Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter Chill

Because the last thing you want to hear your wife say when the pipes freeze and you're covered in sweat and anger from tearing out the wall is, 'I told you so.'

But I couldn't help myself.

At the beginning of this arctic winter, when the threat of the first subzero temperature in Cincinnati was upon us, I told Ray we should let the faucets drip. This was before unfreezing pipes became a weekly past-time.

He dismissed the suggestion and we went back to talking about the winters of our youth, when we had to walk to school uphill both ways through 10 feet of snow and they never cancelled school not even once, ever.

The next afternoon, when the temperature really did hit the negatives, I received a text that said: 'The pipes are frozen. I had to tear a few walls out to get at them. Don't freak out when you get home.'

Don't freak out when I get home?

No worries there. I was already freaking out. Tear the walls out?!

I drove home bundled up in my parka with my snow hat pulled all the way down to my eyebrows and a scarf wound around my neck and face. The only thing exposed were my eyes, which were trained on the road, glowering.

He never listens to me. Just because I'm not the “chief engineer of our house” - I thought mockingly - doesn't mean I don't have good ideas. We turned the faucets on all the time in Indiana, I'm a pro at winter. He doesn’t even KNOW who I am. 

I was so mad I was happy he was working that night at the firehouse so I could call a plumber in peace and get this straightened out myself.

So I was surprised when I pulled into the driveway and saw his truck.

Oh, GOOD. Now I can tell him what I REALLY think.

I came into the kitchen to find part of the wall exposed and a fan swirling heat around the pipes. I could hear swearing upstairs. Loud swearing.

Sonuvabitch… I swear to God, you no good…

I found Ray lying under the pedestal sink in the bathroom with a cat sized hole cut into the wall. Calmly, but in my best aggravated tone, I gave Ray a piece of my mind.

I don't appreciate you dismissing my suggestion to let the water run. Just because you do all the work around here doesn't mean that I don't add value. Of COURSE they were going to freeze, it's negative one degree outside! I TOLD you this would happen.

Ray, sweaty and desperately trying to unfreeze the pipes says, 'You're right. We should have let the faucets run. I'm sorry.'

It was like that scene in American Hustle when Jennifer Lawrence's character nearly gets her husband killed by mafia henchmen.

He tells her: ‘They put a bag over my head and pushed a gun into my temple! But as this happened I came up with an idea to get out of this.'

She replies: ‘Good. I knew they'd knock some sense into you.”

Him: ‘They were going to kill me!’

Her: ‘Without me almost getting you killed you wouldn't have had your great idea, so you're welcome. Thank God for me.'

Defeated and emotionally exhausted he says, 'Thank you. Thank you for giving me the idea.' He doesn’t even bring it up again that she nearly got him killed.

I looked at Ray under the sink and threw my hands up like, ‘I’m no engineer but I know pipes freeze! Thank God for me!’

Never mind that time I cost us $500 last winter by flushing baby wipes down the toilet.

We had to have a plumber come and snake it with this gigantic scary tool, on a Saturday, five hours before we were having a party and 40 people were coming over.

Surprise, party people! The toilet’s clogged up!

But in my defense, I was the one, not the plumber, who noticed that the wet wipes on the back of the toilet, the ones I’d been flushing for weeks, weren't flushable.

Now, why on earth would they even make wet wipes that aren't flushable? I swear they are in cohoots with Roto-Rooter. But anyway, I just quit using those wet wipes after the plumber snaked it and voila! -  problem solved.

The difference here is that we knew it was going to be freezing and I didn't know the wipes weren't flushable.

Anyway, as Ray continued his unfreezing efforts in the bathroom I huffed off to the attic to get the space heater.

These pipes won't be frozen for long, I thought. Imma about to blast this joint with some equator style heat right here. Stand back and watch how it gets done!

We called a plumber, just in case, who said he'd be over in an hour and a half. The cost was whatever it took to unthaw the pipes plus another $200 for the after hours service call.

Two hundred dollars before the problem was even solved? $200?! The race to unthaw the pipes before the plumber arrived was on.

I pointed the space heater into the hole in the bathroom wall while Ray started cooking the kitchen and basement pipes with a hair dryer.

I joked that what we really needed to speed this process up was an open flame.

'Where is our blow torch,’ I wanted to know. ‘I could have this fix in seconds.'

I was informed we do not have a blow torch, which I find unacceptable. (Christmas idea!)

As hot air was blowing on the insides of our house, I started making dinner (cheese tortellini with bread and olive oil). It didn't seem that anything was working, so we might as well have full bellies when we wrote the gigantic check for the plumber.

And then, something thawed. I heard Ray yell from the second floor, 'I think we got it!' I shoved the last bit of bread into my mouth and headed for the stairs. We met in the kitchen and double high-fived.

One-and-a-half hours later, we had hot water again.

Ray rushed to call the plumber back.

‘Yes, we are sure. Positive. Yes, that is close, but thanks anyway.’

The plumber was only a half-mile away.

Before Ray left for the firehouse we marveled at the exposed walls in the kitchen - we could see the horse hair that was holding the plaster together. (That’s how they rolled in 1906.) And we saw that our kitchen had previously been covered in paisley wallpaper and had at other points been painted green and possibly… is that orange?

In our elation of thawing the pipes and saving ourselves a small fortune, we bonded over these formerly hidden secrets of the house. I apologized for saying ‘I told you so’ and he apologized for having to tear up the joint.

All of this is to say: Let your facets drip when the temperature dips below freezing; go see American Hustle; and make sure your wet wipes are flushable.