anger management needs and a decision to switch to the medical surgical model . This last-ditch effort involved reaching into my tool kit for electrical tape which I wrapped tightly several times around the caulking putty combo.

That did it. Only now water, truly the most obnoxious molecule created, dripped out of the top coupling nut near the hot water shut off valve. After extensively hair dryering the area I slathered caulking on top. Now because of the extender pipe there was a downward angle of 20 degrees where the efferent pipe went into the wall coupling nut after leaving the distal slip nut.

But I figured out or hoped that hydrostatic pressure would carry the liquid over the top. The way I determined this was through this the equation: P=y x g x d where P is pressure, y is the density of the water,g is gravity and d is the depth. I turned on the tap and voila! – no leakage and no backwash. Western science trumps eastern mysticism.

The supplies were 25$ and at a plumber rate of $80 per hour x 6 hours I saved $480 not including the three trips to the store.

I very much respect plumbers’ knowledge and skill. Their expertise — like that of other traditional trades, such as electricians or car mechanics -is very objective. They fix a leaking tap, replace that blown fuse box, diagnose that funny noise coming from your car’s engine. End result: The tap no longer leaks. The electricity is back on. The car engine runs smoothly.

Surgery is like that- when in doubt cut it out, if it bleeds tie it off. Saw off that gangrenous limb. A noble pursuit that separates patient from disease and so it is with plumbing.

And thus the final outcome shows the recovering non leaking patient…

Now the last phase will be silver paint esthetics and we are good to go. I am not sure what Lee Quan would think, but a good surgeon would have gone for the hacksaw.

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3 Responses to “Zen and the Art of Plumbing”

  1. kristina nadreau says:

    You learned the Belizean method of repairs

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