Earlier this week, one of the kids dropped a bowl full of rice into the kitchen sink. Rather than clean out the rice, they did what kids do and tried to cover up the accident by washing all the rice down the drain. The next day we noticed that water in the kitchen sink was very slow to drain out. The following day the dishwasher stopped draining water.
I set to trying to correct the problem. I hate plumbing, but I hate spending money to fix things I can fix myself even more. I figure that at 32 years old, I ought to be able to handle basic home repair and maintenance. I tried to snake the drain through the sink, but found it extremely challenging to get the snake past the S trap underneath. While disassembling the S trap, in order to insert the snake directly into one of its components, one of the (super thin) pipes broke along the threaded lip. Off to the hardware store went I.
My dad has often observed that every home repair project is an opportunity to purchase a new tool. I'm beginning to understand why.
On my fourth trip to the hardware store, I felt almost obligated to purchase something expensive simply to justify my previous three trips. The sum total of my purchases was less then $30. And of course, the problem still wasn't fixed. Fumbling my way around plumber's putty, Teflon tape, and pipe fittings at the hardware store induced in me a minor sense of panic and hyper self-consciousness at my own ignorance that must be close to what others feel when they go into a computer store.
Last night dad came over to help me work on the problem some more. I did the majority of the work, squeezing into the crawlspace under our kitchen to try to snake the drain some more. We finally did dislodge the ball of water-logged, now-frozen rice that was blocking the drain. We re-assembled the segments of drain pipe that we had taken apart, and ran water for some time while carefully inspecting for any leaks.
I found it very ironic that Joey Hess pondered software debugging while fixing his plumbing problem. While squatting in my crawlspace, I compared my plumbing work to how I'd go about fixing a computer. Try something; see what happens; repeat. So it was with the snake: see how far I can get it; see if any water discharges from the other end of the pipe; repeat. Just like I'd try to figure out which component or software was causing computer problems, so too did I try to figure out just where in the pipe the blockage might be.
Plumbing itself is surprisingly simple. The work I did last night wasn't in any way complicated. It was just time consuming, dirty, and involved contortionist maneuvers from me. There is a clear, logical way in which each piece of the drain works in conjunction with the other pieces. Upon reflection, I didn't even really require my dad's help for anything I did. More than anything, it was the moral support he gave me that really made the difference. Instead of being alone and angry, I had someone to talk to; someone to encourage me. It also helped a lot for me to stay in the crawlspace the whole time, instead of having to hop back forth between it and the basement.
In conclusion, I'd like to share a bit of wisdom given to me by my former boss when I first set out looking for a house to buy: Water is the enemy of the home owner.