Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sink (Sank, Sunk)

Remember the days when your bathroom sink stopper was a rubber plug? How simple was that? As long as you didn't lose it, it performed perfectly every time.

My 1970s-era sink plumbing came equipped with a chrome, disk-shaped stopper that was raised or lowered by means of a lever behind the faucet. The disk came off years ago, leaving a little X-shaped plastic gadget sticking out of the drain just far enough to keep an old-fashioned plug from fitting into it. It wasn't a big deal; we quickly got used to not filling that sink.

On Tuesday things got trickier: Kim lifted the lever while she was cleaning the faucet, and the entire stopper assembly fell apart.

The rod that had held the little plastic thingamajig up in the mouth of the drain fell down into the pipe. Since those parts had originally been situated in the drainpipe on purpose, we weren't too worried about it and turned on the faucet to see if water would flow around them in their new position. In fact, the water flowed more freely than ever. As we stood there congratulating ourselves on our good fortune in a close call, water flowed down the drain, past the broken parts, through a brand-new hole in the side of the pipe, and onto everything in the cabinet below. The good news was that it happened early in the morning on a stormy day, so we had no problem finding a plumber who was happy to have an indoor job.

It had been a while since I'd squatted down to look into the back corners of the cabinet under the sink. When Kim pulled everything out of there, I was surprised to discover how many bottles of bathroom chemicals I own. Turns out I'm rich in terms of basin, tub and tile cleaners, mildew removers, glass cleaners, and toilet cleaners. There are multiple partial bottles and new unopened bottles, some in the same brands, some in different brands to be used for the same purposes, each one claiming to be more powerful than the others, each toxic in its own way. These are the types of items I pick up at the grocery store because I can't remember if I need them or not. I spot them on the shelf and know they aren't on my list, but they won't spoil, so I buy them to be safe instead of sorry. After our inconvenient inventory, I know I can safely bypass the bathroom cleaner aisle for at least six months, maybe even a year.

The plumber pointed out that the shelves all those products have been sitting on were built after the plumbing was installed, and they were built to last. Whoever made them was a fine craftsman. He sawed out intricate slots to fit perfectly around the piping, then installed the boards with enough nails or screws to keep them in place long after the roof caves in and the walls fall down. He did not, evidently, consider the possibility of future plumbing problems. When the plumber was unable to maneuver the curvy pipes out of the custom-fitted shelves, the choice was to cut and replace the pipes or break out the shelves. The shelves prevailed. Shelves 1, Pipes 0.

The new $205 sink stopper is very shiny. So far it's worked every time we've tried it.


  1. That is the funniest post ever. You tell the best story!

    1. Thanks, Ter A, but I'd have preferred to hold on to my $205 and write another boring post about the weather.

  2. It's oddly bittersweet to see stuff from another time fall apart, amidst a newer variant of the thing grafted onto it. Such as the case of your 1970s sink. At least you've gotten plumbers to sort it out, instead of trying to salvage it on your own accord, which can really be hard. Either case, I hope the repair lasts for quite a while.

    Traci Romero @ Harris Plumbing


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