Tonight I came back from a business trip kind of beat. It was a short but intense trip so I was looking forward to having a hot cup of tea in my wonderfully warm, welcoming bed and calling it a night.
After greeting my kids and looking through mail, I made my way to the kitchen to put on the tea. I opened the faucet. Niente. Nada. Not even a drop. I went to the bathroom faucet. Same thing. I made my way to the basement to stare at nothing in particular. Since I had no idea what to look for or how to determine what was wrong with the plumbing, I just walked around, perplexed. There was nothing gushing out of the walls, which I decided to take as a good sign. Then I came back upstairs.
That familiar feeling came over me, the dread, the wishing there was someone else whose job this was, to sort it out. The sinking feeling at realizing there is no one but me.
I went on the water company’s website to see if there was some kind of local outage. Nothing. My neighbor across the street had a plumber parked blocking her driveway. Was she having trouble too? But, no, maybe not, because they’ve been doing renovations over there. I knew that a call to her would mean a whole troupe of people coming over, including possibly her no-doubt expensive plumber. I felt too drained to deal with that so I decided to hold off on investigating what was going on with her.
The water company’s website didn’t say anything about a problem in the area. I called their emergency number which resulted in a long wait listening to their badly-chopped-together hold music. Finally a chipper man named Franco came on the phone. He assured me that there was nothing reported to be wrong in the area. Unprompted, he also volunteered that not to worry, I had paid my bill, so what was most likely happening was that I was having a “frozen interruption” or something that sounded equally foreboding.
“I’m sorry, Franco. What is that?”
“Your pipe coming in from the outside is probably frozen.”
Sinking feeling again. That sounded expensive. I imagined backhoes and blowtorches. But Franco, who had bedside manner so soothing I’m sure he missed his calling as a critical care nurse, told me not to worry. “Here’s what you’re going to do. Do you know where your main water valve is?”
“Yes,” I said, feeling proud at passing Franco’s first test.
“You’re going to go to your main water valve. You’re going to follow it out to where it goes into the foundation of the house. And you’re going to apply heat there.”
“With a hair dryer.”
I wondered briefly if Franco was punking me, but I had to believe in someone, so I decided to believe in Franco. I thanked him, grabbed my Conair and headed back down to the basement, this time not feeling so aimless. I traced the pipe to the foundation, touched it, and fired up the hair dryer. I felt foolish, but I blow dried that sucker like it was getting ready for prom. I opened the basement sink faucet. No water. I blow dried some more.
And water started gushing out of the faucet!
I realize I have written a whole series of posts about my delight in discovering that I can, in fact, do things on my own. One day, maybe, I’ll write a book called Killing the Inner Damsel by Mastering the Art of Plumbing. Folks, let me tell you, for many years I was afraid I wasn’t going to make it on my own. I stayed in a marriage that totally wasn’t working because I was so afraid of how I would manage alone. But here I am, learning tricks, solving problems and blow drying my frozen pipes with the best of them.
It really is a revelation. I find handling these small crises very healing. It’s like reaching back to the little girl who worried that the electricity would get cut off, giving her a big hug and telling her, “Don’t you worry. That won’t happen on my watch. I’ve got this handled.” And I can be both now: the defenseless little girl and the woman who takes care of her.