Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Bright Future

A young man pulled up next to my car at a stop light yesterday afternoon and motioned for me to lower my window. “Your left back brake light is out,” he informed me. I waved my thanks to him, and then he was gone.

Still basking in the glow of fixing my bathroom sink I decided I could replace the brake light as well. That’s when I pulled into an O’Reilly Auto Parts store. I got way more than I bargained for when I went in. First the clerk found the right bulb (two to a pack). Next he walked outside with me to show me where to unscrew the back light cover. As I was paying for the bulbs I mentioned that I wanted to take a car repair course (which I do). “You don’t have to be a mechanic to work here,” he said.

And then he handed me an application. “That’s the store manager over there,” he continued. “Talk to him, and then you can work here with me.”

I left the shop in a giddy mood, knowing that my future was definitely going to get brighter. I pondered my new life as a part time employee of an auto parts shop. I liked the way it felt.

Early this morning I set out to replace the defunct light bulb. When I saw my neighbor Sandra pull into her driveway, I ran down to get her. (Without a second person, how do you know if your brake light is working?) First, Sandra confirmed that the old light was burned out. Then she waited for me to replace the bulb so she could confirm that the new one worked.

Sandra waited. And she waited while I tried to remove the old bulb. I twisted, turned and pulled. The bulb wouldn’t budge. I asked Sandra to come back after I had finished so she wouldn’t have to stand in the hot July sun. That’s when she uttered the magic words: “Why don’t you check the owner’s manual?”

I got so excited by this novel concept that I jumped up and down. “What a brilliant woman you are,” I exclaimed to Sandra. “Brilliant.” It didn’t seem like such a brilliant thing to Sandra. I imagine that it didn’t seem that brilliant to 98.9 % of the rest of the people I know. But it was a grand epiphany to me.

Within seconds I had replaced the bulb, according to the directions in the owner’s manual. That’s when I asked my neighborhood genius to pose for this picture. O.J. the neighborhood cat got in on the action as well. We tried out the new light, and it worked like a charm. I quickly replaced the light cover with everything working.

Now I’m taking a second look at that job application. I think I would make a very good clerk in an auto parts store. I have empathy, sympathy and great customer service. And I can change a brake light!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's a plumb messy job

I have completed some mighty fine plumbing work on the bathroom sink in my little bungalow in my reverse-chic South Austin neighborhood. (Let me digress here: It’s really IN now to describe small houses as bungalows; mine is a bungalow-ito.)

My bathroom sink has been draining very slowly for 4-5 months; last weekend all draining stopped. For a few hours I used my kitchen sink to brush my teeth, wash my hands, believing that the stopped up bathroom sink would be ok in a few hours.

(Wait—does ANYONE CARE ABOUT MY PLUMBING ISSUES? If this is too boring for you readers, you are excused. I must admit it’s titillating to me!)

As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, the plumbing fairy godmother was doing her best to dissolve the clogged up pipes, I’m sure, but the water remained in the sink over night. That’s when I decided to take care of the plumbing issue my very own self.

I borrowed a plumbing snake, removed the standing water in the sink, cup by cup, and smartly placed a huge pan underneath the sink. After unscrewing the curvy pipe (so glad for the big pan), I rammed that metal snake back and forth in the straight pipe until something happened. I don’t know exactly what except that some black goop started rolling out of the pipe, into the carefully placed pan.

Thinking I had fixed the problem, I turned on the water. Since I had not plugged up the hole for the stopper, the water poured into the pan. After putting the stopper doohickey back into the pipe and tightening the screw, I tried once again. Lo and behold the water ran right down the pipe—just as the god of plumbing intended.

So far, the drain is able to handle all the hand-washing, teeth-brushing water, and this makes me very proud. It’s the mess I left behind that’s the bigger issue.

Cleaning up a mess is so less satisfying than fixing a problem. In this case, however, I quickly put everything in the bathroom back together and I'm now giving tours of my bathroom!