07. October 2004 · Comments Off on In Touch With My Inner Martha: Everything and the Kitchen Sink #2 · Categories: Domestic, General

Being compulsively organized, I carry around a set of paint chips and fabric samples, usually buried in the side pocket of my Korean-bought Coach knock-off shoulder-bag— the one with a side pocket large enough to accommodate a couple of magazines, I know it’s a standard comedy riff, the huge handbag with everything in it…. But how else should I carry around all the necessaries? Not just the keys, checkbook and pen… but the clasp-knife, the powder compact, extra lipstick, address book, second bank account checkbook, backup set of keys, the floppy-disks with whatever I are working on when peripatetically between computers, card case with three sets of cards—personal, business and artistic—the postal forms for registered and return receipt mail, the letters I simply have to answer, a book of stamps, a pad of lined stationary, the steno notebook with notes on everything, a clutch of envelopes, a book of stamps, shot record and passport, a mini-flashlight, two extra pens and a pencil (one of the pens entirely dried up) and a miscellaneous rabble of paper clips, bulldog clips, odd change, wadded-up receipts and a little tin crucifix that is supposed to remind you that Jesus is always with us, knocking around in the bottom depths. Really. I have all this in my purse— I just did an inventory. (When I travel, there are my tickets and passes, a water bottle and a paperback book. When I traveled as a teenager, my bag had all this, my lunch and dirty laundry, in the event we encountered an errant Laundromat, or a picnic area, and the bag weighted twenty pounds.)

I have been prepared for most interesting eventualities over the past thirty-four years, so don’t laugh. I am even prepared for painting over the ghastly wood-grained Formica countertops with heavy, cream-colored paint, especially formulated for garage floors. It seems the trick is to clean them of every speck of dirt and grease, and lightly sand. I have the palm sander, I have the caulk, the masking tape and the paint pan from my last project. Everything, the toaster and blender, the microwave, and the ranks of glass jars with herbs and dry staples are cleared away and stacked on the wood-topped cart that serves as an island in my kitchen, while I scour and clean and sand. The cats watch, curiously from the back of the sofa as I roll out the first coat over the Formica….The paint is thick, and creamy, but it looks like heck. The first thin coat barely covers the Formica pattern, and in other places it looks rather pebbled, as if I had not cleaned off all the grease. The cats stay out of the kitchen area, I don’t think they like the smell of the paint. The second coat goes on when the first is dry; and marvelously, covers the pebbled areas, and the thin places where the wood pattern showed through. I strip away the masking tape, around the edges, and lean against the back of the sofa, enjoying the view. Much better; a vision of cream and blue, against the pale apricot walls. Only the sink itself remains as a patch of blight, but it is now four PM on a Sunday afternoon. I will purchase the new sink after work the next Friday afternoon, and install it before I have to be at work in the vineyards of public radio— I have, after all, been bashing around under the sink before, and vividly recall what must be disconnected.

My plan is derailed, when the Home Depot closest to my workplace is not only out of the specific model I had planned to buy, but takes half an hour to work this out. The nearest outlet with one in stock is a little off my drive to the radio station, so purchase is deferred to Saturday morning, and venturing under the sink to disconnect the disposal, the outfall, the faucets to Sunday. This does not bode well— my last two adventures in plumbing were epics, but at least they developed when I got home, not when I set foot in the store.

The fall-back Home Depot has it in stock, and the box with it, and a small box with the drain kit fits easily into the cavernous trunk of the VEV. At home that evening, I take out the instructions and warranty: it all looks pretty straightforward on paper; an attractive double-sink unit, the same top dimensions and configuration as the crappy metal one. I have the required tools and supplies— a short length of plastic pipe for the drain outfall (left over from installing the new disposal last year), two tubes of calk, a container of plumbers’ putty and the trusty crescent wrench. Sunday morning, I take it in hand, along with a stout screwdriver and dive fearlessly under the sink. It is familiar territory, having ventured into it last year in the cause of installing a new sink faucet. Off comes the garbage disposal, giving me room to reach the underside of the faucet. I notice a small patch of rust already on the disposal unit. Damn. Detaching the faucet from the water supply also goes fairly easily. The newer plastic rings securing the faucet to the underside of the old metal sink are not corroded into place as the originals were, but the metal clips holding the sink in place in the space cut out for it in the Formica countertop are. The cats learn some interesting new words, as the eight clips are loosened and pried free, and the drainpipe from the other sink detached from the “S” bend.

I can indeed lift the sink with two fingers, and yes, it is a piece of cheap crap. I put it down in the living room, and clean the rim of the opening where it was. The new sink should fit exactly into the hole— it is, after all, a standard size, resting on a thick bead of caulk run all the way around. The sink fits neatly; with a little bit of shifting the high-curving rim exactly covered the place taken by the old one. The weight of it and attachment to the drains and faucet is supposed to be sufficient to anchor it in place, but I need to let the caulk solidify first.

Oh, take a break, and go out for a walk, the walk I do every day, and which on Saturdays and Sundays takes ever so longer because of all the neighbors pottering around their yards and garages. Rachel, two streets up and a half-block over, is working on her garden, attended by her nervous Schipperke dog and the three-legged cat. She has a stained-glass fan-light over the main front window, which she did herself, and an amiable boyfriend who does construction and is tinkering with his motorcycle. They are about my age, and are facing the expense and hassle of replacing the wall to wall carpeting… but with what?
“I painted and stenciled the concrete underneath, “ I say, “You want to have a look?” Intrigued, they follow me back to my house, where Rachel takes one look and says
“Oh…it’s like a doll-house, tiny and perfect,” while the boyfriend zeroes in on the bookshelf and quotes the opening lines of “Out of Africa” from memory. They both admire the effect of several layers of paint and sealer over concrete and keep interrupting with their own ideas as I try to explain exactly how I did it.
“I’d show you my house, but it’s a mess,” Rachel says, “I’d hate to have you see it the way it is.” I wonder how much worse than mine it can be, with the living room area rug felted with a fine layer of cat fur, and the old kitchen sink laying in the middle of it.

After they have gone, agreeing excitedly that painting the concrete will be just the thing, I go back to the job at hand, connecting the taps and the drains.
And that is when I realize that the new sink is deeper than the old. The drain running from the disposal sits nearly two inches lower… and the length of pipe from the other sink does not fit…. And I will have to take out the “T”shaped connection that empties both sinks into the u-bend and shorten part of it, but I can’t budge the connector. I need a pipe wrench and a short length of new pipe.
“Only one trip, for a project?” says the cashier at the hardware store consolingly, as she rings them up for me. “That’s pretty good, actually. “
“I have everything from the last couple of projects,” I tell her. “Even a saw to trim the pipe. Everything and the kitchen sink.”

I put the old sink and the connectors in the box the new one came in, and put it all out by the trash. It is gone before the trash collectors come around the next morning. Someone else wants to upgrade their sink, I guess.

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