I was washing dishes the other day, putting off the biggest hassle on my “To Do” list for as long as I could.
I think I mentioned that we’re in a polar vortex of hell at the moment. Er, let me clarify: we *were* in a vortex. At this exact moment, we get a hiatus from the insanity for two days so that a Nor’easter can roll in and make everything worse. Don’t worry, that’s not going to last long. It’s supposed to be -25 again on Saturday.
The plan for the day I was trying very hard to avoid was to try to spelunk into our Scary Beyond Reason basement to investigate a frozen pipe.
Hang on. Let me set the stage. I’ve spoken of the Basement That Must Not Be Named before. Calling it a “basement” at all is very generous. That word implies that there’s some sort of order, rhyme and reason to it.
Or, at the very least, walls.
We have under our house a pit. What was once a real foundation a hundred and fiftyish years ago has sunken, crumbled, separated from the walls of the shack we call home. At the deepest point, you can alllllmost stand up if you wedge your feet into the canyon carved through the center by a hundred years of spring runoffs coursing over the dirt…floor? Is it even a floor? Can you really call a mud slick a floor?
You see? You see what we have to deal with down there? Every time I consider our basement, I’m thrust into a pique of existential pondering.
The stairs leading into Golum’s Lair used to be stairs. Do you know what happens to wood when it sits in bog water for years? Because whoever decided to make this particular staircase out of cheap ass pine clearly did not. Each trip down now is a fun game of “Will The Top Bolts Be Enough To Hold Me If The Cinder Block Slipped?”
One day I won’t win that game and will have to play a sudden death match of, “Is An Extension Cord A Viable Substitute For Climbing Rope?” I’ll let you know the answer when the time comes.
A rotting staircase leading into the pits of despair. Those are the hassles ones faces if they can even get INTO the basement. All that only becomes a consideration once I navigate through the obstacles in my way just to get to the door. A large stack of car parts, an M&M display, boxes of paint, some pictures I’m going to graffiti…
What I’m saying is that it’s a process to get to the basement door, a death-defying feat to successfully descend the stairs, and an outright trial of fortitude to traverse the wilds of the deep to locate a frozen pipe in -20 degree weather.
But, I needed to. A frozen pipe can quickly become a burst pipe if not handled in a timely fashion. It was stupid that we let it freeze in the first place, because we damn well know better. We dripped all the other faucets in the house…we just forgot to do the same for the tub. Nothing else froze, and in -20 degree weather, that’s saying something. Still, our fault, our problem.
So I was washing up the dishes, mentally plotting how I’d go about getting into the basement to assess the frozen pipe situation when I heard some muttering. I shut the water off and called to my man, because I thought it was him. He hadn’t said anything, and I shrugged and went back to the suds. Once again, I heard talking. I listened for a second, recognized the voice, then got excited.
We’re talking kid on Christmas morning who heard a puppy’s yipping through the box that was wiggling around under the tree levels of excitement. I was, as we say around here, wicked fuckin’ excited.
“Hon, I think Jim might be in the basement!”
Jim is our unhandyman. He’s a rock bottom priced Jack of Few Trades that the landlords of our duplex have used for every repair in this place over the last decade and a half. I like the guy, he’s quite a character. But he doesn’t exactly deliver top notch work.
He doesn’t claim to, either, though. That’s a huge point in his favor. He knows he’s fast and cheap, and does work that you’d expect for the price. He makes no bones about the fact. I have to respect that.
Hon went out to see if Jim’s truck was at the neighbor’s. There was, indeed, a truck there, and we were talking about how we’d get into the basement to talk to Jim about the bad pipe when there was a bang on the floor under our feet.
“Hey guys!” came the voice. “It’s me, Jim! You know…the plumbah!”
I opened the door to the cupboard under the kitchen sink and called back through the hole around the drain pipe. “Well hi, Jim! I thought that was you down there! How’s it going?”
“Oh, fine,” he called back. “I’m wicked busy right now with all this weathah. Hey, yer neighbor’s hot pipe froze and I forgot which one a’these boilers is hers. Can you run yer hot watah so I can feel the friggin’ pipes and figure this shit out?”
Hon leans down toward the cupboard, joining the conference call in progress. “Not a problem,” he shouted, in case the connection wasn’t so good. “Hey, Jim, while you’re down there, we’ve got a frozen pipe, too.”
“Shit. Which one?” yelled Jim.
“Hot or cold?”
“Christ. Okay, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna stick this propane heatah goin’. It’s got propane for four days. Give it three days and if yer watah’s not flowin’ by then, I’ll come back with my friggin’ Salamander and make this cellah a thousand fuckin’ degrees and thaw everythin’ out forevah. Sound good?”
“Sounds great! I’ll turn that water on for you now.”
I turned the watah on for him. In just a couple minutes, we heard, “Jesus that’s fuckin’ hot!” I shouted down into the redneck cellphone, “You find it, Jim?”
“Yeah, got it. Thanks! Stay wahm!”
“You, too!” We shut the door to the kitchen sink, thus ending our discount Skype session with Jim.
If you’ve ever wondered what the best part of winter in New England is, that’s it right there; shouting through the drain hole with unfettered glee because your neighbor froze their pipes worse than you froze yours, giving the landlords no choice but to call in the discount handyman who will muck around a -20 degree frozen shit pit so you don’t have to.
THAT is the joy of winter in New England.
You know you’re jealous.
Thus concludes a quick little Musing for Snowday, January Shitstorm, 20screwthiswinter. I got home from work yesterday and was able to take a hot shower. The propane heater worked! Jim didn’t have to make my cellah a thousand fuckin’ degrees. Too bad. Would have heated up these old wood floors…