The adults in my house bemoaned that fateful day when Gary Larson stopped creating his Far Side comics because so many of them, we found, described many aspects of our own Human Lives.
For instance, I frequently consider myself something of a Dog Scientist because I seem to toil ceaselessly on chores and projects around the house for which I am eminently not qualified. And never finish.
Some days (or weeks) I find that Discretion is, in fact, the better part of Valor, and we call in The Professionals. Case in point was our recent termite invasion. It turns out that vacuuming the swarming insects only has limited effect.
“They are all God’s Creatures,” I said.
“I don’t care who the hell they belong to,” was the reply, “Call the termite guy. This is disgusting.”
And so it goes.
At the end of the day, keeping in mind my genetic Presbyterian thriftiness (Yes, I’m cheap, and, no, I’m more Buddhist/Bullet Proof Monk than Presbyterian now anyway), I will heroically attempt many of the handyman repairs around the house myself, buoyed by the battle cry, “No Professionals!”
Perhaps that explains why our home is slowing moldering into dust, and we are the bane of the neighborhood — not really, but I do have to get cracking on a new coat of paint, and soon.
But one of the battles I’ve fought time and again is with our demon-possessed sprinkler system. In a good month, I spend, perhaps, thirty percent of my free time chasing down leaks, trying to figure out why particular sprinkler heads are or are not working, and delving into the Mother of All Sprinkler Repairs, the Broken Pipe.
It’s for that reason the winter in Southern California can be a blissful time for me, since we can go four or five months without turning the damn system on at all. But when Spring is in the air, so is the Sense of Impending Doom.
I know I will have to return the Sprinkler System to full operational status after a season of slumber. It’s downright frightening, and I delay the event for as long as possible.
“Isn’t the grass looking a little yellow, Dad?”
“Nope. That’s just the way the sun is hitting it. Don’t worry about it.”
Maybe ten days ago someone in the house — not me — broke the spell and energized the sprinklers. Although all hell did not exactly break loose, one major pipe break in the front yard did, unfortunately. And of course the offending pipe is buried in a nearly inaccessible corner of the lot, and I had to hack my way through trees and shrubbery to expose the offending cylinder.
After confirming the Niagara Falls Pipe Syndrome, I did nothing. Though I may have hoped the thing would miraculously fix itself, truth was I just wasn’t prepared for the onslaught in front of me: pvc cement, pvc saws, pvc elbows, dirt, roots, crap. You name it; just about everything except the kitchen sink is potentially involved in sprinkler repairs.
But for some reason — possibly shame — I decided to give it a whirl today. I may have been inspired by my Spouse’s dedication to massive yard work in the back of the house, or I may have simply felt guilty because she was working so hard.
Whatever it was, I went for it. Unfortunately, the particular section of the broken pipe contained no less that two elbows and two additional adapters. It was an elaborately designed intersection between the remains of the legacy system in the front bank and the new system we had installed almost ten years ago now that covered the rest of the lawn.
I was going to need reinforcements for this one: I packed my bags to visit the local Big Box Hardware Store.
Normally this trip is cause for celebration and rumination about what “might be” as I wander the aisles and imagine our forty-year-old suburban box transformed into Oz.
Today, I just needed some fittings. This was all business.
Rather than detail and bore you with the measurements (none), the fittings, and the guesswork involved (just about everything I did fell into this category), about two hours after beginning my task, I was done.
As I looked down at my handiwork, I marveled at the two forty-five degree elbows and the various adapters and extensions that I glued together to make the system whole again. But as I stared at my creation, I realized that in my zeal to replicate the exact fittings that were there previously, I overlooked the basic layout of the pipes themselves.
I surmized then that I could have done the whole thing with one 90-degree elbow and a couple of sleeves. My elegant Rube Goldberg design might work, but it took me three times as long to put together and also introduced multiple possible leak locations because of the various joints involved.
This had all the earmarks of a disaster and afternoon wasted.
So, I did what any guy would do in this situation. I let the glue set, and I mowed the lawn.
My logic was that no matter what happened the rest of the day, I was going to be able to say I did, in fact, accomplish something — even if it was just cutting the grass.
Well, I am happy to announce that I witnessed the Ninth Festivus Miracle late today: I tested the sprinklers and they worked and the repair held — at least for now.
I figure it’s time to dig out the Festivus Pole from the crawl space below the house and dance a quick jig.
Let the record show that, for the year, my run of good luck is still holding true. Thank you, Zen-me!
But tomorrow is another day, and there is still plenty of time to snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory.