Caution to the wind

An old friend recently asked in a Facebook post the best way to free nut from a bolt in a tight spot. I’d been there and thought about offering some insight, but wanted to read in the comments if he’d found a solution already before typing up an answer on my phone, which is always a painful ordeal for me.

Low and behold, the nut he was trying to free was one of two holding down a kitchen sink faucet he was trying to replace. Remember “empathy?” I felt that because I’d literally experienced the same set of frustrating, muscle-pulling, beer-requiring circumstances about a month earlier.

In fact, the photo of the nuisance he posted looked almost identical to the one I sent my dad of my sink’s underside when trying to free the rusted nut.

YOU SHOULD KNOW now I am better at diagnosing problems around the house than I am at fixing them. I don’t even try to hide it. There is no type of home repair when this is truer for me than plumbing. Once, I noticed water around the base of the toilet. I knew – who knows how – there was a wax ring under the toilet that seals the job and if that fragile contraption gets moved even slightly, it would cause a leak. All that needs to be done to repair this is to unhook the bolts at the base of the toilet, lift the toilet off, replace the $10 wax ring and put the toilet and nuts and bolts back into place.

Easy, right?

Not for me. I took a long look at the stuff and decided to distribute two tubes of silicon seal around the toilet. Sure, it stopped the water from coming up onto the bathroom floor, but God knows what it’s doing under the floor.

BUT I KEPT HEARING my aunt’s words when I mentioned replacing my kitchen faucet: “Yeah, I think that’s pretty easy. (Her daughter) does it all of the time.”

Well, damn. If she can do it, I can too. And I was on a roll that day, under the kitchen sink. I’d successfully turned off the water and removed the first nut on one bolt. It was just that second one that seemed to be caked in rust that held like it had been welded there.

The trouble was the angle. There was the entire depth of the sink keeping out my ratchet attached to the socket trying to free the nut. I used an extension that made the task seem possible, but that sacrificed torque.

“I have a reciprocal saw. Can you get that up in there? You could just cut the bolt.”

That was my dad’s offering when I called to explain the predicament. The saw he was talking about is for cutting holes in a wall. It’s like a small chain saw. Clearly, that would be no help. Clearly, I was on my own.

I ENDED UP using nearly an entire can of PB Blaster (or whatever it’s called) over the course of two hours and three beers between attempts, escapes from the nasty under-the-sink area and trips to the bathroom to rinse the crud out of my eyes that had fallen from the rusted bolt when I tried to free the nut. I was afraid to crank too hard on the ratchet, as water valves of some kind were near my hand and I didn’t want to punch one apart once the nut came free.

It was not, though, until I became angry, had thoughts of replacing the entire sink and throwing the old one out into the yard so I could piss on the bolt that I got the job done. I decided I’d take a chance and crank with all of my might. Once I did, the nut came free, pulling several muscles in my shoulder and back and waking up the next day with a sore neck from straining so hard.

But I replaced the damn kitchen sink faucet. That’s what mattered.

CERTAIN PARALLELS TO life can be drawn from this saga. For one, how many times do we avoid solving problems even though we know how to solve them simply because we’re afraid of failing or making things worse? Furthermore, how often do we find taking a chance is the only way to reach our goals?

I need to do a better job remembering this. I know I’m not the only one who does. The safe solution to the kitchen sink would have been to pay a plumber $50 to install it, which I could have done. But where’s the manliness in that? My cousin, who isn’t a plumber, can replace a kitchen sink faucet – so should I. What kind of man pays someone to install a kitchen faucet? Would I admire my work and shine up that new faucet almost daily had I not been the one to make it happen? Not a chance.

It is only when we look a dilemma in the eye, grab onto it, squeeze and crank with all of our might en route to success that we can say we’ve done something. Enlisting another to assist with the matter is one thing – I believe asking for help is a lost art – but having him or her actually take over is something else … something entirely wrong.

Life is full of dripping faucets. The best way to handle them is through one’s own determination, persistence and perseverance.

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