I’m not responsible for the design of my house. Nobody is responsible for the design of my house. My house wasn’t designed so much as it grew. It grew in fits and starts over decades as people who didn’t own a level (or two dimes to rub together) slapped shit willy nilly onto an archaic core. The end result is that I have two basements and multiple crawlspaces. All of them have “issues”. The basement where most of the plumbing lives is the older, lesser basement. It’s also uniquely creepy.
This is unfortunate because as basements go it has potential. There’s no reason why this basement couldn’t clean up, go to college, and have a long and successful career in the basement field. But tragically someone painted it blood red. That’s the death knell on a tolerable subterranean space.
There is no explanation for this; it merely is one of those things that homeowners accept as part of their unique piece of earth. So aside from the usual; spiders, dirt, pipes, the furnace, water heaters, exposed joists, etc… there’s always the feeling that I might find a dead body somewhere. When you’re in a dark dank basement that’s painted blood red one just thinks like that.
This is probably why Mrs. curmudgeon rarely (i.e. never) goes down there. She nicknamed it the “Silence of the Lambs” basement, filed it in the category “places where only men go”, and proceeded to ignore our poor little basement in all but the most dire circumstances. I spend the requisite time down there checking furnaces, chasing lost cats, and generally keeping civilization running; but that doesn’t mean I ever made peace with a blood red basement.
With the power turned off it was even worse. Pitch dark but with blood red in the flashlight beam looks like an X Files set mixed with Hitchcock’s nightmares. It’s an ideal place to think about while standing somewhere else.
Again I’m not saying that there are vampires in my basement or that voodoo witch doctors come out of the corners. Red paint just has a bad vibe.
Pitch black plus six inches of cold water turned the dial to eleven. It had gone from its usual role of a functioning basement that’s an amusing background in a Scooby Doo cartoon to the opening shot from a horror movie.
Now if you know anything about horror movies you know that stupid guys will venture anywhere with a wrench in one hand and a flashlight the other. That’s just what I did. Unless there’s an AMC Gremlin down there I can handle it.
My boots leaked until the water in the boots was deeper than the water outside of the boots. What sense does that make? It was like stepping in Keynesian economics. I took them off and started wandering around barefoot. I stepped on a few things I couldn’t identify. None of them were nails so it’s all good.
I isolated the problem, which was a flexible hose that had done way too much flexing in its youth. Clearly an unstable and improperly raised bit of plumbing, it would have benefitted from more structure in its life. As with all poorly grounded things, age had overcome strength. It simply split apart.
I assessed what was was unpatchable, cut out four inches, and tried to install a very simple friction fit/hose clamp arrangement that would fill the space. The thing I was installing also had a big ass brass valve in the middle. It is never a bad thing to insert another valve.
Of course this didn’t work. The hose was some sort of hard-core thick-walled material. Flexible is a misnomer. It was flexible as compared to iron pipe. Much like a bulldozer is light compared to a battleship. Shoving a fitting into it was impossible. More swearing and another trip to the hardware store ensued…
Soon I was armed with a butane torch, the perfect implement for softening reticent hose and/or smiting enemies. Fortunately for me, the entire basement was soaked so I didn’t set anything on fire. Unfortunately for me I burned the hair off my left arm. Ouch! I dropped the torch into the dark water and wound up splashing around cursing.
“You OK?” Asked our carpenter/handyman/hero who was manning the sump pump and wisely keeping his feet dry. He was several paces away and in a universe much closer to civilization.
“It puts the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again!” I shouted.
He probably hasn’t seen the movie but he’s used to me. “Yeah, OK.” He shrugged his shoulders and went back to futzing with the sump pump.
It took several tries to soften the hose enough to insert the fitting. There was one attempt that went too far and I had to cut off a few inches of trashed hose before trying again. When I finally got it all together I clamped the ever loving shit out of it.
The basement, which is never particularly fresh to begin with, now smelled like burnt hair and scorched pipe. I’d done all this with one bare foot on a step stool and the other gripped, monkey like, on the top of the pressure tank.
I needed a beer.
Ten minutes later we had the power on. I risked opening the fridge and got a beer that was surprisingly cold. Things seemed better.
The scary wet dark nasty basement devolved back from heavy-metal nightmare mode; easing once again into mere redneck shithole infrastructure. It was a marked improvement.