I go through life with an old sitcom-style laugh track in the background. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Three’s Company, All in the Family, Good Times, Diff’rent Strokes, and the rest on TV.
Hurricane Harvey provided very few moments of laughter but there was one. There was one moment that when I look back a hearty laugh arises from my worn soul.
The rain broke and gave way to the vile humidity and oppressive heat that Houston loves to bathe us in. From that perspective at least, everything was back to normal.
Inside the house though there was anything but normal. My recording studio, The Cathedral, had become a staging area for my family’s “recovery” efforts. Bags, boxes, piles of stuff were stacked and thrown everywhere. With no power, there was no way to make a dent in the mountain of laundry that was growing by the hour. All my guitars had been packed and stacked in a corner while amplifiers and recording equipment had been moved from their places when I thought we were going to take on water.
It was hot, dank even, inside the house with only two fans to move air in any given room that we happened to be in at the moment. We all carried flashlights and LED lanterns from room to room, the wife fashioned one by wrapping one of those headband lights around a gallon jug of water…pretty nifty!
We had however, and thankfully, gotten water and sewer service back so my mom was busy cleaning up the kitchen, washing whatever dishes had piled up.
Now a couple years before, shortly after the wife and I purchased our home, I installed a new (what was supposed to be an upgraded) faucet. I was never a fan of it myself. It didn’t swivel smoothly and the buttons that shifted from shower to standard flow were very stiff and required a lot of effort to get either button fully engaged. My mom had been struggling with them the whole time since moving in.
Anyway, it was a crazy day. To say that the scene was cacophonous would be more than a bit mild.
Every conversation and movement was against a backdrop that included a growling generator, all of us shouting to be heard over it and each other. My son, “Young Master” Oliver, chimed in as only he can. That boy’s voice can bring tears of joy and laughter as easily as it can bring pain and torment. That day, as every during this ordeal brought more of the later for certain.
So there we are. That’s the moment.
Mom cleaning up in the kitchen, the wife doing her best to keep Oliver busy and quiet, Dad wanting to know what everyone wants for dinner, and every time I stood still for more than 3 seconds I was assaulted with questions, statements, concerns, what if’s, how to’s, and so many desperate pleas from Oliver to just hold him…it was absolute chaos.
I left to go on a “run” looking for roads out of the neighborhood that led to gas for that generator, milk, and anything else that would be of use in this new environment that wasn’t quite Mad Max or Walking Dead but certainly a bit too reminiscent for my tastes. I honestly have no idea what I went to grab or do, but I left for a few minutes to get something or other.
When I returned, my dad was walking out of the house ready to leave for the one restaurant I found that was both open and accessible. As he greeted me at the car he said “I dunno son, talk to your mother. There’s a problem with the kitchen faucet…something about the pressure or water coming out…I don’t know what it is.”
I walked in, assuming it was those damn buttons again and against that grinding generator that was just a few feet away from the kitchen window I found my mom looking more than a little dejected and concerned. I asked if it was the buttons and she said “oh no son, I’m so sorry! I think I broke the faucet!”
How do you break a faucet? Surely it’s not broken. Surely.
Now my mother can be a bit frantic and anxious, she worries a lot about everyone’s well being and she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders sometimes.
I was certain her discomfort in that moment was born more of the overall situation and that the faucet was just “stuck” or something….but when she turned the faucet handle I immediately realized this was not the case.
The faucet took off like a missile, water shooting up beneath it propelling it towards the ceiling. I would describe it as majestic……if it weren’t my damn faucet ascending towards the heavens and water exploding all over the kitchen.
My mother starts to shout about how she’s so sorry and that we need a plumber, and she will never use the faucet again, and that my whole world has been turned upside down by her mere presence in my home.
In the background the generator’s snarl seems to get even louder.
Is it toying with me?
Oliver’s screams from the other room are combated by the wife’s pleas that are failing to placate his unwavering demands for who knows what. Peppa Pig? Do you want Peppa Pig? No?! Dinosaur? Do you want your dinosaur? What about George? NO!? What is it? Oh god help us all, what is it?!
Amidst all the turmoil I rush to turn the water off and, robbed of its propellant, the faucet clatters into the sink.
I desperately try to reassure my mother than she neither broke the faucet nor has she introduced even a sliver of discomfort or inconvenience to my life. I remember confidently saying “Hold on Ma, it’s nothing. Just let me grab the toolbox.”
