Confidence runs hot and cold for plumbing repairs in kitchen [Column]

While doing the dishes the other evening, I noticed a bit of play in the faucet handle. "Hey," I hollered into the family room, where Doug was watching a lion eat a gazelle on the public television channel. "The kitchen faucet feels wiggly!"

One of the things Doug loves most about me is my ability to converse in technical jargon when the situation demands it.

"I'll fix it tomorrow," he yelled back, without taking his eyes off the TV screen. "Ooh! Ooh!" he cried. "A tiger's eating a wildebeest! You gotta come see this!"

"Oh, I'll wait for the DVD," I called to him. In the dishwater, my hands felt like the scaly claws of the buzzard who would soon scavenge the big cats' leftovers.

Doug entered the kitchen the following morning, as promised, with tools in hand. "Gonna tighten up that faucet screw," he announced, sounding cocky. "Just take a minute." Having some experience with Doug and home maintenance jobs, I hightailed it out of there with all possible haste.

An hour later, I noticed the upstairs pipes going, "Boom! Boom!" like the cannons at the end of "The 1812 Overture." Also, the cat was hiding under the bed with her fur sticking out in all directions. I figured this might be a good time to check on Doug's progress.

"So, how's it going?" I asked. Of course, I knew the second I walked in that it wasn't going well, as the entire faucet assembly was in pieces on the kitchen counter and Doug's top half was crammed into the cabinet under the sink.

"The ... screw ... is ... stripped," he panted. Then, "Ow!" when his head hit the cabinet door. "I'm going to have to replace the entire faucet assembly," he said, rubbing his head as he stood up. Then he went to his happy place: Home Depot.

Forty-five minutes later, Doug was back with a shiny new kitchen faucet and renewed resolve to remedy that loose faucet. Hitching up his droopy jeans — just like a real plumber— he crawled under the sink.

Another hour passed, during which I stayed as far from Doug as I could, despite a powerful hankering for a bowl of chocolate cereal and a palpable fear for the safety of my new kitchen area rug. I heaved a sigh and went downstairs again, only this time I figured, "How's it going?" probably shouldn't be my opening line.

As it happens, I didn't have to say a word when I got there; I found Doug putting the new faucet, and most of its screws, back in its package. "Wha-?" I stammered.

"Got the wrong one," Doug explained, sensing my confusion. "I have to go back to Home Depot." He seemed calm, but on closer inspection I noticed his left eye twitching merrily. "Okey-dokey," I said cheerfully, pretending I hadn't seen him cram the receipt into the Home Depot bag so hard, it came out the other side.

Once again beneath the sink, Doug installed the second new faucet. To test it, he turned on the water, which ran down the drain and out the bottom of the garbage disposal, into the cabinet.

"Call the plumber," he said. This was no admission of defeat, however; not by a long shot. It was his way of saying, "I hear your concern and validate your feelings about cooking dinner sometime before midnight."

Just between you and me, I'd had the plumber's number keyed in since 8 a.m. I pushed the call button. I love my husband dearly ... but I'm also a realist.

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