I walked into Home Depot armed with a coupon and an intention. My intention was to just buy sodium crystals for my fancy six-month-old water softener and a couple of paint supplies for my kitchen door. My pretty red door had cracked and flaked off in giant swaths during the midwinter freeze into some kind of Hobo House Abstract Expressionism. For the past few months into spring little flecks and big curls of red paint continued to rain on my doorstep, revealing the steely gray metal of the naked door underneath. Having put a new roof on last spring, and replacing all the shitty wooter pipes in the fall (yes, I know how to spell water—see here for the tale of flirty plumbers from Philly), I figured slapping a fresh red ball gown on the door should be the extent of my spring home improvements this year. $50 tops. I had good intentions.
Then I couldn’t find the crystals for the water softener. This was my first time filling it and Logic Girl went directly to the aisle stocked with the actual water softeners. Nope. Nothing. Nada. I needed a couple of other small things anyway so I decided to peruse the aisles. With a cart. And get ideas. Sooooooo…… $400 later…….. Why, yes, yes that is my wallet I just heard screaming “Damn You Depot!!” I did eventually find the crystals after arguing with an associate about the sense of placing said crystals in the garden department outside with the rakes and geraniums. However, the damage to my good intentions was already done.
My cart was an eccentric orgy of home owning excitement. Paint brushes and drop cloths fondled the ridges of a rainspout extender. Sandpaper sidled up to a compact fire safe, which rested its weight on a years’ worth of cleaning supplies. They all had to make way for the big swinging dicks of the party, and the real reason that receipt kicked up, solar lanterns for the hardscaping along my driveway to replace the rusted, questionable fire hazard ones of indeterminate age currently there. When I first moved in an electrician had to figure out what switched turned them on for me after I tried every one in the house. Turns out some former owners of the Huh House ran the wire through a hole in the basement wall and plugged it into the side of a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. Needless to say, I’ve never turned them on. Well played Huh House, well played. Given the potential risk of electrocution to uninstall those I’ll be calling my electrician. I know my limits and screwing with electricity is definitely beyond my personal Single Girl Homeowning limits.
I was on my way to the register with my overflowing cart of carousing supplies when I spied a center aisle box full of on sale showerheads. I could DIY that. Look, no tools needed! Look, a little clock that shows less than 10 minutes installation! Two-in-one showerhead and hand shower. How hard could it be? $50 marked down to $25 for the big Depot Spring Sale? With my 10% coupon and spending spree this was like my free gift with purchase!
A man I pegged in his late 20’s sauntered by, casually throwing out “Those are nice” over his shoulder. A retort of “Want to come home and try it with me?” briefly flicked through my head but I was so engrossed in studying the box, and the internal visions of showering under a waterfall it was eliciting, that I barely smiled and he sauntered on. My mind was already so made up I was going to be DIY-ing the hell out of this as soon as I got home that I could feel the luxuriating spray right there in the concrete aisle. And no, I wasn’t standing near any plants in the garden section being misted. It was pure anticipation imagination.
Within an hour of returning home I had my bounty unpacked from the car and stashed away in all the appropriate spaces, save for one Delta In2ition, 4 Spray Choice, 2-in-1 Chrome Finish Showerhead that I was greedily opening over the bathroom sink. I examined the instructions, all four steps of them, because that’s what Smart Single Girl Homeowner’s do. It did seem amazingly simple. It was straight screw on connection from showerhead to the shower arm protruding out of the wall. Then, just screw on the hand shower attachment. I can totally work a little righty-tighty action. Hmmmm. “Use plumber’s tape (if needed)”. Internal monologue time: I wasn’t aware there might be special tape involved. What the hell is plumber’s tape? Well…. it says if needed. Maybe I won’t “need” it. I’ll circle back.
With the directions read and mysterious tape back burnered, I turned my focus to the existing showerhead of indeterminate age. This one was a large hand held that rests in a holster attached to the shower arm. I think to myself “Self, if the new one just screws on, the old one should just screw off, right?” Oh. Silly Self.
Being all of 5’2” ( and a half—that half is important) my only option to reach where the shower arm connects to the showerhead is to balance on the bathtub ledge with my cat like Ninja skills. Considering the fall that precipitated the thought I Should Buy a Bathmat and the second fall that resulted in a bruise the size of Antarctica on my thigh and running a concussion protocol on myself (after which I went out and bought said bath mat), one might question my cat like Ninja skills. Not me! Not when there’s a spa like rain shower on the other end of this mission! I wiped the fiberglass edge with a towel to make sure it was dry and hoisted myself up, calculating my In2ition blue ribbon shower should commence in less than 30 minutes. I could just reach the connections with my arms near full extension out and over my head, my left shoulder (the one sans cartilage thanks to 15 years working in healthcare) burning almost immediately. I gripped the shower arm in my left hand and tried turning the white plastic connector with my right. Nothing. I turned harder, sweat starting to bead on my upper lip as I leaned inward on the edge on the tub more, balancing on the pads of my soles rather than planting solidly on the arches. The connector started to loosen and finally gave. I let the holster and sprayhead fall to the floor and a wave of triumph started to crest within me. It was promptly shattered.
What I thought to be a straight on plastic connector spun backwards over the shower arm, revealing some frankenball steel joint as the true connector underneath the white plastic ring, which was apparently just the equivalent of a water closet doily to pretty the whole thing up.
