In another thread, the lovely and talented Darcy mentioned that her husband was the eternal pessimist as if that were a bad thing, but he's got nothin' on me, and there's something you should understand about us – it doesn't mean we stop trying. I've found it's best to expect the worst so you know what you're really up against. Then, if the worst doesn't happen, things are way better than expected, and if the worst does happen, my attitude may suck, but at least it was expected.
Naturally, I have an example that drives it home. About three weeks ago, my wife said the faucet in the guest bath was leaking. I did what every real man does, I uttered a few swear words and checked it out. Being pessimistic, I expected something significant, but this drip was barely a drop a minute, well within any guy's tolerance range, so I did the plumber's equivalent of "take two aspirin and don't call me again" – I'd turn off each valve under the sink, see whether it was the hot or cold that was dripping – then I would leave the offending valve off until we had guests – or died, likely the same length of time.
But those valves under the sink are fifteen years old, and my pessimism had risen above rock bottom, so that's a dangerous combination. I expected they would be difficult to turn, but I didn't expect the first one would break off in my hand. Water didn't leak, but now I'll have to turn the water off to the house to replace a bathroom faucet – and a valve (God, I hate plumbing).
Next, I reported my findings to my wife:
Me: "You know what this means? It means this faucet will never, ever, never, never, ever, never ever be repaired."
What was more annoying is that she could live with that and I can't!
See, despite my bluster, pessimism has demonstrated that waiting makes things worse, and waiting longer makes things worse², So you see, pessimism isn't just a concept anymore, it translates to real dollars!
Anyway, on New Year's Day of all days…
Wife: "You don't want to hear this, but my faucet in the master bath is leaking."
Naturally, I asked the most important question first:
Me: "How bad, goddamnit?"
Wife: "Just a slight amount."
Great, when THAT shutoff valve breaks off in my hand, immediate action was STILL unnecessary…
But the pressure cooker was hissing…
And that's what happened. Now I have two handles in search of valves they can be screwed to, and I have two sinks with valves without handles. I decided to check the other valves now, so I can replace broken ones all at once and make a fun day of it… That includes the two other valves on the aforementioned sinks, the other master sink, and those in the third full bath (hey, I need something to brag about because it's about to get a lot worse).
By now though, I'm expecting the worst, so I'm ready… so I thought.
I got WD-40, and sprayed each valve, and by spraying and jockeying each valve back and forth, I was able to turn off every one, except…
Every valve leaked in the middle as I turned, but in the fully closed and opened positions, nothing dripped. I call that success, so I set a sticky computer reminder to check them again in fifteen years. Although I'm pessimistic about getting the message – Microsoft won't let that happen.
And my immediate schedule is to make the rounds every eight hours to make sure things stay dry. I chose the eight hour mark so that I can check just before bed and just when I awake – when I'm minimally clothed so if I get soaked, I won't yell as much – I'll be too busy freezing.
Sadly, I didn't come up with this idea on my own. It came to me because I wasn't pessimistic enough, and I mean "came" literally.
I attempted to free the last two valves at 5am today, and I expected some leaking. What I didn't expect was a scene from a Three Stooges short with me as Curly.
I had removed each handle, so I could spray the lubricant directly on the post itself. That would facilitate the dispersion of lubricant (you'll never hear Curly say that, will you?). Then I placed the handle on without the screw as I turned because I might need more "40," and it would be a HUGE guy nuisance to screw the screw in and out each time. You can see right there how I wasn't being nearly pessimistic enough, can't you?
I got one valve under my sink halfway closed, and it leaked as expected, so I sped up my turning – and it started leaking more – enough that water pressure blew the handle out of my hand, and the water shot right into my face. That caused me to make sounds like Curly.. although they were not sounds Curly would make – at least not on film.
If you think of yourselves as spectators looking from the side – I'm the guy sitting in a semi-lotus position, staring into his vanity, and the line you see coming out of the vanity hitting me at nose level is not a laser, it's water.
What was even more frustrating was that, unlike Curly, I had to make quiet noise because Curly would only have Moe and Larry asleep in the next room, not his wife.
So there I was – 5am and water careening off my mug in every direction as I frantically tried to get the handle back on. And after I got the water shut off, I discovered something amazing – if you're wearing tight-knit pants, water can actually puddle in your lap.
It wasn't a big puddle, and I was thankful that it did puddle rather than drain through, if you see what I mean. I began sponging my lap and squeezing it out in the sink. When I finally stood up and looked in the mirror, I was reminded of the scene in Friends where Joey soaked a guy's pants at Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve Party to keep him from dancing with Elle McPhearson. What the Elle was I thinking?
It's 5am, pitch dark, and I'm soaked from the chest to the… well, you've been there, I'm sure. Oh, but I didn't mention that I hadn't just gotten up as you may have been thinking, I was doing this before going to bed… and you know what they say about being overly stimulated before trying to sleep?
Now you might ask, what sort of idiot starts a plumbing job at five in the morning when he's dead tired? Well in my defense, it wasn't intended to be a plumbing job, remember? All I was doing was shutting off valves. But this is where pessimism comes in – I wasn't nearly pessimistic enough when I started. If I were, I wouldn't have begun until I woke up – when stores are open, and plumbers can be reached without paying triple-time.
While putting on dry clothes, I began to reminisce about plumbing disasters past, like the time I punctured the main water line while trying to plant a plant – around 5 in the evening – on a Sunday, and the puncture occurred -behind- the main shutoff valve – in short, it was where it couldn't be shut off – ever… at least that's what went through my mind. To be honest, I can't remember who came out since I was in no condition to do the calling around, I was mesmerized by the geyser. But someone managed to get Old Faithful stopped before it got dark.
And what building department allows plastic for the main water line, you ask? Answer: Duarte, California, for one.
Then there was the time around dusk in December – 5pm when I went to shut off the water in Glendora (are you noticing any pattern?) This time, there was no puncture. The valve was thirty years old and it was working just fine – as long as you didn't need to use it. That's my trouble – I'm a user. I turned, it broke, water shot out, and I, as usual, lost my mind. But luckily, a plumber fixed it for eighty bucks plus parts. If that seems cheap, I should mention that this was twenty-five years ago. He used the biggest "easy out" I'd ever seen. I don't think they're even available to amateur plumbers without prescription.
Notice I said "amateur plumbers" as opposed to "weekend plumbers?" If you're a weekend plumber, all I can say is, "Then weep over your own bank balance." I found that out the hard way – when I used to be optimistic.
So now I hope you see the value of pessimism? It's indispensable, really. And pessimists are more colorful. I'm not just talking about language, optimists take everything in stride. Pessimists react, and real pessimists react vividly. It's the stuff great comedies and tragedies are made of, so we're well-rounded.
Anyway, it's another lesson learned, and the lesson is: teach the wife about plumbing. She cleans, she gardens, she does the shopping, she does the errands, you see what I'm saying… why can't she learn plumbing? I mean, she doesn't have to do the work on the "high fives" like I do, she can do it at her leisure?!?
Although I must say, I'm very pessimistic about this… which is why I'm looking for replacement valves. Do you know they cost seven dollars apiece now? If only I'd invested in valves ten years ago instead of stocks…