I sprint through the recovery area, out the door, into the garage, grab my tools, and sprint back through the obstacle course like I’m auditioning for American Ninja Warrior: Que Pasa Harvey Edition.
Back in the kitchen I examine the faucet and see that it has a tiny hex bolt that holds it to the base. Obviously it’s just come loose.
My mom is in rapid fire mode. She must have twisted it too much. She must have used it too much. She must have pulled it too much. Call a plumber. She’ll pay for it. (Where we would get a plumber in the midst of a state of disaster I have no idea but that’s not a topic for this moment.)
I again reassure her that it’s nothing. Just a quick flick of the wrist to tighten the bolt and we’re back in business.
I find the right hex key, tighten things up and BAM.
“Ma, look. It’s done. There’s nothing to worry about. It was just loose.”
And with that, I turn the faucet handle.
And…..sky rocket in flight!
Damn thing took off like a Saturn missile…water EVERYWHERE. The faucet seriously almost hit the ceiling this time.
I can’t help it this time. Now I’M the one screaming…the wife hears from the next room.
What’s going on?!
My mom is screaming about a plumber.
The baby is screaming about I don’t know what.
I quickly shut the faucet, get under the counter and cut the water altogether.
And the generator chugs along….seriously, I think it’s getting louder.
My mom, frantically, desperately even, is begging me to call a plumber and to let her pay for it.
I try, as best I can, to calm everything down and say “Ma, there are no plumbers right now. I just need to run over to Home Depot real quick. We’ll have a new faucet in half an hour. Just let me do this.”
“I’ll pay for it!!!!!”
“That’s fine Ma, I just gotta run to the store.”
I go to grab my keys and realize, “crap…dad took my car.”
“Honey, where are your keys?!”
“Your keys! To the car…where are they?!”
The generator is mocking me right now.
I run back towards the wife and ask about the keys. They are, of course, where they “always” are…but I never drive her car so that means nothing to me.
Turns out they are in her bag, on the stool.
Now I’m in business. I race over to Home Depot, covered in water. I run in and ask the guy where the faucets are. I get a “um…I think…wait…let me ask…”
“Nevermind, I’ll find them.”
When I do I’m greeted by about 538 different models.
Awesome. This is what I need right now.
I pick one out after giving the decision about 9 seconds of thought. I bought a Moen…because you know, buy it for life. 😉
I pay and race home.
Mom is waiting for me.
She’ll pay for it.
Oliver screaming. Wife, “where did you go?”
I start at the business of taking apart the Saturn Faucet. There are parts everywhere, water everywhere, toolbox on the counter….all the tools I mistakenly grabbed are now tossed about the floor and counters.
Dad comes home with the food.
“Foods here! Come and eat! Wait, what are you doing son?!”
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
I hate this generator.
My mom starts answering the question…she broke the faucet, she wanted a plumber, the water is everywhere, the Saturn missile, she’ll pay for it, all of it in painstaking detail in two languages.”
“Son, are you sure you know how to do that?”
“Well, come and eat.”
“I’ll eat in a second, I just have to finish this.”
“Ok, well I’m eating. This looks good. Leslie! Come eat, this food is amazing!”
“I’ll wait for Jason.”
Baby screams, mom nervous. That damn generator.
After about 30 minutes I’m back up and running with a faucet that works, and stays put.
I bring my mom over and beg her to try it.
“I see it. It’s very nice. You did a good job.”
“Ma, that’s not enough. I need you to use it. I need you to try it out and see that it works. It’s actually better than the other one.”
“No I see it. It’s nice.”
I know that if I don’t win this battle, she may never actually use the faucet again.
She reluctantly turns the water on, just a bit. She presses both buttons and actually says, “Oh, this is nice. It is so much easier than the other!”
FINALLY! Something goes right.
During all of this I hear my dad at the table. “MMMMM….damn son, this is good food! This place is great. MMM….come and eat some of this! WOW.”
Now my mom is starting to relax a bit and she’s going on about how proud she is that I could swap the faucets so quickly and I tell her I learned from the best.
Growing up my mom was the “handyman” of our house. She installed door knobs, and painted, and did plumbing, faucets…she was awesome.
She smiles and begins to use the sink.
By that time dad had finished eating and was ready to tackle Oliver and take him to play. My mom, though still insisting she pay for the faucet, was moving about taking care of this and that.
The missus and I sat down to eat…and yes, the food was damn good.
And the generator continued to serenade us. No quarter asked, no mercy given.
-final laugh, cue credits and theme song, this show was filmed before a live studio audience-