I kept thinking Saturday afternoon about a line from an old Clint Eastwood movie. It was one of his Dirty Harry episodes, Magnum Force, a shoot-em up, about a group of vigilante motorcycle policemen who rode the streets of San Francisco killing people who they deemed guilty of some heinous crime.
The leader of this rogue band of policemen, who never got his hands dirty and never straddled a Harley, kept reminding Dirty Harry that, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”
I am usually cognizant of that bit of wisdom as I contemplate taking on a task around the house for which I have no training and most likely also lack the proper tools to accomplish. Against all my best instincts and in spite of many experiences that ended badly, I decided Saturday to take on the chore of repairing the irrigation system backflow prevention valve, which was broken back in December as we were hanging Christmas lights on the shrubbery. And no, I was not the culprit who grabbed the PVC pipe and snapped it off at ground level. I will not rat out the culprit, however. She knows who she is.
I had intended to call a plumber. But several neighbors informed me that the job was a snap. I figured I was a fairly intelligent person—you can see where this is going, right?—and should be able to handle a job as simple as cutting a few pieces of PVC pipe and then gluing them together. The sales person at the “fix it on your own” store assured me that, yes, even an English major could repair PVC pipe breaks.
I did admit to him that my plumbing skills were suspect, although I did spend an entire summer working for a plumbing company installing sewer lines for a hospital. Mostly, I dug ditches. And the only things I really learned were new vocabulary words, none of which I can use in anything I ever write.
So the sales guy loaded me up with pipe, glue, primer, couplings, and a PVC pipe cutting tool, which is pretty neat. Now, I can fix this mess, I thought. “A man’s gotta know his limitations,” did not occur to me at the time.
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I surveyed the break. I measured. I measured again. I cut the pipe. Then I measured again and cut another piece of pipe I hoped would fit since I had a limited amount of pipe. I followed the directions on the primer and glue cans to the letter. Apply the purple stuff—primer—and then apply an ample amount of glue and quickly put the pieces together. I did all that. It looked good—straight, tight joints.
“Wait two hours,” the glue instructions recommended. I waited three, just to be on the safe side, before I removed the cover to the water cut-off valve and turned it to open.
Somewhere in Yellowstone Park, Old Faithful turned green with envy of the geyser that shot out of the base of the valve, where milliseconds before a connection had come unglued. In fact, all the connections had come unglued. The entire repair simply blew apart and in the process broke another pipe that had previously been undamaged.
As I wiped water from my face I could do nothing but laugh. “A man’s gotta know his limitations,” I thought. Monday, I’m calling a plumber.