Plumb loco

Posted on Posted in Film, Life, Science


I really struggle deciding which I hate more — plumbing problems or electrical problems. Sure, the odds are better that you won't die in a fiery spark while fixing a pipe. But there's much less likelihood of getting yourself covered with shit in the fuse box. Plus, electrocution sounds like a nice, quick, bloodless way to go. So I'm going with plumbing as the one I hate more. I hate plumbing.

(Not nearly as much as I hate cars. Christ, don't get me started on that one…)

So two nights ago our sump pump started making this obnoxious noise. To be honest, I wasn't even sure we HAD a sump pump, but all doubt on that point has now been removed. As per usual, I began by employing the first tool in the Greg Skoog home repair kit — patiently ignoring it. Maybe it'll just stop.

Worth a try, but no luck.

That meant last night I had to pull out tool #2 — the blank stare. The blank stare is a totally different experience in plumbing problems versus electrical problems. I can stare at a troublesome junction box and simply be confused. Pulling off the sump pump cover meant both confusion AND utter revulsion.

But, whatever, I'm a man and all, so I carefully lifted the cover off to reveal 40 years' worth of accumulated muck, sludge and slime. This was absolutely something out of an Indiana Jones movie. The second Indiana Jones movie, in fact. (Which was, like, a zillion times crappier than the first movie, but did manage to cram in more scenes filled with disgusting gunk into which you wouldn't want to stick your hand.)

In went my hand carefully, first to brush away the cobwebs so I could kind of see what I was doing. (Not that I could actually see what I was doing. It's dark down there, Which, I suppose, isn't surprising given that it's a hole below my basement.) The pump was making a strained, angry sucking noise (which made a nice metaphoric soundtrack for the evening).

This was the first time I'd ever actually seen a sump pump. After applying the blank stare for a minute or two I settled on something with which I was at least marginally familiar — a float valve. The ball was lurking around the bottom of the sump…but it wasn't pulling down the arm to turn the thing off. So there it sat, sucking with futility and smoking slightly. I pushed the little arm a bit, it dropped down and the noise stopped.

I continued to slather on a healthy dose of the blank stare before moving on to the third tool in my kit: the wishful thought. Maybe that did it. Maybe it just needed that little nudge that one time.

Forty-five minutes later I was proven wrong as the angry sucking returned. The pump and I continued this intricate dance every 45 minutes until about 3:20 when I finally pulled out my fourth and most dangerous tool. (Stop that, you sophomoric little monkeys. I'm talking about "creative genius.")

I pulled out the float and the little rod on which it slides and observantly noted that there was no mechanism to keep the float on the rod. So its weight was never being applied to the arm and, therefore, never pulling it down. I think there must have been a cap on the end at one point but it finally rusted through and dropped off. (I fished around in there a bit looking for it…but not much. I mean, look at that hole. How much prodding around below the surface of the water would YOU want to do?)

So there I stood in my underwear (This is Corinne interjecting – I'm certain there wasn't any underwear before he decided to go to the garage. I don't care if you think that's TMI.), staring blankly around my garage, looking for a fix. I finally rigged something together with some wire I found. It wasn't speaker wire and it wasn't underground invisible dog fence wire. I'm not sure what kind of wire it was.

But it's sump pump repair wire now.

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