Trust me, I realize that the particulars of my kitchen sink are about as insignificant to most people as, well, the particulars of anyone’s kitchen sink. Hell, my kitchen sink doesn’t occupy much space in my mind either. When I stop to consider all the things in this world I’m grateful for, plumbing fixtures don’t usually come to mind…until recently.
Our faucet issues actually began during the spring, at the height of racing season. Our son just completed his first year of rowing for his school’s crew team, and let me just say that although crew has been amazing and transformative for him in so many ways, the team races during the fall and the spring, and also practices over the summer and winter. So the sport is extremely time consuming.
The busiest time of all, though, is spring racing season. Most regattas last two days (Saturday and Sunday) and often involve traveling to and arriving at a designated riverbank right around sunrise. Now, the kids have lots of jobs during regattas: they unload the boats from the trailer, and rig them for racing. Then they row (of course!) then de-rig and reload the boats at the end of the day. They also need to rest and eat well, so as to maximize on their performance. Meanwhile the parents set up and maintain a food tent that serves hot and cold food throughout the regatta. This involves cooking, cleaning, hauling stuff, running to the local grocery store when necessary, and making sure the kids stay hydrated. And regattas often go until dusk. Meaning that by the time Monday rolls around, everyone’s often exhausted.
But I digress. My point is that our kitchen faucet started acting flukey during spring racing season, so nobody felt the need or energy to deal with it. It was an old faucet, controlled by a lever that rotated on a ball joint; you moved the lever up to turn the water on, down to shut it off, to the left for hot water, and to the right for cold. But at some point in April or May, we started to notice that the control was getting wacky. At first, the only weird part was that the water wouldn’t shut off when the lever was placed in the downward position. Instead, you had to move it around in various different directions until the flow stopped. But that was OK. It was just a little more challenging. No big deal. Guests found it puzzling, but some member of our family was always available to help shut it off.
Racing season ended, and we found ourselves immersed in a string of graduations, birthdays, final exams, end-of-year parties, vacation plans, summer camp plans, and a whole bunch of other things. Calling a plumber wasn’t tops on our minds. Sure, we’d begun to notice that the “hot” and “cold” controls on the faucet were getting messed up too, but again, we weren’t really concerned. Sometimes moving the lever to the left would result in hot water coming out, while other times, it would be cold. So we’d move it to the right for hot. Or down a bit. Or up.
“Mom, are we ever getting this faucet fixed?” asked my daughter one day in June as she attempted to fill a water bottle with cold water.
“Yes!” I told her. “When we have time.”
Ironically, though, as the days passed, we all spent more and more time dealing with the faucet. Cooking became more challenging, as was washing and rinsing dishes. Tending to the animals in the morning took longer than normal, as no dog or cat wants to drink warm water. (“Hang on a minute, guys. I’ll fill your bowl as soon as this faucet decides to spit out some cold!”) Not to mention that we were wasting more and more water each day.
But as June melted into July, my husband’s work got busier and busier, and with the kids out of school, suddenly my schedule was completely different. I was trying to find writing time—yes, someday I’ll finish making revisions on my new novel—while also trying to get a handle on summer.
Then, last Sunday, after being out all day, the family got home and my daughter went to the sink to wash her hands. But what came out wasn’t just hot or cold water—it was spray. Whatever had been “going” in the faucet over the past few months had completely “gone,” and there was no control at all. A trickle still flowed from the faucet, but the majority of the water was spraying wildly from the base of the faucet, soaking the floor, countertops, and, everyone in the room.
So on Monday morning, I finally called our wonderful plumber, Charlie. And within two hours, we had a brand new, extremely efficient faucet in place of the old one. The following day, I woke up a little late and rushed to the kitchen to feed the animals and get breakfast started for the kids, one of whom needed to leave for camp in less than an hour. And it was amazing. There was no wrestling with the faucet, no question of what temperature of water might emerge from it. Gone also was the challenge of wondering how long it’d take to turn the thing off. Having it work so perfectly made me feel terribly guilty about all the water we’d wasted over the past few months.
Is there a lesson in this? Well, I guess if your faucet isn’t working properly, it makes sense to get it fixed sooner rather than later, as it’s probably not going to fix itself. But this little kitchen experience also helped me remember how lucky I am to live in a home with running water, and where help for most problems is just a phone call away. It’s made me think of people in parts of the world where water needs to be hauled, and where clean water simply isn’t available. And as we reminded our kids during our little water crisis: just be thankful that there are other faucets in the house. And a toilet. Because millions of people on this earth don’t have toilets either.
Finally, I discovered that March 22 is World Water Day, an annual event organized by the UN to raise awareness of the water crisis facing our planet. If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to check out their website here.
This is the first in a series of blog posts about being grateful for the little–and big– things in life. Guest bloggers are welcome: if you’re interested, please contact me at email@example.com