It was made to cover the metal joint and the ring was too small to fit over the ball of the showerhead. I dropped my arms a moment and sighed. Recalculated the time until my spa shower. I lifted my arms again and tried the brute force maneuver on the metal connector that had worked on the plastic covering. My palms had grown slippery with exertion and found no purchase.
It was time to consult the All Mighty Google. The kind, informational folks on the Interwebs informed me I should go get some pliers and a wrench out of my tool kit. So much for that no tools needed idea. I have a hodgepodge of tools but my main go is this handy kit here I’ve had for over a decade:
I figured if none of the stuff in there was sufficient one of these bad boys could help out:
I hoisted myself back up to the bathtub battlefield bearing my armament. Left shoulder burning again, I wrapped a cloth around the base of the shower arm and squeezed pliers over it to try to hold it in place. With my right I tried to fit the adjustable wrench from my toolkit over a piece of the frankenball joint. The white plastic water closet doily kept clattering down over the proceedings.
I pulled the offending plastic up to nestle with the cloth and pliers in my left hand and turned back to work the wrench with my right. Time clicked by as I determined my little toolkit wrench was too small to fit around the part of the connector with flat surfaces to grip that it needed to and not agile enough to work on the smooth, narrower portion. It was time for the frankenball joint to meet my frankentool behemoth.
I repeated the process with the behemoth with the highest of hopes. After more sweat, more furrowed brow, more burning shoulder, and many, many, many more curse words I gave in to the truth the frankentool was, alas, no match for its foe. I couldn’t control the heavy beast enough to keep it closed tight and turn. It swiveled around uselessly, skimming around the metal instead of accomplishing any loosening. All I did accomplish, despite a death grip on the pliers to prevent such, was wiggling the base of the shower arm back and forth aggressively in the drywall. Images of me She-Hulking it out of the wall and flooding the room ran through my brain with each thwarted attempt. Yeah, yeah, Smart Single Girl Homeowner knows she probably should have hit the main water valve off prior to this little DIY but it’s two flights down to the basement and this shit was supposed to take 10 minutes. My 10 minute install has turned into a 90 minute dismantle and the Huh House is winning. If I did inadvertently rip the pipe out of the wall and turn my upstairs into Waterworld sans Kevin Costner and weird fish girl with gills on her neck, it’s my luck the plumber on call will probably be the flirty (probably married) Philly plumber who’s taken to texting me random messages every few months when he’s drunk, watching Monday Night Football, about how he wishes his situation were different and how he can’t stop thinking about me. I’m not adding awkward to an already exasperating situation.
I retreated to the closed toilet lid and hung my head in my hands for a moment. I look in the mirror with a disgusted sneer. My face is red from exertion and frustration at my simple task gone awry. The luxury shower I was planning has become necessity at this point. I decide to put brains over brawn and retreat for now to do more research. It’s obvious I need a real plumber’s wrench, at least, instead of something from the hodgepodge that might do the trick. Sighing once again, I hop up to reattach the old showerhead, sliding it over the frankenball joint that is now the bane of my existence, and screwing it back into the threads of the white plastic ring. I lost the battle but the war is far from over.
I slid the Delta In2ition back into its box and leave it on top of my dresser as a daily reminder to form a tactical plan. My handy friends on Google inform me a lifetime of deposits inside and around the threads is likely the infantry blocking my conquest. Remember that fancy new water softener that was one of my original reasons for visiting Home Depot? It was installed because my water tests 16 grains hard without intervention. Soft water is under one grain. Anything over 10.5 is considered “very hard” and you’re basically bathing in calcium and magnesium. My water was so hardened at 16 it could have been tried as an adult in court of law. Realizing my enemy now I knew it was time to enlist the Navy SEAL of household items, that one thing in every house able to drop into any environment and get the job done. It was time to break out the vinegar.
This time I sent in the Special Forces first. I filled a Ziploc bag with vinegar and tied it around the frankenball joint to soak while I lined up my cloth, pliers, and shiny, new, job appropriate pipe wrench. After a half hour of waiting patiently (just kidding—pacing) I undid the bag, the pungent odor filling my nostrils as I let it fall and empty into the bathtub. I balanced on the bathtub ledge and assumed the familiar position with pliers, cloth, and white plastic ring clamped in my left hand and wrench gripped in my right. This time the wrench was a perfect fit. I exhaled slowly and turned the wrench. Felt the connector give a bit. Flush with excitement I tried again, felt the joint loosening more. Bracing the shower arm heavily with the pliers I decided to give it a heave ho with the wrench, drywall be damned! Frankenball popped off with a thrust, held suspended in the air by new favorite wrench. I shouted in exuberation, an unintelligible primal cry of triumph echoing in the small space.
The Delta In2ition 4 Spray, 2-in-1 Chrome Finish Showerhead came back out of its box. True to its word, all I had to do was work a little righty-tighty action with my hands and screw it on. I turned the water on for an initial test. The pressure looked great. Close inspection of the connection revealed a miniscule dribble, indicating maybe I would need that special plumber’s tape after all, but not today. Today was about victory! Fifteen minutes later the tools were away and I was relishing the dual spray.
I await our next battle Huh House. Until then I’ll be enjoying my victory, replete with celebratory shower beer.