How many helpless females does it take to turn off the water? One. As long as she has two daughters, one father, one friend of the family, and two construction workers (4 men total) to show her how. And as long as the handle is red, so it’s easy to remember.
It all started like this: Greg went off to Italy and left me in charge of the bathroom remodel. (He is working long hours and sleep deprived from time zone jumping, so don’t think badly of him.) I made important decisions about the linoleum and paint color. I purchased a new toilet on sale, and picked out a sink/cabinet combo. I kept the dog from protecting me from the work crew. I wrote the checks. I was beginning to feel like an efficient project manager. But they say, “Crisis reveals your true mettle.”
The bathroom is being remodeled because of floor repairs needed due to water and termite damage. The shower had to be destroyed in order to get to the floor, but they don’t sell showers that same size anymore. So, in order to accommodate the different size shower, we needed a new smaller toilet; and we needed to cut out the 50 year old bathroom cabinet so there would actually be a walkway to the toilet.
The trouble with any construction work in our house is the radiant water pipe heating in the ceiling. Much of this maze of pipe is embedded in the ceiling plaster. Amazingly, in the 19 years we have lived here, those pipes have remained unscathed. We have had ceiling vents put in for air conditioning, re-routed a couple of pipes to go around a skylight, and put in a ceiling fan/hood for the kitchen. We have never had an urgent situation. Until now.
It is possible, and I just say possible, that it was only urgent to me. Why wouldn’t the workman assume that I would know what to do when he came out and said a nail had accidentally gone through a pipe? I went to look and a steady stream of water was coming from the ceiling. At that moment, I was the epitome of helpless.
I opened the two sets of cupboards with the
3000 twelve faucet valves to the pipes, that I may have touched once. I didn’t know what would happen if I turned them. At the moment, I wasn’t sure if they obeyed the usual directional rules of faucets… as I remembered them … which can be different every time I turn a faucet… Next, I thought of the pump and gas furnace downstairs with innumerable valves and faucets branching from them. The two girls who were home watched with concern while I paced from hallway to living room to kitchen, holding my head and exclaiming over and over, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do!”
Taking care not to push me over the edge of Cliffs of Insanity, they calmly suggested I call my father. They followed at a safe distance and offered that advice several times in quiet voices. The workman slid silently by to turn off the main house water, since we had no idea how connected the heating pipes were to it. Finally, I sat on the couch in mental exhaustion and one of the girls brought me my phone and dialed the number for me. I started crying when he answered.
I uttered a couple of short, apparently incoherent, sentences, which he listened to patiently. Then, he kindly asked me to try again. He said he would be right over and he was. I also had my daughter call our close friend who has done a lot of remodels. His wife had offered his support to me earlier in the week, and now seemed like a good time to take her up on that. He came over, too.
Meanwhile, the girls showed the workman how to turn off one set of faucets, as I worked on the other set. Nothing exploded, so that was good. But water was still seeping out of the ceiling. The workman left to get a special piece to repair the pipe, and my father rigged a better bucket system. I was trying to help him with simple tasks. Thoughts of more water damage in the bathroom were like specters around every corner.
After a bit, we all snaked down to the basement furnace room to look at that monster. I got the definite impression that my father and my friend understood some of what they were looking at. Then, they said something about the small tank up near the ceiling of that room and I had an insight! “I think that is the pressure tank for the heating pipes.” (My ability to recite this will only further encourage my husband to have me follow him around when he has to make repairs in the house.) This helped my father make a connection in his engineering brain, such that he turned another valve and the water stopped coming out of the upstairs bathroom ceiling.
It occurred to me that this would be a good time to ask where everyone had been turning the main house water off and on all these years. It is quite likely that my dear husband has showed me this a few times previously. You’ll have to ask him, because I don’t remember. But now, I had this somewhat odd realization that facts like this are sometimes remembered better when learned in a crisis/need to know situation. Today I REALLY wanted to know how to turn the water off! My father and I kneeled up on a counter next to the dreaded crawl space entrance. We poked our heads through and peered left. There it was. The bright red faucet valve. (see top photo)
When the lead construction man returned from an errand, things had already calmed down. Our friend had gone home to enjoy what was left of his Friday evening. The repair was in progress and the two man crew stayed until almost 8 PM on a Friday night to see it through. The girls and I served my father ice cream and strawberries. He said he couldn’t remember where the ice cream scoop was and I told him, ahem, I couldn’t go around helping him with everything! Thanks, Dad!