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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

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Tulips 2006 for Gran ellengwallace's Tulips 2006 for Gran photoset

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Who invented Swiss plumbing?

The art of dismantling pipes

This morning I noticed that the kitchen sink was draining too slowly. I had had a good night's sleep, was cleaning cupboards after taking a brisk one hour walk through the vineyards and I thought, aha! time to clean the drain. I poured bleach down the drain and forgot about it. Also forgot about doing the dishes, which is how I noticed the non-draining water.

An hour later I returned and to my surprise, even bleach had not done the trick. The water was sloooooowly seeping away. I hunted for the rarely-used plunger and energetically went to work. I had to put two fingers in a two-hole something or other on the side of the sink while plunging, which I thought accounted for my lack of success. The water drained a bit better but there wasn't that whoosh! and then water disappearing that you expect from a plunger job.

"What's the water all over the floor from?" asked my husband as he refilled his tea mug. Oh dear. There was a puddle, but when I looked more closely it was a small flood. I had plunged the pipes apart and they were happily leaking beige-gray water.

The obvious next step in this situation, since this is Sunday on a holiday weekend, is to take apart the pipes. I enjoy taking things apart. I like to work out the logic of the construction, see the difference it makes and so on. I worked out that there were too many pieces to be entirely logical and the difference was a sudden smell of sewage in our kitchen.

I spent the afternoon cleaning all the bits and pieces of pipe, soaking them in bleach, using a chopstick to clean off the stubborn bits and so on. It was not a pleasant job but sometimes in life you just have to get on with it and do these things.

The lack of art or even science in mantling pipes

The moment came to put it all back together. This is not a very original story, I must admit at this point. It could not, of course, be done.

"You should have take a photo," said my husband, drinking more tea from a safe distance. After a while he took pity on me and he tried to reassemble the under-the-sink. After two minutes of joint labor I retreated to a distant room. Now and again I heard bellows, interspersed with swearing.

Marriage is about sharing the good and the bad, so together we climbed the stairs to the neighbors' apartment, to ask if we could photograph their plumbing. The man repairs bathtub enamel, so we assumed he might have greater expertise in the pipes area than we do. He and his wife lamented the sad state of their plumbing. I photographed it and here it is.

It turned out to be like ours but reversed and a key pipe chez eux comes out of the floor whereas the only similar thing under our sink comes out of the wall. Trying to match real pipes to a photo of your neighbors', reversed and including key differences like wall versus floor pipes, is enough to try any relationship.

We had a lovely dinner, where no one discussed plumbing. My husband played backgammon online with someone in Russia. My son packed his backpack for China, since he leaves in the morning. I did this and now I am going to read a book.

Here is the state of our sink tonight. I wish I still believed in the tooth fairy, whose day job is plumbing. I'd pull out a tooth and stick it under my pillow tonight. Instead of a nickel or a dime or 5 Swiss francs I would just ask for a little light pipework.

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