Stuck inside, but holding on to ray of hope


LIKE A LOT of guys stricken with spring fever, I have been itching to commune with Mother Nature. But lately she has been giving me the cold shoulder.

I can't wait to frolic in the sunshine and expose bare skin. Yet it has been so cold and wet recently that every time I go out the back door dressed in my favorite, hole-dotted T-shirt, I end up scampering back in the house and putting on more clothes than a duck hunter.

Meanwhile, the outdoor chores have been piling up. Forget planting tomatoes. The patch of ground I call a garden is so sodden I'm thinking of installing fountains and calling it a water garden. If, as promised, that fiery red ball -- I believe it is called the sun -- appears in the sky tomorrow, I might fall down and worship it.

Like an army waiting to go into battle, warm-weather warriors have been trapped indoors on the recent weekends, laying in supplies. I'm not saying there are a lot of pent-up, frustrated guys huddled in their basements. But if the sun does come out this weekend, I would keep the path between a man and his mower clear of animals, breakables and small children.

Moreover, if the sun shines for two days in a row, I would steer clear of the parking lots of the garden supply stores. Even if you are lucky enough to find a parking spot, you could be stuck in garden-store gridlock, surrounded by SUVs stuffed with petunias, until the first frost.

To keep myself occupied during this recent stretch of dark confinement, I have been repairing things. One day, for instance, I fixed a leaky garden hose.

The leak had made itself known about a month ago, during the first car-washing session of the season. As I assembled the tools for the job, I was enjoying the thrill that comes from finding things where you left them. The joy that comes from spotting your favorite car washing rags -- old diapers -- still hanging from the hook on the basement ceiling is small. But good weekends are filled with such small pleasures.

I pulled the hose out of winter storage, turned on the water supply to the outside tap, and put fresh batteries in the transistor radio. The radio plays an important part in the car washing ritual. I prop the radio on a wall and listen to broadcasts of baseball games as I wash the cars.

In my mind, there is a link between the baseball and car-washing seasons. Both start in April and wind up in late October. Occasionally you can sneak in a car-washing session while listening to a football broadcast, but you can't count on it. This first car-washing session of the season was shaping up well. In addition to the rags, the chamois and the car-washing soap also answered reveille.

However, when I put the pistol grip nozzle on the hose and turned on the water, a geyser of water shot from underneath the nozzle. The leak was coming from the base of the male coupling at the end of the hose. It needed to be replaced.

At the time, all I did was wrap a rag around the leak. The rag was a crude and mostly ineffective solution to the leak. Every time I picked up the hose to spray the soap off the car, water from the leak also sprayed my legs. By the end of day, both our cars were clean and dry but both my pants legs were soaking wet.

I hauled the hose into the basement where it sat until a recent dark Saturday when I repaired it.

First I pulled out a knife and sliced off the faulty coupling. Next I plunged the freshly sliced end of the hose into a bucket of hot water. The hot water bath softened up the end of the hose and made it easier to jam the replacement part, a new male coupling, into the hose. I had bought the replacement part on another wet Saturday at a hardware store.

As the hose soaked in hot water, I rubbed a bar of soap on the new part. The combined lubricating effects of the soap and the soak made the jamming go smoothly. Once the new part had been shoved into the end of the hose, I secured it by tightening down the clamps that came with the coupling.

I carried the repaired hose out to the backyard, reattached it to a spigot and hooked up the pistol grip nozzle again. I was ready to wash cars again. All I needed was some sunshine on a Saturday.

That was two weeks ago. I am still waiting for Mother Nature to warm up and shine on me.

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